Ah, The Simpsons, the animated family that has entertained us for decades. As a game editor, I've often pondered the possibility of a new game featuring our beloved yellow-skinned friends. Not a mobile cash cow like Tapped Out, not Bart in Fortnite, not even a remake of the classic Hit & Run. No, what I truly desire is a proper new game, flaws and all. I know it might not be perfect (let's face it, even Hit & Run isn't as good as we remember), but my love for The Simpsons runs deep, and I crave a game that lets me spend time with them, even if it's slightly rubbish. And you know what? I have a sneaking suspicion that we might be on the cusp of an era where this dream can become a reality.
Now, before you get excited, I'm not talking specifically about The Simpsons. I have no insider information about their future endeavors. The show keeps on chugging along, raking in profits from merchandise and theme parks, while Tapped Out may have forced EA to tap out on creating new games in Springfield. The cultural peak of The Simpsons might be behind us, but fear not! There is hope for the rise of adaptations in the gaming world.
Once upon a time, tie-in games were everywhere. Like a McDonald's Happy Meal toy, any movie worth its popcorn had a wonky video game adaptation. But as games improved in quality and development cycles lengthened (not to mention the unpredictability and expense), these little gems became scarcer. Soon, only kids' movies could get away with unambitious games that fell below the standards of the era. And then, they disappeared altogether.
But wait! They live on in a sense. For the wee little ones, we have Peppa Pig and Bluey, and Nickelodeon seems blissfully unaware that this era has passed, as they churn out SpongeBob platformers that feel like they're straight out of the early 2000s. Yet, there's more to it than that. We're witnessing a growing reliance on bringing intellectual property from outside gaming into the gaming sphere. While some criticize this as a lack of original ideas, gaming is a unique medium that can tell stories like no other art form.
Sure, The Simpsons Game 2 probably won't be a pixelated Ibsen, but I have mixed feelings about gaming embracing other media. On one hand, transforming art into IP content can diminish the value of its characters. Whether it's mixing them all together in something like MultiVersus or Fortnite or treading water through a live-service battle pass storefront that hampers character development (looking at you, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League).
On the other hand, games have intrinsic artistic value. When a theater company adapts a novel, we don't consider it a lack of creativity or the death of art. And while The Simpsons may not be on the same level as Ibsen, deriding games as automatically inferior to their source material fails to recognize the unique storytelling potential of the medium. Games like Alien: Isolation, GoldenEye, and Telltale's The Walking Dead demonstrate how video games can build on movies or television with a fresh perspective.
Today, we've embraced the idea that a movie tie-in doesn't have to arrive simultaneously with the movie. We don't forget about these worlds the moment we leave the cinema, after all. In recent years, we've seen games like Guardians of the Galaxy (clearly inspired by James Gunn's movies more than the comics), RoboCop: Rogue City, and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. And on the horizon, we have Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, Jurassic Park: Survival, and A Quiet Place. Video game adaptations are becoming less opportunistic and more focused on the connection to the franchise, while still aiming to make a profit.
Now, I don't know if there's a studio out there with the rights to The Simpsons, an emotional connection to the series, and a boss who believes in the financial potential of a new game. I certainly hope so, and I hope their idea isn't just "let's sell 'em Hit & Run again." But whether we get another Simpsons game or not, I'm glad to see adaptations making a comeback. They are no longer solely tied to opening night at the movies.
So, let's embrace this new era of adaptations in gaming. Let's celebrate the unique storytelling opportunities that games provide. And who knows, maybe one day we'll find ourselves exploring Springfield once again, in a brand-new game that captures the essence of The Simpsons and brings joy to fans young and old. Until then, let's appreciate the resurgence of adaptations and the creativity they bring to the gaming landscape.