There have been a couple games based on Conan the Barbarian, one from the immensely boring Wheel of Time series, several Discworld adventure games, and a trillion games based on Tolkien’s works. There’s a new Game of Thrones video game that was probably created due to the success of the TV series that people can’t shut up about. So… hot on the heels of my previous article about propositions for video games based on books comes Lee Laughead’s kickin’ rad new article about exactly the same thing, except this time I won’t exclude the pulp fantasy novels that I know all of my readers enjoy. It’s time to go balls-out imagining the games that could be formed from tales of nerdy dragons and pew pew space lasers. And it will be glorious.
10. Watership Down by Richard Adams
Not all of these are going to be about giant muscle guys hacking through hordes of puny enemies. Watership Down is about bunnies. Bunnies running from everything that’s trying to kill them. Since it portrays rabbits as dying quickly and struggling to survive in land dominated by humans, dogs, and other bigger animals, it has a sense of dread and twitchiness that real rabbits must feel all the time. Here could be an interesting stealth game, one where most of your enemies will instantly slaughter you and you have to run and hide while looking for food and mates.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, otherkin, people who thought Battletoads was too easy
9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Who could say no to a Blade Runner game? One that wasn’t called Rise of the Dragon, I mean. I’m one of the very rare nerds that thinks Blade Runner was visually phenomenal but lacking in the script and acting department. But it is undeniable that it would be a rich source of material to make a game out of. It could be graphical adventure, a first-person Deus Ex-like, a Grand Theft Auto III clone, something like Flashback: The Quest for Identity (all of which are probably inspired by Blade Runner anyway). All sorts of cool stuff could be done with the setting. There was a Blade Runner adventure game released in 1997 that has a huge cult following, but there’s still no shortage of new territory to be explored in such a fantastic world. Cyberpunk will always be superior to steampunk.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, people who have this brilliant new theory about whether or not Deckard Cain was a Cylon
8. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
There’s the potential to use LeGuin’s rich world of strange beauty and forlorn hopefulness into something worth playing. You know the feeling of wonder you get from exploring 1990s computer RPGs like Fallout and Albion? I’m envisioning a game like that, except the focus is not on mass murder but on sailing around to mysterious islands, experiencing new cultures, and learning the fascinating histories of the world. It wouldn’t sell as many copies as games covered in dripping entrails, but an Earthsea game could be an enriching experience. LeGuin is also one of the few fantasy authors who has protagonists who aren’t as white as the pure driven snow. (And in the 1960s, no less!) She even went on a rant about it when those morons at the Sci-Fi Channel turned her books into generic fantasy slop. She owns.
[Edit: I wrote this article before leaning that LeGuin joined an evil religion in the 1980s and made some really stupid statements about capitalism. – Lee]
Who would buy this game? Nerds, people who like the boat sequences in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
7. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
You play the Shrike. It’s really easy.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, casuals
6. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
“But Lee,” you say. “Thomas Covenant is a mostly passive and completely unlikeable protagonist. He’s a disgusting rapist that the reader is supposed to hate. Why make a game based on him? And who can take a character named Lord Foul seriously?” And you would be correct in your sentiment. But the game wouldn’t have to be based on him. You could play as High Lord Mhoram or Hile Troy the strategist during The Illearth War in their battles against the armies of evil. Make it a real-time strategy game where the odds are stacked horribly against you every step of the way, where the enemy is constantly gaining advantage over you and your only hope lies with this revolting cretin who sits on the sidelines moping that none of it is real. If done properly, it could fill the game with the same sense of dread and urgency found in the first trilogy of the novels. Or you could make an adventure game based on The Wounded Land and all the supernatural horrors you must endure while you look for their source. The psychological and introspective Thomas Covenant series is quite open for exploitation in other media, even though no one would give it a chance because it’s competing with a certain other fantasy series with a ring on the cover. What was it called? Oh yeah, Discworld.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, and nerds alone
5. Amber series by Roger Zelazny
Nine Princes in Amber begins with a dude waking up in a hospital bed, remembering nothing. He escapes and starts looking for clues to his identity, and you think you’re reading some detective novel at first. Nope, it turns out that this dude is a member of a family of dimension-spanning demigods who are fighting each other for the throne to the multiverse. There was a 1985 text adventure based on the book, but I’d be more interested in a reality-warping, cosmos-jumping quest to get the troops and materials you need for your siege. It would be a gargantuan project to create a game with multiple highly-detailed worlds to explore and interact with, but games like The Elder Scrolls series have shown that the scale can be managed. Someone just needs the ambition, and I think that the Amber license would be a great way to go about it.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, people who like the Myst games but want more killing
4. First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Abercrombie’s books are chock full of fighting and killing. You know, manly stuff. Unlike most fantasy, however, it’s low-down and dirty, kick-dirt-in-his-eyes, stab-him-in-the-back cacophonic brawling as opposed to two wizards calmly throwing fireballs at each other. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? God Hand clone. Play Logen Ninefingers and fight off thugs and cultists who are every bit as skilled and brutal as you, winning by the skin of your teeth. This game should be tough as nails and with a personality to match.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, internet tough guys
3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Orson “I Hate the Gays” Card created one of the finest science fiction novels in history with Ender’s Game and its brilliant sequel, Speaker for the Dead. The main focus is on the characters who spend their time overthinking and overanalyzing the problems facing them personally and humanity as a whole, something I find fascinating. There’s one aspect of Ender’s Game that’s particularly suited to video gaming: the Battle Room, a zero-gravity chamber filled with blocks and wedged in by two gates. Two opposing teams of students float around the place, taking cover and shooting each other with guns that temporarily cripple the victim by locking the joints in their space suits until the game is over. The possibilities for video games to be formed from the Battle Room are obvious, but so far there’s only been one failed attempt to make a game out of Card’s best-selling books.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, paintballers
2. Lankhmar series by Fritz Lieber
The Lankhmar series is secretly the foundation for every game of Dungeons & Dragons you’ve ever played. Thieves guilds, sewer levels, exploring dungeons and collecting loot. Most of the D&D games we’ve been given are trash, but imagine a fresh perspective on it. Maybe something reminiscent of Planescape: Torment or Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, both of which have lots of cool dungeons and sewers already.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, D&D nerds
1. Every single one of the Drizzt books by R.A. Salvatore
Every individual Drizzt book is just an endless series of cool swordfights. If you want pulp fantasy with tons of action and little plot, they are some of the very finest. Yeah, I know Salvatore got bored with the series and started including some actual character development (seriously) but at its heart, the Dark Elf books are all about an invincible Mary Sue chopping through legions of enemies in his quest to get to the one strong enemy and fight him in a rad duel. The author is even a former boxer, which enhances the believability of his combat scenes (if little else). If they can make twenty billion Dragonball Z games out of that bloated franchise, someone could easily make a series of video games starring Drizzt in his quest to kill evil dudes. I know he’s made an appearance as an NPC in some of the Baldur’s Gate games and that Salvatore recently wrote the ill-fated and mediocre Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. But Salvatore doesn’t have to give a potential Drizzt game any more notice than Jim Davis gives the worthless Garfield strips that his underlings crank out every day. Make a hack-n-slash game covering the Dark Elf trilogy, another for the Icewind Dale trilogy, and keep cranking them out as long as the people keep shelling out the money. Salvatore, you have my permission to use this idea to the full extent of its coolness. Give us Dynasty Warriors: Mithril Hall.
Who would buy this game? Nerds, dorks, dweebs, goons, and geeks who can’t pay the rent but have flimsy fantasy sword “replicas” hanging on their walls