Image: IGDB/Riot Games

‘Arcane’: a video game adaptation done right?

With the recent popularity of series based on video games, such as The Witcher or Castlevania, it is no surprise that Riot Games have thrown their hat in the ring with the newly released Netflix animated show: Arcane. As is common with these series, Arcane has become incredibly popular in record time, bringing the world of League of Legends to previously unexplored territory.

There are a number of questions, however, that spring to mind when looking at Arcane’s popularity, such as “do I have to play the game to understand the story?”, “is it as good as everyone seems to make it out to be?”, and “is this format the future of video game adaptations?” These questions could be applied to all three of the shows I’ve mentioned so far, and many more. But due to its current popularity (and just how good the show itself is), I think Arcane is the perfect show to use as an example.

To answer the first question simply, no. There is no need to have a deep understanding of the game’s story to be able to appreciate the story of Arcane. In fact, League of Legends is a game in which the story is entirely told outside of the game itself, merely adding more flavour to the world and characters, but not proving central to the game itself. This, then, begs the question of how groups of both gamers and non-gamers react to the series, and is one group alienated by the series’ content?

Not only is Arcane good as an adaptation, but as a show as well

As can be seen by the sudden surge in the popularity of the characters directly related to the story of Arcane, the series is most definitely appealing to people who already play the game, or play games enough to feel like giving League of Legends a try after watching the show. This is possibly due to Arcane’s tackling of previously under-developed lore, which therefore doesn’t retcon anything too world breaking, or upset gamers that previously loved the game’s story.

Arcane also refuses to exclusively cater to an audience already familiar with the world of League of Legends, taking its time to carefully introduce characters, places, powers, and even tiny seemingly insignificant details in such a way that anyone could watch and fall in love with the world of Runeterra. While there are plenty of details that have sent the League of Legends community into a frenzy, the show itself functions well as a self-contained piece of media.

To answer the second question (attempting to avoid my own bias as a long time League of Legends player), the show is great. As of writing, it’s sitting pretty with both critics and audiences, having amassed a 9.4/10 on IMDb, a 10/10 on IGN, and a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Not only are these scores higher than other video game-adaptation series, but they are higher than many standalone series, proving that not only is Arcane good as an adaptation, but as a show as well.

It’s clear that the TV show format lends itself to making more popular, better-received adaptations

To answer my final question, I personally think it is clear that The Witcher, Castlevania, and Arcane are leading the gaming scene towards a new era for adaptation. Comparing these shows, interestingly all distributed by Netflix, to the video game adaptation films most have come to know and hate, there’s a night and day difference in their reception.

Take for example the 2016 Assassin’s Creed film (currently sitting at a whopping 18% on Rotten Tomatoes), or Warcraft (another 2016 film, sitting a little higher at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes), it’s clear that the TV show format lends itself to making more popular, better-received adaptations. Whether this is due to the format, the content of the film/show, or something else entirely is up for debate, however, there is a clear pattern proving that video game series are ultimately more successful.

Whether you are a gamer or not, if you have yet to see any of the shows mentioned, especially Arcane, give them a watch on Netflix and decide for yourself if you feel like this trend in adaptation is merely just a fad, or truly is the future of adapted video game media.


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