What J.K Rowling Could Teach The Video Game Industry

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The decade-long reigning Queen of young adult literature, J.K Rowling’s name is as synonymous with globally loved media as Michael Pachter’s is with fundamentally wrong analysis. Of course, you may not think that the insanely talented mind behind the Harry Potter series (and the reason why millions have spent billions on books and movie tickets) would have some sage advice for the video game industry but that’s where you’re wrong. Read on to find out why.

The Art of a Great Masterpiece Is…

Put bluntly, the Harry Potter series would be nothing, were it not for one vital element.

Had J.K Rowling not pulled us in, by the muscly fibres of our heartstrings, with the painful tale of a boy – a baby – losing his parents at the hands of the utmost of evil, then the entire franchise would fall flat.

While it’s been an oft criticism point of games, stories are where the hinges are. If the video game industry could just learn to take a few set pieces in their stride and perhaps out some reasoning behind the bullets before they made our fingers nudge the trigger, the quality of the games we could be playing could be phenomenal.

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What’s Good For Gamers Is Good For Their Wallets

With most movie tie-ins, bar the iterations of the fantasy series she created, being a load of old pap, putting the brand growth focus on anything other than the collection of code and characters that are video games probably seems like a catastrophic idea for developers and publishers. We know that Assassin’s Creed, Need for Speed and Tomb Raider have all gone from game boxes to the big screen, but realistically, anything with a moderately well crafted world could make the jump because J.K has suggested so.

Even games making silver-screen debuts on our telly boxes would be an excellent choice. Think of the superheroic highs and lows of inFamous, especially with characters like Delsin Rowe, who isn’t a one dimensional ball of heat, light and scorching embers'; he could even take on a new power every week and all that would be needed is for Sony and Sucker Punch to believe in The Rowling and make it so.

One Wizard, Two Wizard, Black Wizard, Queer Wizard

It’s no secret, no secret at all that video games lack in diversity and I am awfully indignant about wanting that to change but while the industry is headed in the right direction (my video game diversity report suggests as much), a little nudge from J.K Rowling could do the trick.

She’s no stranger to her own diversity based controversies (namely that Dumbledore was revealed to be in retrospect and that his sexuality was never confirmed in the books) she also brought us characters like Hermione Granger, the vulnerable yet brave young genius, Harry’s first girlfriend Cho Chang, life saving badass Fleur Delacour and the wonderful Professor McGonagall – all memorable female characters who were as important to the Harry Potter series’ development as Harry himself.

What’s key is that none of these characters felt tacked on and that when J.K Rowling cared to include them, they were original, breath-taking and not just a total embodiment of the word ‘strong’, for fear of criticism that a woman is allowed to show weakness, and this is something that the video game industry we know and love could stand to learn.

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The Words That Every Level Designer Hates To Hear

Now here’s an honest statement that I’m full prepared to be lambasted for – most (keep in mind that I use that word without any hard stats) game worlds bore me.

I don’t care if your setting has more virtual hectares than the entire Amazon Rainforest and I don’t care if your game is ‘beautifully decorated with set pieces and events’ that make your level designer seem like the insect’s shins or however that saying goes. Give me a world that lives in fear of being discovered and of a no-nosed evil wizard overlord and I’m yours.

The best gaming example that I can think of like this is Skyrim, which, for all of the game’s technical issues, was still an incredible world, with a captivating lore running right through it. It’s very hard to care about a game that makes you play in a meaningless world but Skyrim (which made you feel like a golden pawn on a plastic chessboard with its tales of a ‘Dragonborn’ threaded through everything) and Harry Potter too, gave you a reason to feel.

How Harry Potter Almost Didn’t Make It To Publication

The books have made over $200 million, as of 2010. The films? Those made nearly $8 billion ay the box office yet the Harry Potter series almost didn’t make it to print, simply because no publisher wanted to take a chance on it.

Does it make any publisher who turned J.K Rowling’s incredible captivating stories down feel like a total pillock? Of course it does, but more importantly than that, great video game works that rival Harry Potter in terms of quality are exactly what we could get to play if publishers simply took a chance.

We know why publishers aren’t for funding IPs most of the time and that’s money,  but if you give a studio a bit of time, a bit of money and say ‘get this thing out the door in episodic form to see how it does’ they could have a surefire, community supported hit on their hands. And if it doesn’t? What’s a cool half a million dollars between companies? I jest (a little), but really, a playable original idea can be worth developing if only for the chance that it does end up as something franchise worthy because for Pete’s sake if I have to see another release schedule hung, drawn and quartered because of Call of Duty’s November release date, I might Wingardium Leviosa away from my consoles and never look at another game box again.

Do you think Hollywood and video games can work together or do you think that they need to be kept far apart? – Let me know what you think in the comments.