If you head over to Adult Swim’s website right now, you’ll find an interesting teaser. Apparently, next week Valve and Adult Swim are going to be revealing a collaboration that they describe as “their video game peanut butter… our network chocolate” and “something that you’ll probably enjoy.” The picture accompanying the announcement makes it pretty clear that this is something “Team Fortress 2“-related, and speculation everywhere has it at everything from the long-awaited “Meet the Pyro” episode of the “Meet the Team” series, to a full-on new TV series based on the insanely popular online shooter.
Considering that “Team Fortress 2” is one of the most purely entertaining games of all time, with a comic style and personality that is unmatched in its medium, and that those “Meet the Team” videos are some of the funniest things ever produced in relation to a video game, whatever comes of this announcement is sure be a bonafide success.
Personally, I’m hoping for a “Red vs Blue” style online miniseries.
It is odd, though, that video games and television shows are two mediums that don’t have much of a celebrated history, or anticipated future of collaboration. Video games made into movies have been a popular subject of discussion for years, but for some reason very few people ever consider the potential for games as TV shows. While “Team Fortress 2” might be the strongest argument for the games to series transition in the history of video games, the truth is that I think there are at least five other titles that would do very well in an episodic format.
How It Would Work: Three letters. H-B-O. The world of the “Fallout” series is one of the most brutal, bleak and terrifying of all time. Around every corner waits a new horror and atrocity, and just about every person left has become a hardened bastard because it’s the only thing that’s allowed them to survive.
It’s the perfect world for HBO’s no limit programming.
More than the violence, though, this show would need HBO’s creative freedom to really showcase the “Fallout” series’ biggest success, and that’s the world it takes place in. The 50s style atmosphere, mixed with the total apocalypse, is the thing that made the series stand out above all others, and it leads to some of the greatest dark humor in any medium. From the always gleeful “Fallout Boy” mascot to the incredibly inappropriate yet oddly fitting classic soundtrack, there is so much in this series that you wouldn’t have to change a bit of to make it shine as something truly unique and incredible.
What’s better is that you wouldn’t be stuck with the parameters of the series story either. There are so many tales waiting to be told that you could just borrow ideas from the established parts of the series and have more than enough foundation for even a mediocre script writer to build something truly compelling with.
In fact, with the possible exception of “Team Fortress 2,” “Fallout” is the series perhaps most primed for television. Just please… no Deathclaws. They scared me enough in the game already when I accidentally found Old Oney too early, and I certainly don’t need any more of them.
How It Would Work: I may never get another chance to say this, so here it goes. “Earthbound” is hands down, 100% my favorite video game of all time.
This is entirely due to the game’s style. Some series are technically sound in just about every way, but are missing a certain X-factor that makes them truly stand out. “Earthbound” is made up entirely of these X-factors. The population of characters range from “New Age Retro Hippies,” and “Angry Old Party Men,” to “Paint Cultists,” and that’s just the game’s enemies. Everything else from the great music, to the multiple environments, to a world that is just as much rooted in surrealism as it is in real world aspects exhibits these intangibles.
As you can tell, this would create an interesting challenge.
However, if you found the right showrunner and writers to accompany him, you could end up with a truly classic Saturday morning cartoon. I’m not saying there are no good cartoon series for kids at the moment, but there are very few that capture the same feel of the “good old days” of the late 80s and early 90s. An “Earthbound” series put into the right hands would be off beat enough (like shooting bottle rockets at dinosaurs and trapping zombies with flypaper) to revive the feel of Nickelodeon classics like “Ren and Stimpy,” while containing a cohesive enough narrative to warrant tuning in next week. Plus, from a marketing perspective, the game’s diverse cast of players could warrant a very successful toy line and other product opportunities that the ice cold reception to “Earthbound’s” release (at the time) did not get.
As I said, there would be challenges here, ot the least of which is the tricky legal status of the game’s license, which is a large part of the reason it’s not on the Wii’s virtual console (though there are other theories), and a legit fully loaded copy of the original game on eBay is going to run you about $500. Then, as I mentioned, you would need the right people in the right places to make it come together.
But if all the stars could align, this would be a more than worthy cartoon series.
How It Would Work: How couldn’t it work? It’s the story of a group of kids (though through their cartoony deformed nature, they may actually be preteens) who all share psychic abilities and come to a U.S. government training facility posing as a summer camp called The Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp. Throughout the main character Raz’s time there, he, among many other activities, is able to enter the minds of some of his cohorts and explore their psyches. This leads him to some truly bizarre and ingeniously designed levels that are built around the person’s subconscious in amazing and inventive ways.
“Psychonaut’s” release reception was red hot with critics, and subzero with consumers. Games as unique and creatively challenging as “Psychonauts” commonly suffer this plight, but since it appears that it will never get that sequel that those lucky enough to play through it the first time are begging for, then a TV show would be a more than adequate substitute.
