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Why it matters: There has been much interest lately in turning video games into television shows. The Witcher was well-received, as was the Castlevania animated series. Additionally, Hollywood is working on or considering Resident Evil, The Last of Us, and other video game IPs. Is there room for Mass Effect? Director Mac Walters thinks so.
In 2010, Legendary Pictures announced it had acquired the license to make a Mass Effect film adaptation. The studio tapped "I Am Legend" screenwriter Mark Protosevich to write the screenplay and Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad to produce. However, aside from the initial announcement, that was all we heard about the project, and it appeared to slip away into the universe of lost projects.
Recently, Business Insider had a sit down with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition director Mac Walters. During the interview, Walters explained why Legendary Pictures eventually dropped the project.
"It felt like we were always fighting the IP," Walters told BI. "What story are we going to tell in 90 to 120 minutes? Are we going to do it justice?"
"Long-form storytelling is a great place for game franchises."
Despite some attempts to rework the script, the scope of the game's story proved too big for a two-hour movie. However, Walters holds out hope that Mass Effect will make it to the big or small screen. In fact, he believes it is inevitable.
"It's such an expansive world, and so many people I know in the TV and film industry have reached out to ask me when we're going to do it and saying we've got to do it," Walters said. He suggested that a television series would be a better medium for Mass Effect's story. "If you're going to tell a story that's as fleshed out as 'Mass Effect,' TV is the way to do it. There's a natural way it fits well with episodic content."
Indeed, Walters explained that Bioware approached Mass Effect's story in a very episodic fashion during development. The team had a full story arc that served as a "backbone," but it was very much "write as you go" when writing the missions.
"When we build out a 'Mass Effect' game, we have a backbone, or an overall story that we want to tell, but each level or mission is like its own TV episode," Walters said. "It doesn't get written ahead of time. It gets written at the time that we get to it. So it gets added to the main story, and sometimes the main story gets adjusted because we did something really cool in that 'episode.' So long-form storytelling is a great place for game franchises."
Currently, there are no takers to pick up the story. Although, the recent surge in interest and success in video-game/TV-series adaptations like The Witcher, Castlevania, and Resident Evil (not yet released), indicates that the time may be ripe for pitching such a project. Walters only hopes that it doesn't end up as a "choose your own adventure" like Bandersnatch.
"[Bandersnatch] was cool as an experiment, but I don't know if that's the thing we should be taking away from games in terms of storytelling," Walters said. "There are plenty of rich worlds with amazing characters, and that's something we share in any of the mediums (movies, TV, and video games), so we should leverage that and lean into it."