What Would a Supernatural Video Game Look Like?
Recently I have been spending more and more of what little free time I have playing video games. With summers in Arizona being what they are, it is far more reasonable to enjoy playing games from the comfort of my air conditioned office with my mini fridge safely within arm’s reach than it is to hunt down Pokémon like everyone else. While Pokémon Go has spread like a Californian wildfire, wandering the streets of Arizona in August is more akin to walking into an actual fire while holding a tin foil wrapped baked potato. You end up cooking the item in your hand and doing enough damage to your body to land you in the hospital sucking on ice chips before you can even find a fucking Diglet. Long time listeners will know that I am quite fond of horror games in the same way that Annie Wilkes was “quite fond” of Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s Misery. Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Outlast, anything that goes bump in the night and makes me go number two in my pants is welcome to a seat at my table. Naturally this got me thinking about the idea of a Supernatural based video game. I first broached the subject during Phoenix Comic Con and while there certainly is enough material within the universe to give the game plenty of content, exactly what kind of game would allow for an interesting and faithful retelling of the source material? And I am stating right here and now that should any of these ideas one day come to pass without my involvement, then I better see some sort of recompense. Or at the very least a job offer.
Since I am the one brainstorming here, the first and most important thing to focus on is the story. This is quite the double edged sword with a property like Supernatural because any story we would want to hear would revolve around Sam and Dean, and yet any story involving Sam and Dean worth telling has undoubtedly already been told, or is being saved for future episodes. So what does that leave us with? Well, we could simply retell some stories from seasons past that were worth telling such as the original Kripke arch. However, some fans may not find enjoyment in playing through a story that has already been told to them. There is of course the old writer’s crutch of a prequel story, but that road leads to an awkward teenage Sam and a rebellious, troubled Dean; hardly the characters or relationship that we have grown to love over the years. There is the option of telling the story of John Winchester and his hunt for Yellow Eyes, but once again we would know how that story would end. More importantly, part of the allure of John Winchester as a character is the mystery surrounding him. Throughout the series we are told how he was one of the best hunters that ever lived, and that he was also a bit of a raging asshole that would get people killed. Anything we do to illuminate the man’s past will only take away from him as a character. So if we cannot tell stories about their past, and the show will be telling stories about the future, where does this leave us? Simple: we tell the stories in the middle.
The Gamble era in particular is ripe with untold or underdeveloped stories that were full of great ideas, but lacked adequate execution. A video game focusing on the hunt for Eve, the goings on of the Leviathans, and even Dean’s time in Purgatory could propose an entire host of interesting stories that could easily be written off simply as events that were yet untold during seasons 6 and 7. This would also give the game a rogue’s gallery that would make even Batman consider packing a second utility belt. Naturally this would include the standard monsters we have already seen, but if the story surrounded Eve, it would give the writers and the designers an excuse for creating new and original monsters of their own that they could write off as “Eve Experiments.” As the game progressed the difficulty could ramp up with the introduction of Leviathans. While in the show the Leviathans looked like an angry cousin of Pacman, in a video game they could look truly horrifying and would not be shackled by the censorship rules of television and instead explore some more mature and violent content that was always alluded to but never seen. As the game moved into the final levels in Purgatory, you would set the difficulty into overdrive with limited resources all while surrounded by both monsters and Leviathans in their true form, ultimately ending at the portal that transports Dean back to the real world at the beginning of Season 8.
As for gameplay, personally I believe that there are only two styles that would fit.
Over the Shoulder Survival Horror – This is basically the text book set up for survival horror ever since Resident Evil 4 fully fleshed out the concept back in 2005. Since then it has been used in several popular horror titles such as Dead Space and more recently The Evil Within. Bobby’s house could serve as a hub world for missions, while the Impala could be where they go to stock up on ammunition and swap out weapons for the enemies at hand. There could be an investigation portion, followed by the hunt, all while controlling one of the two brothers in that now classic Resident Evil 4 fashion. This set up would also allow for a co-op set up as seen in Resident Evil 5. Of course you would have to ensure that the A.I. is better than what we got in RE 5, which was basically a retarded lemming chasing you down while brandishing the ever rare full-health spray to waste on your latest paper cut; all while completely oblivious to the two ton, three tentacled monstrosity that crawled straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s worst nightmare and traversed both time and space just so it could get busy with your rear end. Basically what I am saying is that the bar is pretty low on that one so that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.
Telltale Games – Admittedly this is phoning it in a bit, but if there is one thing that Telltale Games has shown time and time again that they can get right, its adaptations of popular television and movie titles. Between the critical and financial success of their version of The Walking Dead (or should I say AMC’s The Walking Dead as they have made that point abundantly fucking clear) and their take on Game of Thrones, I think most fans would say that the series would be in good hands with them. Telltale has shown a dedication not only to the source material, but a surprisingly deft hand at crafting a strong narrative by juxtaposing effective pacing with heart-pounding action. And not once have they sacrificed emotional character development for spectacle. So long as they do not copy and paste the formula of a young innocent inserted into the story for emotional sympathy as they had in The Walking Dead as they did with Clementine (which was a great character that works for that universe) and instead focused on the brother’s relationship, this may in fact be the route that makes the most logical sense for a game adaptation.
Perhaps we will one day get a Supernatural video game. Perhaps we will even get a great Supernatural game. But more importantly we better not get a crap Supernatural game. Too often intellectual properties are treated with abject disdain when making their video game adaptation, and those who are introduced to the series for the first time via the game are immediately turned away. Green Lantern, Thor, Harry Potter, Transformers, and most recently the execrable Aliens: Colonial Marines; all games based on a strong IP with plenty of great material, all of which were chewed up and shat out with enough hateful velocity to destroy a septic tank. So before any publishers get big ideas about making a quick buck off this franchise, take heed; whatever you decide to do to a Supernatural video game adaptation, this fandom will in turn do to you. If you treat it with love and respect, you will receive love and respect a thousand times over. If not, well…did you read Misery?