The concept is entirely laid out by the game already. Each week, Raz would enter a different mind and explore a crazy, psychedelic new world, while the environment of the summer camp serves as a housing for the series regulars and the grounds for any continuing plot threads that the showrunners can lay out.
As much as I loved “Psychonauts,” its hard to deny that outside of all the game’s ingenious concepts and layouts, the core gameplay of the series is little more than basic platforming and a series of fetch quests and collection challenges similar to the “Banjo-Kazooie” series. It’s greatest aspects were too often hidden under its monotonous nature. Theoretically, a TV show would allow them to accentuate the positives and bury the negatives.
Perfect for a Saturday morning series, or a slightly raunchier, edgier Adult Swim lineup addition, there is an almost unlimited amount of potential for “Psychonauts” to thrive on the small screen.
How It Would Work: This is the most obscure game on my list, so allow me a bit of product description.
Released in 2004, Elixir Studio’s “Evil Genius” was billed as a “World Domination Simulator,” Similar in design to the “Dungeon Keeper” series, “Evil Genius” has you selecting a criminal mastermind avatar and building a supervillain fortress complete with henchmen, death traps, meeting rooms, vaults of gold bullion, and all of the other things you’ve associated with the great James Bond villains. The rest of the game revolves around committing criminal acts worldwide using your various agents of nefarious means to steal valuable artifacts, blow up Nashville to end country music (seriously) and more
As you probably gathered from that description, and the game’s cover, this is a game that has a really solid foundation rooted in some dead-on parodies of its source material. No other game before or since has allowed you to take the role of a supervillain in such a meticulous way. While the game’s ultimate goal is to construct a super weapon, it’s all the little villain acts along the way that makes it such a memorable experience. Originally, “Evil Genius” was somewhat panned by critics for the extreme levels of micromanagement it required (as well as some other shaky features), but there’s no denying that the level of appreciation the developers put into all of the aspects that this concept could possibly cover is impressive.
For the show, I’m thinking of an “Archer”-type series, but from the other perspective. Following a villain as he starts a grass roots organization of evil, the show could use the same agents the game employs to build a cast of characters that include voodoo priests, samurais, military leaders, scientists and good old fashioned henchmen. Think a mix of “Archer” and the aspects of “The Venture Brothers” that included the show’s villain The Monarch all tied together by a 60s spy movie setting, and maybe you can see the same potential that I do for this show.
Much like “Psychonauts,” “Evil Genius” is a title that simply had too many flaws to make the appropriate impact as a game relase. But as a show? It could be a sensation.
How It Would Work” Sci-fi shows on television are filled with sad stories of ending before their time. From “Star Trek” to “Firefly,” it’s a long history of “ahead of their time series” leading to unfortunate cancellations. It’s considered something akin to tempting the fates to dare to release a sci-fi show and hope for the best. However, the few runaway successes in the genre (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Lost,” and the close enough for our purposes “Game of Thrones”) have all shared one thing that made them stand out: They treated their audience with respect and gave them complex developing stories that even most “serious dramas” couldn’t match.
That’s not to say it’s the be-all and end-all formula for sci-fi success, but it’s a healthy start. That’s why “Deus Ex” would have a fighting chance. Although over three titles the game’s plot has continued to develop and evolve to a level that I can’t cover in full, concentrating just on the first title of the series, “Deus Ex” is filled with intriguing conspiracy theories involving multiple factions and different agendas. The game’s cyberpunk world of technological human enhancement, mixed with absolute poverty and decay, is essentially unseen in the history of television and could serve to be immediately engrossing. Not to mention that a wealth of fictional material such as books and reports were created as in-game content (similar to the “Elder Scrolls” and “Fallout” series) that would provide a depth of content that exists well beyond a surface level.
Plus, in sticking just with the first title, you have a “CSI” / “NCIS”-type government investigation organization that handles “Fringe”-like scenarios. That’s not a very good description of the series at all, but it does show that there are some prior successes from TV land that you can tie into the promotion of the show, and from there, the intrigue and fascinating amount of ass-kicking stealth and action will surely cause even the most criminally jaded viewer to tune in for that first addictive fix.
As a related aside, Steam is offering an almost unbelievable 75% off the “Deus Ex” series right now for their weekend deal. While you can skip “Invisible War” safely, “Deus Ex” and “Human Revolution” are necessities to any gamer’s collection and serves to show how well this series would do in just about any format it decided to venture into.
Posted in: Editorial
Tags: Adult Swim, deus ex, Earthbound, Evil Genius, fallout, fallout 3, Meet the Pyro, Meet the Team, Psychonauts, Saturday Morning Cartoon, steam, steam sale, team fortress 2, Team Fortress 2 miniseries, TV Shows, valve, Video Games That would make great tv shows, Video Games to tv shows