GamesBeat Summit: Hollywood and gaming join after a long courtship

Game-to-show/film adaptations have officially become A Thing. They’re no longer relegated to little-acknowledged movies or adaptations so loose they verge on spiritual-at-best. Hollywood has “discovered” games, and the vast pool of intellectual property and passionate fans that comes with them. At GamesBeat Summit 2024, a panel of experts from the games and film industries came together to discuss this new partnership between the two forms of media.

Peter Levin, managing director at Griffin Gaming Partners, moderated the discussion with Josh Yguado, CEO and co-founder of Jam City; Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab Studios; and Derek Douglas, head of video games at Creative Arts Agency (CAA). The two talked about Hollywood’s ever-changing relationship with the games industry, and also the challenges and rewards of adapting games into more “traditional” forms of media.

Yguado spoke at length about gaming and legacy media: “I’m a huge believer of gaming being at the very center of what entertainment is … I’m actually shocked that there haven’t been more adaptations sooner. For the last 40 years, we’ve been accumulating this treasure trove of worlds and characters that are beloved, that people are spending literally thousands of hours with. The fact that we’re realizing now that this is a great source of television and film IP is something we should have realized a long time ago.”

The long history of Hollywood’s relationship with video games

Douglas said that traditional media has taken note of the size and scope of gaming, more so than when he started in the industry 18 years prior. “When I started, there was definitely a hierarchy and you felt it. At the top was film, then television, then everything else. Games were not even on the spectrum, and they weren’t looked at as valuable IP … . There was a lot of tension and frustration early in this. Then you get to something like The Last of Us, where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin are mutual fans of each other. That’s the high water mark for generating something that feels cohesive and comes from that shared DNA and a mutual love of each other’s work.”

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Fan noted that Hollywood’s view of games still might only focus on IP, which it considers most valuable, when that’s not all there is to games: “The two industries value different things. IP totally matters for games, but the game mechanics and core loop have to be fun … . I still think right now, Hollywood thinks of games more like, ‘Oh, it’s IP for me to mine.’ It needs to learn the lessons of how to bring your fandom and audience and players into it to be part of the experience rather than it being a one-way street.”

Yguado’s view of the future is that games and movies can be developed as parts of the same project, rather than one following the other’s fame. “Right now, there’s an ‘origin’ property and there’s an ‘ancillary’ property that comes off of it. If we can think more holistically about these entertainment properties — fine, maybe they start with one, but the fact that all ships can rise based on lots of different channels of engagement? I think that’s the future of entertainment, and that’s what we’re working toward at Jam City.”