Video Game Adaptations Finally Leveled Up

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Twisted Metal.]

Nothing reveals more about the way that video game adaptations have changed than the fact that Gran Turismo, a Playstation Productions film, isn’t really a video game movie. The titular video game is a plot point, of course — the racing simulator that paves the way for Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) to go from high-level gamer to actual professional race car driver — but the beats of Neill Blomkamp’s film are all that of a sports movie.

“It really is basically like a biographical story where Gran Turismo played a role in this person’s life,” Blomkamp told Uproxx in a recent interview. The original game, after all, is meant to bring the player into as authentic a racing experience as possible — with “racing simulator” being the preferred nomenclature — and while Blomkamp leans heavily on the game’s own visual language at times to tell the story, it’s no different from HBO’s Winning Time using 1980s-era cameras to capture its 1980s basketball action.

And it’s just one of several video game adaptations that have come out this year to varying degrees of success, but all very much in line with this new era, where adaptations aren’t just common… they’re actually getting pretty good.

Or, put it another way, their status as video game adaptations no longer carries with it any stigma. The crossover between video games and film has been going on for decades, of course, with plenty of success stories along the way: the Resident Evil franchise, for example, has proven enduring in much the same way zombie narratives can endure, and movies like Uncharted and Tomb Raider have made decent amounts of money at the box office.

However, things feel different in 2023, because in the spirit of The West Wing’s classic phrase “let Bartlet be Bartlet,” what’s proving to be a winning strategy is leaning into not the plot, or the design of these games — but their spirits. The reason it’s taken so long for that to work as a strategy is that it required the involvement of people who understand that video games do have spirits of their own, that they’re not just soulless content fodder.