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Adapting Books Into Games (and a bullshit poll ;p)

Which of the books adaptations I've posted would you most like to play?  

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  1. 1. Which of the books adaptations I've posted would you most like to play?

    • Becky Chambers, "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet"
    • Comte de Lautréamont, "Maldoror"
    • H.P. Lovecraft, "The Colour Out of Space"
    • Alain Mabanckou, "Memoirs of a Porcupine"
    • Ryu Murakami, "In the Miso Soup"
    • Katie Skelly, "Operation Margarine"
    • Paul Stonehill & Philip Mantle, "Russia's USO Secrets"
    • Dylan Trigg, "The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror"
    • VA (edited Heather J. Wood), "Gods, Memes and Monsters"
    • Marie-Louise von Franz, "Alchemy"

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Have you ever read a book and felt that the story is rich with game adaptation potential? If your bag is non-fiction, have you read of some idea or concept that might make a compelling theme or unique game mechanic? If so, then this thread was made for your literary fantasies in mind. I’ve added a poll simply to garner some activity on this topic, because not everyone here is going to be a bookworm and I want them to feel welcome to wade in on the subject. I'll try my utmost not to overdo the descriptions for the opening post and thus aid anyone not especially interested in the topic in picking one of the ten examples provided in the above poll. Otherwise feel free to ignore the poll altogether and post your own books (both old favourites and newly discovered material) that you reckon could make for a great video game franchise.




I recently finished Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and I reckon I might of found the sort of exocentric and subtly profound sci-fi I've craved for a while now - I'm certainly hoping there are other books in set in Chambersverse. The title in question is a full-fat space opera set in a loosely defined far flung future, where post-earth diaspora humans exist as minor members of a vast multi-species coalition alongside a diverse array of alien races. What separates this novel from the innumerable quantities of heroic epics involving forces of evil hell bent on the annihilation of the universe is that while the setting is galactically vast, the narrative focus of this story is drawn down to a more individually humane (sapient is a better term) level, focused as it is on the everyday life of a wormhole engineering crew and their efforts to bore an interstellar pathway to a planet negotiating with the aforementioned coalition.


These lore details aren't really the substantial aspect of the novel, it strikes me that Becky Chambers is far more interested and extremely accomplished at creating individuals - human, near-human or otherwise - with personal strengths and flaws, dark secrets in their origins, and the way in which they relate, negotiate and tolerate their differences. She effectively writes the kind of quality drama you normally see set in contemporary or historic reality, only it happens to be set in the future and more intelligent beings are involved.


I'd love to see some kind of open world adventure/spaceship management set in the Chambersverse, assuming the game wasn't simply a more accurate reinterpretation of the the Wayfarer and it's crew described in the book. The emphasis would be on handling the needs and relationships of your multi-species crew, dealing with drama and threats when they arise with a variety of approaches, accepting commissions and jobs, learning more about the coalition and its member species (Chambers is also very imaginative when conceiving the societies and cultures in her universe) and ultimately find some sort meaning and kinship with your coworkers.





Often cited as an epiphanic influence by the surrealists, the vampire story Maldoror - or Les Chants de Maldoror ("The Songs of Maldoror") - by Uruguayan-born French writer Isidore Ducasse (written under the Byronic pseudonym Comte de Lautréamont) is one of the most appallingly weird, uncomfortably taboo, yet somehow luridly romantic (in the mysteriously fey gothic literature sense) books I've read in a while, perhaps only remotely comparable to Thomas De Quincy's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater or Thomas Nashe's Terrors of the Night. No wonder Ducasse took a fictional character's name as an alias for publishing.


Maldoror reads more like a delirious poem, originally consisting of six books or "cantos" that traditionally segment poems into manageable parts. It concerns the sadistic roamings of the titular characters, a monstrous individual tormented by his own unrestrained capacity for evil, an extraordinary vampiric murderer who commits (or imagines) appalling acts of violence against other people, relates and communicates to lowly verminous animals, and undergoes series of hallucinatory symbolic experiences in which he encounter terrifyingly strange entities. At first I struggled with how the books format could be translated into some manner of bloodthirsty yet atmospheric survival horror, being as it is the unhinged inner monologue of a self-aware self-recognizing villain.


