When people ask me if I’ve sold movie rights to my stories, I tell them that I’ve really never looked at that very closely. They’re usually surprised, and ask me why. And I tell them: because I think the real money and world-building possibilities are in the domain of games.
I am not trying to diminish the power and profitability of the film industry. But having worked in TV and as a feature film ‘proposal-/script-doctor’ for 8 years, my experience is that (very roughly):
a) for every 1,000 stories published, one gets ‘optioned’ by a potential producer/packager
b) for every 50 stories optioned, 1 moves into pre-production
c) for every 2 stories in pre-production, one is completed
So the odds are about 1 in 100,000 that your story will hit the big (and/or small) screen in some shape, fashion, or form. And it is overwhelmingly likely that it will have been changed so much that you won’t even recognize it.
Yes, you realize profit from selling the option, and it’s all heady stuff—but unless you are a Very Big Name Indeed, writers have little or no control over the script, and are most likely to contribute nothing else to the project. Furthermore, the ‘logic’ of Hollywood is so convoluted, perverse, and often contradictory, that it has driven more than one author moon barking mad.
Games have also grown big, of course: so, like Hollywood, there’s far more money in them now, but also sharply diminished authorial control. However, game designers tend to think in story terms that are more akin to those used by novelists, rather than those employed by producer/directors. A game is, after all, partly an exercise in detailed world building. And with all its deviations and side-quests, it is much more conducive to the scope and detail that prose authors employ in telling a truly immersive tale. Conversely, the expense and finite run-time of any film places terrible burdens upon both its narrative and creative breadth: a film has to drive to its 2-hour conclusion with the fixity and inexorable purpose of a juggernaut. In contrast, the most successful games, like novels, revel in detours, explorations, discovery for the sake of disscovery. The central skein of the story is always there, but part of the fun—and attachment to the characters and their plight—grows from our ‘belief’ in them and their detailed, idiosyncratic world.
I could write a lot more about why I think there’s far more promising synergy between novels and games than there is between novels and films. But I’ll leave it at this: take a look at any statistic that measures the growth curve of games against the growth curve of films; there’s not much question which of the industries is still in a rapid-expansion mode.