Why Arcane Proves More Video Game Adaptations Should Be Animated


The incredible animation could be number one on a long list of why Netflix’s 2021 Arcane has been so well received. Studio Fortiche has made sure that the personalities of the show’s characters come out not just through voice acting but through careful attention to detail in facial expressions and mannerisms. Combine that with a distinct art style and the incredible designs of Piltover and Zaun, and we have a show that is downright mesmerizing to watch. It simply would not be the same experience without its art and animation.

Recently, more and more rumors are cropping up of video game franchises being adapted for television. For much of video game history, these adaptations have been live-action, and most have been total flops in regards to critical and fan reception. Following off the heels of Arcane‘s successa case should be made on why more of these adaptations should be animated, not live-action.

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CGI vs. Art Style


Mass Effect Video Game
BioWare

While many video games take place in gritty and realistic settings, many more incorporate some element of otherworldliness that makes them stand out. This includes new worlds, new rules, fantastical sorceries, high-tech science fiction space travel, and alien faces both friendly and villainous. It is a well of creativity. For example, BioWare’s sci-fi Mass Effect franchise. Rumors abound that Amazon Studios is nearing a deal for a Prime-exclusive Mass Effect television series, and one look at these games will tell you they are filled to the brim with unique alien species. The turians, asari, salarians, hanar, and krogan – to name a few – that populate these games’ planets and space stations are integral to the Mass Effect identity. If they were to be incorporated into a live-action adaptation, it would fall into one of two possibilities: heavy makeup or CGI.


Related: Explained: Here’s Why Video Game Movie Adaptations Often Disappoint Fans

In the latter case, while it is true that CGI has come a long way over the years, it is still noticeable when used extensively. Place a live-action human in Mass Effect next to, say, a CGI salarian for an extended period of time, and it is bound to take viewers out of the action (and perhaps creep them out.) This can be mitigated by having every character, every backdrop, belong to the same art style. To take a non-video game example, both humanoid and alien characters in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars do not look out of place next to each other because they belong to the same art style. They look like they exist in the same world. The same can be said about the aforementioned humans and salarians in the Mass Effect video games: both animated, both existing in the same space.


Video Games Are an Art Form


Uncharted Live Action
Sony

Making video games is hard, and so their adaptations deserve a level of respect. When taking games from one entertainment format to another, why does the go-to need to be animated? Especially when the live-action remakes we’ve received have been delivered lukewarm. Perhaps adapting video games to animated television shows isn’t just a matter of more creative freedom but also moving in a fresh direction for game adaptations as a whole.

Related:Why Arcane is One of the Best Animes Since Avatar: The Last Airbender

This could continue the precedent Arcane has set of actually respecting video games for what they are: pieces of art. In terms of something like The Last of Us, its grounded world works well with the live-action formula it’ll be serving up in the HBO adaptation. For something like the rumored God of War serieswith its larger-than-life monsters and constant run-ins with magical deities – strong art direction and animation could fit right in.


Animation is Just Plain Cool


Arcane Anime on Netflix
Netflix

In terms of games leaving an impact, having a solid, distinct art style wins out, especially in an industry inundated with studios looking to deliver photorealistic graphics. Just look at Cuphead or Hades. This same concept of art style making heads turn can be said to hold up in television and film entertainment as well. It’s certainly true for Arcane, universally praised for its animation and art. And for a film example, look no further than Into the Spider-Versewhich integrates comic book panels into a unique blend of 3D and 2D animation.

Plainly put, if animation is done right, then it looks awesome. Action sequences where colors and movements are accentuated to look larger than life. Emotional moments where animators make certain to get subtle things like facial expressions, lighting, and surrounding details just right. And then they take that “just right” and multiply it by ten because with animation often comes exaggeration to convince an audience of the emotional weight of what’s happening.


It is time, dedication, and passion on another level, and the colorful worlds of video games deserve those levels. Just as books are expected to be respected when adapted into a screenplay, video games also deserve respect. So, no more weird Cortana faces, please. The tools to create visually interesting and beautiful works of art are right there if only studios were willing to dedicate money and resources. We can certainly dream.



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