However given that there is a Friday the 13th game set to be released in 2017, in which you play as the slasher franchise's antagonist Jason Voorhees, I honestly think there is room in the market for a far darker and richly eldritch game in which you flee from the forces of light and wallow in depravity.





Though technically speaking not an actual book if you don't count later anthologies of Lovecraft's work due to it originally being published in the American sci-fi magazine Amazing Stories, his masterful short story The Colour Out of Space is arguably the one major Lovecraft work that isn't as inundated with various media interpretations as, say, At the Mountains of Madness or The Shadow Out of Time have been subject to - maybe because one could argue that it isn't strictly or irrefutaly within the "mythos" canon of his other stories. Many apologists and scholars of Lovecraftian writings cite it as his best work due to sheer alien ambiguity of the Colour's alien motives.


Playing and falling in love with the game SOMA several months back, recently replaying one of the most accomplished mythos-inspired point n' click games ever created Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder and waiting for the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard with bated breath got me thinking about The Colour Out of Space and how that particular story could be reimagined as a survival horror/first-person exploration type game. Given that the largely anonymous protagonist of that story arrives in Arkham to investigate the rumours of the accursed farm (< lollylops) shunned by the locals due to unspeakable conjecture, the unnaturally deformed flora and fauna of the area, and the lunacy that took hold of the heaths previous landowners. I think even back when I originally read this story as a moody elitist teenager I reckoned it could be an excellent adventure game. My more contemporary experience with latterday gaming fare and my anticipation with whats looming on the mediums horizon only cements my conviction that someone ought to develop a video game of this horror story.





One of my absolute novels of all time, so much so I’ve read it four times. Memoirs of a Porcupine by the Congo-born French author Alain Mabanckou is a magic-realist story that reads like the reminiscence of a spirit animal - in this case the titular Porcupine. The Porcupine who narrates this fictional biography explains that he is the animal “spirit double” of a man named Kibandi, a man who dabbles with magic and earns the ire of his community for it. Whilst Mabanckou draws from a wellspring of his African folkloric heritage, he imbues the tale with a very self-aware and modern (I.e extremely French) tone of alienation, irony and black comedy.


My inclusion of this particular book was more emotive than well-rationed, I think it works so well as a piece of monologue literature that it‘s difficult to imagine this as a movie adaptation, let alone a computer game in the mainstream sense! That being said I'd personally love to see a magic-realist fantasy setting, somewhere set in contemporary Africa or it‘s fictive equivalent, with all it‘s irreconcilable and undeniable contradictions. An adventure RPG in which you play as dabbler in the black arts and witchcraft, whilst averting or embracing local and national politics, allying yourself with ghosts and spirits whilst fending off hostile entities and you superstitious kinfolk alike.





Better known for his cult novel The Audition which later became a notoriously cult film, Japanese author Ryu Murakami’s sadistic yet profoundly noir worldview harks to traditions in his home nation's modern tradition of nihilistic storytelling that rightly calls the erstwhile Ryunosuke Akutagawa it’s flagship writer. In my very personal and very humble opinion In the Miso Soup is his best novel.

Effectively an account of a meeting between two very different individuals, the story revolves around a guide named Kenji who specializes in showing the sleazier underbelly of Tokyo to interested visitors, and an obese American tourist named Frank whose incongruous appearance and behaviour fills Kenji with creeping unease and dread. The real mastery of this novel is in how little genuinely horrifying content there is, it’s all supposition, displaced humour and teasing suggestion that culminates in one spectacularly violent scene and a closing revelation about the disguised complexity and “otherness” of Frank.


I‘m not entirely certain how a game adaptation of In the Miso Soup would work, in fact it might work better as a film if I‘m painfully honest. I'm leaning towards a QTE style story-led adventure in the vein of Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy on the PS2 or the more recent Until Dawn on the PS4, but with far less overt Hollywood action and button-bashing gimmicks which would instead invest more heavily in dialogue and moral decisions in a way the marvellously extranormal Oxenfree did. Don’t get me wrong, I love the first two games I cited despite their glaring flaws, but try to imagine a Murakami video game as less of Matrix-wannabe and more of an answer to Brad Anderson's effectively skin crawling movie The Machinist.





