Last week, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to fund a video game adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 war epic Apocalypse Now.
Adapting a story from one medium to another will always be challenging. We're used to the pitfalls of movies based on video games, but less accustomed to video games based on movies. That's not to say it hasn't been done before. However, movie-based video games are usually tie-ins to a newly released film, developed as part of a multi-media campaign. Expectations will naturally be higher for a game based on a classic like Apocalypse Now.
Initially, this may sounds like a questionable idea. The film explores the horrific and senseless nature of war, something few (if any) combat video games attempt to do. The idea of a complex film like Apocalypse Now being converted into a generic first person shooter is unsettling. That's not to say that video games are a corrupting influence on society, which is nothing short of outdated snobbery against a fascinating medium. However, it's next to impossible for something like Call of Duty to convey the anti-war themes of the film.
However, a look through the game's Kickstarter puts these concerns to rest. The developers are very clear that the game will be nothing like a typical shooter, instead describing it as "a first-person perspective survival and horror game with strong roleplaying elements." Players would be encouraged to remain stealthy and complete objectives, only engaging the enemy when necessary. It's also worth noting that the project has the support and involvement of Coppola himself, and is being financed outside of the game industry to allow for greater creative control.
The game also sounds interesting from a storytelling perspective. Video games may not be traditionally regarded as a form of storytelling, but they have great potential as a medium. Stories attempt to forge a connection between the audience and the characters, which video games do in a very direct sense. They can also explore unique narrative structures, allowing the player's decisions to influence the story. Players would not be stepping into the protagonist's shoes and progressing through the film's story, they would be shaping the character and the story with each decision.
The project is undoubtedly risky, but it's hard not to respect the passion and vision of the developers. Whatever happens with Apocalypse Now, it seems we're entering a new stage of interactive storytelling. Who knows what other films could get video game adaptations? Many of the defining stories of the 21st century may not be novels or films, but video games.
If funded, the game will be released in 2020, according to present estimates. You can check out the Kickstarter page here.