Turning Bad Movies Into Great Games

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Some movies are so bad that virtually nothing from them is salvageable for Gaming purposes.  Others are ones, though they are still bad, that are built on a cool premise with loads of potential.  I've recently undertaken designing a game with just such a movie as the inspiration.

The Movie:

The film in question is the 2006 movie, The Covenant.  If you haven't seen it please just take my word for it that it's bad.  If you already have seen it... well what can I say?  I'm sorry.  

To give you an idea of what the movie is about here a partial plot summary from Wikipedia:

In 1692 in the Ipswich Colony in Massachusetts, five families with magical abilities, referred to as "the Power", formed a covenant of silence to protect themselves from persecution. Four of the five bloodlines (Danvers, Parry, Garwin, and Simms) survive to this day; one family (the Putnams), lusting for more power, were banished, their bloodline disappearing without a trace until now.

The Covenant tells the story of the Sons of Ipswich, four young students at the elite Spencer Academy who are bound by their sacred ancestry. As descendants of the original families that settled in Ipswich Colony in the 17th century, the boys have all been given amazing supernatural powers. But their ability to shape-shift, defy gravity and perform superhuman feats of strength comes at a terrible cost: every time one of the Sons of Ipswich uses his magical powers, he ages prematurely, and the temptation to abuse the power makes it more addictive than any drug. What's more, life is only going to get harder for the young friends; they are given a taste of the Power at age thirteen. Then at the moment each boy turns eighteen, he will "Ascend", gaining far more potent —and addictive— powers.

Here is a look at the official trailer for the movie

The Cool Stuff:

So now you are probably saying to yourself, "This guy said the movie sucks, I saw the trailer and I really believe him, why is he wasting his time?"  The reason is because this movie is that second type of bad movies that I talked about above.  It has a premise that gave it a chance to be cool, but was torpedoed by nearly every other factor in film making.  The trick to this technique of designing games is identifying what that cool premise is, how to extract it leaving all the crap behind, and turn it into a great game. 

Let's get back to our example, The Covenant.  The core premise of this movie is that these five families (The original settlers of the Ipswich Colony) made some kind of deal with a supernatural power and were given immense power themselves.  The power comes at a price, in the movie it is premature aging but that can easily be changed.  The history of these families are firmly bound to the Salem Witch trials, another awesome thing to take away.  To protect themselves the families joined in a Covenant (hence the name of the movie) of silence to escape the persecution they encountered during the Salem Witch Trails.  This is a cool idea because it puts rules in place that the characters, who wield powerful magic, must adhere to or face serious consequences.  The movie even provides a great idea for a villain, a descendant from the 5th family who was thought to have been killed off who returns seeking power and revenge.

Already I have a really cool idea for a game, taken from a really terrible movie.  From here there is a wealth of information based on historic sources surrounding the Salem Witch Trials.  Since I don't live too far from there I could even take a ride up to Massachusetts and do some research in Salem and Ipswich in the flesh.  
I'm pretty excited about this game which I've decided to call, "The Sons of Ipswich".  It seems like a great fit for the Call of Cthulhu game system and mythology.  I'll keep you posted on my progress designing the game, in the mean time you should consider taking some core concepts that have potential from movies that squandered them and making a kick ass game from them. 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at Tuesday, March 15, 2011 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


To be honest (and I'm likely to get flamed by some people for this comment) I've often felt that Pitch Black was a lousy movie with a great premise that would make for an incredible one-shot game.

March 15, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Pitch Black wasn't too bad. It was better than Chronicles of Riddic thats for sure.

March 15, 2011 at 2:20 PM

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