Play Stuff Blog

Traditional Influences on Digital Media  

As a fan of the hit television series Man vs. Wild on Discovery Channel, I was thrilled by my chance encounter with the show’s celebrity adventurer Bear Grylls at E3. On screen, Bear inevitably finds himself in harrowing situations that test his expert survival skills. Publisher Crave Entertainment is betting gamers will want to walk in Bear’s shoes in their upcoming video game adaptation of the show. From Bear, to Wonder Woman, to Mickey Mouse, countless faces from other media showed up in games demonstrated at the Expo this year.

Eric and Bear

Whether walking the show floor at E3 or browsing the seemingly endless collection of game titles housed in the ICHEG Game Lab, one thing is clear— I find a deep connection between electronic games and other media. Video games reflect the culture in which they are produced. Designers often draw from television, cinema, comics, and literature to create video game characters and settings.

The trend towards this confluence of traditional and digital media began during the early stages of the electronic game industry in the 1970s, as game designers increasingly sought to capitalize on the familiarity of pop culture characters as diverse as Superman and Big Bird. The library of titles available for the Atari 2600 game console alone illustrate this point; game cartridges often found sitting alongside this classic system sported titles such as M*A*S*H*, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-Man, and Berenstain Bears.

ICHEG’s collections reflect the broad influence that authors and screenwriters have exerted on the video game industry. The immense success of Tom Clancy’s novel Red Storm Rising spawned the submarine simulation game of the same title. A long line of games bearing Clancy’s name and drawing upon his work followed, including the hit Rainbow Six series. Arnold Schwarzenegger “came back” in the arcade game Terminator 2: Judgment Day and also in the console version, T2: The Arcade Game, both of which provide the opportunity to play a T-800 model Terminator from a first-person perspective.  In 24: The Game, Jack Bauer saves the world from certain doom—with our help, of course. And Captain America battles the nefarious Red Skull in Captain America and the Avengers, one of the many titles that bear witness to the enduring popularity of comic super heroes. Indeed, many traditional media characters have made the jump to the digital world, yet this media crossover is far from a one way street.

 Lara CroftAs the game industry evolved, iconic characters from the digital world began making their way into the realm of traditional media. Pokémon, the hit title for Nintendo’s Game Boy line of handhelds, quickly spread into numerous other media, most notably anime and manga. The game series Tomb Raider hosts Laura Croft, who spawned several blockbuster motion pictures, comic books, and novels. Recently, the film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, based on the Prince of Persia game franchise, hit theaters nationwide. Moving forward, the number of characters from the digital world transitioning into traditional media will, no doubt, continue to rise as authors, comic book writers, and screenwriters seek to provide readers and viewers with storylines based on interesting characters they identify with. 

Are there video games characters you believe would make good traditional media characters or vice versa? I would personally love to see bounty hunter Samus Aran hit the big screen in a movie version of Metroid.