I love Katie Skelly‘s comics. Her unique visual flair and overt penchant for a kind of retro aesthetic sexiness appeals to me on an artistically erudite AND simplistically ape-like capacity. Operation Margarine is a short but sweet tale of two women on the wrong side of the law, one a runaway anorexic debutante, the other a kickass tomboy wanted for undisclosed crimes. That being said a game that featured all of her zany stories, or otherwise just featured her particular illustrative style wouldn't be unwelcome. After all if Grickle can have a game made in his zany eldritch spirit and his unmistakable stylistic rendering, why not Skelly?


I was thinking that the game of the comic in contention could be equally short and sweet, like a lot of the best indie titles, at least in the single player main story mode. Each panel or page of Operation Margarine could be a different challenge that might lovingly parody a specific genres tropes, turning the game into a fast paced genre-hopping and unpretentious adventure. Perhaps some sort of survival mode with unlockable content could give an otherwise short title some wings. Given that the comics duo have stolen bikes I'm reminded of one isometric racing/collect em’ up game I once saw called Shapeshifter Biker, but largely for it's lovingly twee soundtrack. In all honesty I’m starting to wonder if the best bet for a Skellyverse game would be some kind of old school Skullgirls-esque beat em’ up.





A bit of a weird one for the more Fortean among you only, but recently I impulse brought a book titled Russia's USO Secrets: Unidentified Submersible Objects in Russian and International Waters by two researchers named Paul Stonehill and Philip Mantle. Whatever you think of the field of ufology and paranormal studies, this book conjures up a sinister yet fascinating world of anomalies and unexplained events culled largely from the archives and accounts of Russian military and scientific outposts, which are only just being unearthed and published in the west for the first time - most of the anecdotes and files presented in this book have apparently not been reproduced outside of Russian, Ukrainian and Baltic borders until this book arrived on the market.


The reports from a very diverse cast of Russians, Eastern-Europeans and the occasional Eurasian, Japanese and in one body of international water Arabic witnesses are numerous and unfailingly weird. There were investigations conducted the Soviet Navy into strange underwater sounds nicknamed kvakeri (“croakers”) and immense gelatinous objects detected by submersible radars that were impossibly mobile. There is a brief chapter regarding the tale of a small party of hydrologists in a motorboat who approached a bizarre metallic floating ovaloid whose presence seemed to kill their vessels engine, who all later died in mysterious circumstances. Another longer chapter talks about divers experiences in Lake Baikal of confronting eerily human-like fish, and the corresponding local myths regarding an underwater city.

Imagine a big, ambitious walking simulator/first-person investigation type game in the vein of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, but with much more involved problem solving and interactivity in the vein of the excellent detective point n’ click game Dead Secret. The protagonist is an independent agent assigned to ascertain the veracity of these claims in remote and often aquatic fragments of Russia‘s landscape, locating fragmentary evidence whilst having to avoid dangerous phenomena out in the field.





I chose this modestly sized non-fiction philosophy and literary/film criticism book largely because I find the concepts within it so compelling and rife with survival horror potential, it‘s obviously not a narrative that could be directly adapted into a video games plot - think of my recommendation as being more like the influence of Ayn Rand and objectivist philosophy on games like Bioshock or the so-called “philosophical zombie” in SOMA.


The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror by Dylan Trigg utilizes examples found in literature, French philosophy, film and scientific inquiry to demonstrate that the human body is still contested ground in regards to our self-awareness. I’m slightly oversimplifying the themes of the book for the sake of brevity, but essentially over the course of four chapters he presents the argument that the overriding reason we find the alien and non-human so frightening is because we recognise a ruptured reflection of ourselves within it. Whether it’s a instinctive repulsion of base nature or a response to a fictional creature, the alien confronts us with our own semi-realized alienation with bodily existence, or as Merleau-Ponty surmised it; a prepersonal “world more ancient than thought”.


A World More Ancient Than Thought might be a pretty rad title for a horror game featuring this book's themes, though there's numerous quotations within that could make equally suitable names for the game. I'll leave the reader to decide on the kind of game engine or historical franchises would influence the mechanics of a phenomenological horror game and instead concentrate on the potential in-game environments and enemies.


