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TrendShot #1: Nerding out is in
The rise of video game worlds in mainstream pop culture
Welcome to Trendshot: an exploration of a trend popping up on our streets and screens. In the first Out There long read, we delved into Dungeons, Dragons and what happens when a beloved brand betrays its own community. Spoiler alert: nothing good!
Nerdy pastimes are a Big Thing. From the epic success of live streaming platform Twitch to the rise (and fall) of Wizards of the Coast, the makers of Dungeons and Dragons, nerding out is big business. And now, it’s entering the mainstream through streaming TV, as video game worlds shift from the controller to the small screen.
Move over Game of Thrones, it’s time for sarcastic monster hunters, zombie mushroom survival horror and time-travelling assassin romps.
Traditionally, novels and films were translated into games once they hit critical mass in the market – think Star Wars, Harry Potter, even the original Witcher series started from fantasy novels. Now, the trend has been reversed, and games are moving into TV series.
It’s a shift that makes sense. Game developers have an enormous backlog of worldbuilding lore to use as a foundation for new stories within their worlds. It’s a great way to re-engage existing fans, while building a new relationship with non-gamers. The challenge is balancing the needs of the two: staying true to canon for gamers, while creating accessible narratives for non-gamers.
Returning to epic fantasy ties into the need for escapism into heroic stories as an antidote to the complex times we live in. Life has been hard for the past three years. The world can feel dystopian and apocalyptic. These stories counter this - overtly or covertly - with heroes that overcome the odds to win. Collectively, we need a dose of hope that we aren’t getting it from the media, the government or in some cases, our daily lives. So we find it in fantasy - be that a D&D session, a video game or now, nerdy streamed TV. It’s comforting. It’s fun. It’s good for our mental health.
Why are they so popular?
Shows based on games gain traction quicker because they take advantage of increased brand salience. Even if you haven’t played The Last of Us or The Witcher, you’ve probably heard of them, which makes you more likely to watch them. And at a time of excessive choice on every streaming service, anything that simplifies and derisks choice is a bonus.
Basically, we’re tired, life is hard, many of us medicate with nerdy feel-good TV. And shows based on video game IPs scratch this itch magnificently. As more people embrace their nerdy side as part of their main character energy, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of video game IP show up in everyday life.
What’s Happening Now
The Last Of Us x HBO
Who can forget *that* episode? What started out as a brilliant video game has now transformed into sensational television, and a growing fear of funghi. Think pandemic - but with zombifying mushrooms. This is why you may have spotted articles reassuring readers that mushrooms can’t actually kill you. Sure, that’s what *they* think.
The Witcher x Netflix
Sexy, dark, funny, heart-wrenching. Inspired by the novels of Andrzej Sapkowski and the incredible Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, the Witcher series recounts the events leading up to the video game series. Henry Cavill is a blindingly good Geralt, so much so that his quitting the next series may deal a serious blow to its popularity. Come for the dry humour, stay for the stone-cold banger ‘Toss a coin to your witcher.’
Critical Role x Amazon TV
The critically acclaimed Twitch show Critical Role has transformed their first campaign into an Amazon Original TV show, The Legend of Vox Machina. It’s a brilliant animated series, voiced by the original players from Critical Role (who are themselves voice actors). It’s funny, irreverent, and wildly inventive. And the second series has just been released. Put it on your watch list now. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Legend-Vox-Machina-Season/dp/B09PZFSMSB
What Might Happen Next
More fantastical binge-watches
Expect to see further infamous game IPs translate to series streaming, as game developer heavyweights Ubisoft explore bringing Assassin’s Creed to Netflix. Ubisoft also owns Far Cry, Prince of Persia and Rayman; I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw future TV show development with these IPs.
Gaming nights out
Gaming at home, online with friends is already big. Gaming with friends on a night out – that’s bigger than you’d think. There’s been an explosive growth in gaming bars in London, showcasing the latest in AR, VR and traditional console gaming, alongside board games and tabletop gaming. Platform is widely considered to be the best in London right now.
Game fashion IRL
We already know digital skins are huge, and luxury fashion brands have been getting in for a couple of years. As gamer girls and boys become even more powerful influencers, I suspect we’ll see this trend come into the mainstream. After all, why only wear a cute outfit on a URL, when you can wear it IRL too?
Gaming is massive. Even if you’re not into it, you’d be a fool to dismiss it, and the massive opportunities it holds for brand building and engaging with new, passionate audiences. Dip into a game-inspired TV series. Catch up with Critical Role on Youtube. Pick up a controller and give a game a go. Express your nerdy main character energy with a more daring outfit - you’d be surprised how many people respond to it. Tell me how it goes.
Next time on Out There, we’ll be exploring the potential of AI as a creative collaborator, where it’s working, where it falls flat, and what’s useful to know right now.
Until next time nerds!
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