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Dark Mark avatar 9:50 AM on 03.19.2009  (server time)
Expanded Universe? Do Not Want!

In thinking about this month’s cblog topic about Expanded Universes, I came up with a lot of great examples of how the electronic gaming medium works as a way to expand stories that originated from other forms of entertainment. Video games that expand the universe of Star Wars are sometimes exemplary in their execution of how they recreate the themes of the movies while including completely new plot lines (KOTOR, anyone?) More examples could be compiled to create a very long list. Goldeneye for the N64 far surpassed the movie in terms of lasting entertainment value. The Shin Megami Tensei series was based on a novel. While a little dated for it’s time, the Ranma ˝ RPG that came out for the Super Famicom was a great ode to the series. And how many of us appreciate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not for their action figures, comics, or cartoons; but for the few games that have cemented themselves in our collective gaming memories?

But how often does the influence steer in the opposite direction to make a great movie, TV series, comic book, or novel? Help me out here because, as far as I can recall, the only the show with origins in the gaming medium that had any significance to an entire generation may have been Pokemon. And I’m not even sure of that since I never was a Pokemon fan.

When I hear the term “Expanded Universe,” the sound of it is accompanied by a certain prejudice I have that brings to mind such glorious failures as the Super Mario Brothers movie, Doom, and the Street Fighter live action flick. How sad is it that Street Fighter was Raul Julia’s final film?

The case is common enough when we talk about bad video game movies, but additionally, do we really need to have a series of Halo novels? Or what about the Persona 3 anime series from Japan?

It all stinks of greed and money as far as I’m concerned. The only reason we have Halo novels or bad video game film adaptations is because some executive somewhere with no affinity to the source material understands that gamers would shell out their cash for expanded universe products simply because of ties to a great gaming experience. Thus, a franchise is born, and subsequently the market is oversaturated with crap made for fanboys.

It may be unfair for me to target Hollywood directors or the fledgling science fiction writers that put a lot of hard work into the Resident Evil movies or the Halo books, but you would be fooling yourself if you thought the main reason for the creation of this “expanded universe” was anything other than turning an easy profit.

Thinking hypothetically, I would consider an amazing game like Killer7 rife with potential for an animated television show or movie. The game blew my mind and showed me just how far gaming has come in 30+ years. I would have never thought I’d see a game as dark, as beautiful, as simple, or as delightfully psychotic as Killer7. A Killer7 anime might seem like a good idea if it were created by creator Suda 51. But what are the chances of that? Expanded Universes are almost exclusively conceptualized by a third party that usually lacks the vision of the original creator. George Lucas notwithstanding, continuing storylines and themes are best created from the minds of those who gave birth to them in the first place.

I know that a Killer7 manga exists, but I’d rather not disappoint myself. It’s just my belief that video games are a unique enough storytelling medium. Adaptations and expansions would only muddy the waters and at worst, dilute the meaning for the sake of a larger, more profitable audience.

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