Each of the books four thematic chapters, plus the introduction and concluding analysis of John Carpenter's 1987 film The Thing, could correspond to six broadly encompassing worlds within the game. These environments would both visually and atmospherically imbue the overarching themes of the chapters whilst presenting some hybrid Silent Hill-esque-cum-Resident Evil/Deadspace-ish biological hazard inflicting itself on an otherwise recognizably human space. The enemies in turn would violently abstracted and yet perversely recognizably anthropomorphic. In one chapter they might look like human beings but with their flesh replaced by some invertebrate equivalent, in another they might resemble shadowy reflections of people contorted and manipulated by another intelligence. In this book there’s a lot to work for any aspiring survival horror developer.





Gods, Memes and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary is not a solo novel at all but an eccentric A-Z of short stories, fiction-surpassing prose and even a couple of smart essays by a large number of different authors and writers that was compiled and edited by Heather J. Wood. The book is conceived as a sort of ironic and sometimes introspective bestiary of contemporary monsters and supernatural beings, describing how they’ve adapted to modern life, contemporary culture and in particular the niches they fulfil in that most virginal or virgin territories - the internet. Some of these modern day monsters are recognizable survivals such as the Griffin, Gorgon and Satyr. Others such as the Urbantelope, Memetic Parasites and the Weredad are more recent iterations in the realms of the teratological.

As you might imagine from such a large and diverse crowd of writers the collection is very hit n’ miss, not everything will be to your taste and the desire to be noteworthy and different will wear on some readers sensibilities. I still reckon it’s worthwhile and I’ve enjoyed it’s contents immeasurably.


So why am I suggesting a collection of stories for a single game? Namely because the conceptual premise is awesome - I really like the idea of a fantasy setting set in a noticeably contemporaneous world that might be an alternative present Earth or something comparable to it. How would non-humans and mythical beasts adapt and cope in a society with our strange values and belief systems? I can think of at least three ways a Gods, Memes and Monsters could be rendered into the threads topical medium.

Firstly is a kind of traditional but visually stunning point n‘ click game in which the protagonist aides and confronts the various monsters and their needs, expect jarring yet exciting shifts in thematic tone and atmosphere. Secondly is something more akin to The Witcher games with a noticeably humorous and irreverent quality that one tends to find in anachronism. Thirdly, a maybe the one suggestion that could be legitimately attempted, is a mod for an open world game like Fallout 4 or Skyrim that simply adds a series of bizarre quests relating to the collections individual stories, modestly adapted to the respective game's setting and lore of course





Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology collects together a series of fascinating transcribed lectures given by Marie-Louise von Franz (a friend and associate of Carl Jung) in an attempt to “demystify“ and explain the Jungian infatuation with mystical and archetypal imagery and ideas - and why Jung capitalised on the similarity between the alchemists search for truth and the then emerging field of analytical psychology. She demonstrates how and why Jung was influenced by alchemical traditions in attempting to explain the nature of physical matter and consciousness, how modern scientific and religious modes of thinking complement and mirror one another, how dreams are “edited” and interpreted by the dreamers cultural context, and how we are all ultimately subject to creating conceptual models for perceiving reality.


Without any shadow of a doubt I’m thinking of a first-person puzzle game in the tradition of Myst or Of Light and Darkness, or if you want something more technically accomplished and recent then think of The Talos Principle or Quern. As well as solving the more traditional object and logic puzzles of those games, the real substantial game play elements involves riddles around psychological tropes and archetypal figures and symbols. It’s not as if any developers would be short of any copyright-free occult imagery to appropriate into level and location design - this books full of illustrations ranging from 16th to 17th century diagrams of chymyst experimentation, allegorical portraits of hermaphroditic beings, Ancient Greek and Egyptian symbolism, etc. Jung’s anthropomorphized archetypes could even show up the game to either benefit or antagonize the player; i.e. The Wounded Healer or the ubiquitous Trickster Spirit.


When close friends speak ill of close friends

they pass their abuse from ear to ear

in dying whispers -

even now, when prayers are no longer prayed.

What sounds like violent coughing

turns out to be laughter.

Shuntarō Tanikawa

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