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Professors: Video games don’t work as movies because they’re ‘different animals’

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer arrives at the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' "Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time" held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on May 17, 2010 in Hollywood, Calif.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer arrives at the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' "Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time" held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on May 17, 2010 in Hollywood, Calif.Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The Super Mario Bros. garnered a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 29 percent from audiences. Street Fighter grossed nearly $100,000 million, yet moviegoers ranked it just a 12 percent. It’s not new news that movie adaptations of video games often flop at the box office, but one professor, according to a report from GameSpot, said there’s an analytical reason behind it.

In an interview with USA Today, Kirk Kjeldsen, assistant professor in the cinema department of Virginia Commonwealth University in Vancouver, Canada, said that on a fundamental level, games and movies are different. For instance, films follow a story structure of three acts while video games are often non-linear.

(Games and movies) completely different animals,” Kjeldsen said.

Essentially video games don’t translate well to the silver screen, which Kjeldsen compared to someone taking a painting or sculpture and making it into a song. The professor, however, did point to one film –– Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time –– as an example of a film that’s adapted well for the big screen.

“(Prince of Persia) is probably the best way to go with a video game adaptation –– take the best parts of the game, discard the rest," Kjeldsen said.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time earned a 58 percent on Rotten Tomatoes from audiences and just a 36 percent from critics.

Another prime example of how video games and movies differ is that gaming is interactive, while moviegoers are removed from the equation. University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Wheeler Winston Dixon said that it’s the “simple reason” why video game movies flop so often.

“With video games, the player is really the star of the movie, directing the actors, deciding what plot-line to follow, and –– most importantly for most games –– whom to shoot down to get to the next level,” Dixon said. “When this aspect of the game is missing, viewers no longer feel like part of the action.”

Dixon said that maybe someday movies could become interactive, but that they won’t be able to involve its audience like video games until then.