Craig Mazin, who co-created HBO’s The Last of Us, is worried about the future of video game adaptations.
Given the immense success of The Last of Us and some other recent adaptations, we are likely to see an influx of new movies and TV shows based on video games. In some ways, that’s a wonderful thing, as the recent box office records set by The Super Mario Bros. Movie have also helped to show just how successful video game adaptations can be when done right. The other side of the coin is that other video game-based films may also be getting greenlit that perhaps shouldn’t be, at least that’s a concern held by Craig Mazin.
Mazin, who created The Last of Us for HBO with Neil Druckmann based on the video game, addressed the future of video game adaptations in a new interview. While speaking to Josh Horowitz for the Happy Sad Confused podcast (per TheDirect), Mazin shares his opinion that The Last of Us has the very best story ever told in video games, so that gave him an edge with the HBO adaptation. With that said, he notes that not every popular video game would necessarily translate well into a movie or TV series, and that has him a little worried about what could be coming next.
“I’m a little nervous, because we were working with, I think, what is, in my opinion, right, the best story told in video games. And I think for others certainly, people would have to admit it’s in the top ten,” Mazin explains. “There are a lot of video games that are great because of the gameplay and not necessarily, I think, ready for adaptation, or ready for an adaptation that’s going to work. So, look, best possible outcome is that we’re in for a lot of awesome adaptations. Worst possible outcome is there’s going to be a wave of bad adaptations.”
While some video game adaptations are doing very well these days, there have been many which have failed miserably. As someone involved with one of the most successful adaptations, Mazin offers some advice on how to avoid failure. This includes staying away from trying to adapt video games with a “convoluted plot,” along with a few other suggestions.
“It’s really especially in games where… either there’s so much convoluted plot, you get buried under it, or the main character is a faceless, voiceless cipher, or there’s a lack of a relationship in the story that is important, or the gameplay itself is based on high fantasy or high science-fiction to the point where it becomes a little bit disconnected from reality and and [isn’t] about the human condition,” he says. “These are the things that, if I were advising other people, I would be saying, ‘These are the things you have to be thinking about.’ And that doesn’t mean that you can’t make great high fantasy adaptations. You can. Some of the best adaptations are high fantasy and same for science-fiction. But the adaptation process is tricky and I think it’s very tricky for video games.”
However, there’s one key factor that’s perhaps most important for making a video game adaptation work. For Mazin, he believes that it comes down to having it made by people who are huge fans of the source material, as the fans can quickly pick up on when adaptations are made by studio suits who have no understanding of the games.
“The one thing I think we have definitely shaken, I hope, is the scourge of video games being adapted by people that don’t give a sh*t about the video game. I think that’s over,” Mazin explains. “And if it’s not then, I don’t know what’s going on, because if there’s one thing I hope people can take away from what Neil [Druckmann] and I did with The Last of Us is that you need to obsessively love the source material.”
He added, “You can’t just go, ‘It’s an IP.’ I hate IP. IP is a term that only lawyers should use… A beloved story with beloved characters; that’s what’s important, so people can love these things into existence. Then, I think there’s every chance for success.”