Sunday, April 11, 2021

Ready viewer one: from God of War to Red Dead, the games that deserve a TV show | Television & radio


This is a wonderful time to be a person who prefers watching video games to playing them. The Sonic the Hedgehog movie is officially the second-biggest film of the year worldwide (because it’s good, but also possibly because of the lockdown) and, even better, two new TV shows based on video games are on the horizon.

The first is HBO’s The Last of Us, which – since it’s being written and directed by the creative team behind Chernobyl – has the potential to be terrific. The gameplay of the video game was arguably secondary to its characters and story anyway, so, if the series can translate even a modicum of the game’s mournful dread to screen, it’ll be something worth watching.

The other is The Sims, which is coming to screens this week as The Sims Spark’d; a Bake Off-style reality show where The Sims players are judged on their ability to play The Sims. So it’s a mundane show about people playing a mundane game about mundane people doing mundane things. All things considered, you will probably not watch it.

But still, this is all the proof we need that video games can make the leap to television. Here are the games that deserve series of their own.

God of War

Kratos, left, an inspiration to absentee fathers everywhere. Photograph: Sony

The most sensible game to adapt, given its tonal similarity with much prestige TV, is the 2018 God of War reboot. After all, that was a game about an absentee father struggling to connect with his semi-estranged son after the death of his wife. Admittedly, there’s also Norse mythology and witches and giants and spells and stuff, but if that’s too expensive you make you could just make a mumbly drama about a deadbeat dad in modern-day Los Angeles instead. God knows we haven’t had enough of those already.

Red Dead

Red Dead Redemption 2, a more mainstream Deadwood. Photograph: Rockstar Games

This would make a beautiful videogame. A sprawling, elegiac meditation of the death of the American west at the hands of a progressive yet cruel government, this has the potential to be a more mainstream Deadwood. It’s a story of honour, revenge and a man’s inability to shake off his past transgressions. Plus you could easily dedicate a few episodes to the lead character ignoring his mission in order to aimlessly creep around the desert looking at animals. It would completely derail the series. Netflix would love it.

Katamari Damacy

Katamari Damacy, unable to quench his impossible thirst. Photograph: Namco Bandai

Breaking Bad famously dealt with the slow transition of one man from Mr Chips to Scarface. And, in many ways, that is also the story of Katamari Damacy. The lead character is a classic underdog; a tiny speck of a thing tasked with rolling up minuscule objects unnoticed by the wider population. But as he picks up objects, he grows. He picks up mice. Then cats. Then children, who scream in terror as he steamrollers over them. Before he knows it he has become a monster, scooping up whales and skyscrapers, unable to quench his impossible thirst for relentless consumption. Truly, he is the one who knocks.

Goose game

A naughty goose. Photograph: PR Handout

The game of Untitled Goose Game is pleasantly simplistic. You play a naughty goose who wanders around a traditional English village bullying its terrified residents, and that’s about it. But we never know why the goose is so intent on mayhem. What happened to it to cause such a streak of aggressive anti-authoritarianism? This calls for an uncompromisingly bleak 10-part drama about toxic childhoods and generational goose abuse.

Pet Doctor

Perry Mason

Could Pet Doctor be the next Perry Mason? Photograph: Home Box Office (HBO)/2020 Warner Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. This website may contain mature content. Terms of Use

I’ll level with you, I only know this one because my two-year-old plays it on a tablet sometimes. There is a poorly animal, and you give it some medicine, throw it a treat and it goes home again. However, consider the Perry Mason reboot. This is a show so determined to prove its gritty credentials that the very first scene contained a close-up of a dead baby. People apparently love this sort of thing now, so maybe every now and again the Pet Doctor TV could show an alarmingly graphic shot of an infected wound or something. Everyone’s happy.

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