THE END IS NIGH: EXPANDING THE STORYWORLD WITH VIDEO GAMING

In today’s Apocalypchicas Watch we look further into one of the platforms the Watchmen franchise expands its universe through – namely the video game Watchmen: The End is Nigh Part 1 & 2.

So this week I got my hands on the video game and played it all the way through.

Now you might think “what? I didn’t even know they made a video game!”, and it actually makes a lot of sense, because it became a flop.


Commercially
it was scheduled to be released matching the movie’s calendar: Part 1 of the game was release when Watchmen hit the theaters, and Part 2 was released when the DVD came out. Here we already face one of the problems, that most of the video game tie ins to big franchises face (which is also generally applicable to other types of tie-ins, especially tie-in novels). The video game was not really popular and the developers Dead Line Games, a Copenhagen based game company, filed for bankruptcy the same year it was release, thus Watchmen became their very last game.

The gameplay was okay but nothing new or revolutionary. Like other action-brawlers, you play with different fighting techniques whether you choose to play as Rorschach or as Nite Owl. Their style matches their persona. Rorschach is a true brawler; he plays dirty and picks up the villains own weapons after disarming them. Nite Owl have a more technical style of fighting as he is equipped with electric gadgets and knows Kung Fu. If you are two players you get the opportunity to play the game co-op, which also give you the possibility to experience the levels differently as Rorschach and Nite Owl often split up and each make their own way through the levels. Another nice thing about the game play is that you often have to actively work together with your partner, otherwise you are outnumbered by the villains. Contrary to many games, the other villains don’t just stand and stare, but actually help each other out during the fight. So you must do so too.

Levelwise the game is bad… really bad. The levels are very boring, repetitive and extremely predictable maze design. The level of freedom is very low as each level is a fixed path, mostly just made up of squares with a pretty graphical layout. There is nothing hidden to discover in the levels and only one way to get through the level.
The game would have been so much more entertaining if they had put some work in the details of the level design, so you could get more immersed into the game world. Given its a detective storyline I find it strange that you cannot do any forensic work in the game. You just fight your way through the same set of gangbangers on and on, and whenever something important happens in the story there’s a cutscene.
The only extra the game gives the player besides just beating up the bad guys is a few mini-games where Rorschach coaxes locks.

Generally the game could do with much more drillability in order to get properly immersed into the universe. Because of the way it is built up you always keep a  distance to the characters and the world around them.

Storywise the game is actually good. It ties up a lot of loose ends from the movie: it explains why the Keene Act was passed and why Rorschach and Nite Owl stopped being partners. The villains of the game are all canon mentions from the graphic novel (Underboss, Jimmy the Gimmick (p. 168) and Twilight Lady (p.217)). The original narrative of the game gets the chance to expand the universe, by letting the player explore the stories of very briefly mentioned minor characters.

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An interesting aspect of the game is the grande finale. The outcome of fighting the Twilight Lady is actually optional, as the game offers you two different endings: When you finally defeat all of the minions, the final battle with Twilight Lady begins. However, this battle splits the two partners. Rorschach is willing to kill her, while Nite Owl’s more nuanced morale (and old affection) won’t let him do it. This results in a intense battle between the two partners. The player gets to choose the fate of Twilight Lady, depending on whether it is Rorschach or Nite Owl who wins the battle. If Rorschach wins, he kills Twilight Lady. If Nite Owl wins, he slams Rorschach through the glass roof and spares the Twilight Lady’s life ordering her to leave the city forever. No matter what happens to Twilight Lady – living or dead –  the story ends with Rorschach and Nite Owl ending their partnership. Rorschach works alone underground and Nite Owl partners up with the Comedian, leaving the player just around the flashback in Watchmen where Nite Owl and the Comedian tries to stop the riot in the streets.

All in all, the game has potential, however the gameplay and especially the level design  seem very rushed in production and become very repetitive. As a player you do not really do anything in the game other than beat up the henchmen with different moves.  At every corner a generic group of henchmen shows up – you beat them – and behind the next corner practically the same group shows up again and you beat them – again. For the same reason, you eventually get tired of hearing Nite Owl say “Here they come Rorschach ready or not”.

It seems like they focused too much to make a good prequel story for the video game while completely neglecting every ludological aspect in a game that makes you want to care about the story at all. If the gameplay and world does not suck you in and lets you explore it, a good story in the cutscenes can seem completely irrelevant.

Concludingly I will say that Watchmen: The End Is Nigh is a waste of potential. If they had not rushed the release to match the cinema and dvd release they might have made a game that could have kept an ongoing interest in the Watchmen universe.
If they had made a good quality game that could gain some actual popularity they could have expanded the video games with sequels exploring more of many the character’s past history. Combining a well designed game play with a more open world/sandbox game design they could have distributed extra knowledge and clues for the hardcore fans to search for through the levels getting deeper into the storyworld while enjoying playing the part as a vigilante.

Who knows maybe the video game could have made Watchmen a true transmedia franchise that would have continued to this day, had they not rushed it through to fit a time schedule. After all, the commercial market for video games alone in the US was 22.41 billion dollars in 2014 and 155 million americans play, thus an enormous group of consumers to miss out on.

One can only wonder if it would have made a decisive difference.

List of references

“Dead Line Games Går Konkurs I Dag” Computerworld.dk
http://www.computerworld.dk/art/51716/deadline-games-gaar-konkurs-i-dag (accesed 24th of april 2016)

  1. Watchmen: The End is Nigh Compilation. Deadline Games. Playstation 3.

Entertainment Software Association. 2015. “Essential facts about the computer and video game industry”
http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/ESA-Essential-Facts-2015.pdf (accessed 24th of april 2016)

Reklamer

APOCALYPCHICAS TALK!

 

In today’s apocalypchicas watch a new concept has been brought to life: our first ever video podcast apocalypchicas talk!

Today we will be discussing why Watchmen  didn’t make it as a transmedia franchise (though successful at the box office).

Watch it as  a video or listen to it as a podcast while ironing your shirts (or whatever you like).

(side note: I am truly sorry about the giant watermark, but we’re not the wealthiest students and I completely overlooked that aspect of the free trial… oh well..)

Did you enjoy the video? click and discover more transmedia content about Watchmen in our previous blogposts!
WATCHMEN AS A TRANSMEDIA FRANCHISE

WATCHMEN TIE-INS AND MERCHANDISE

 

 

 

 

WATCHMEN TIE-INS AND MERCHANDISE

#apocalypchicaswatch #watchmen #apocalypse #tie-ins #merchandise #watchmenfever

Tired of the previous blogposts with clever words on Watchmen analysis? Well, in today’s apocalypchicas watch, we try to give you an overview of some of the related Watchmen tie-ins. Take a look at these remarkable expansions of the universe. Some expansions keeps on unfolding the storyline while others just seem ridiculous. You might wonder what one does to make money. Here are some examples:

The Black Freightertales_of_the_black_freighter_dvd

Tales of the Black Freighter is a comic-within-comic film that Zack Snyder wrote after instructing Watchmen. It was originally intended to be featured within the Watchmen film, but was removed once the time span of the film began pushing 3 hours. So if you wondered from the comic books what the Black Freighter was, Snyder gives you the story in the film that was released only 20 days after the Watchmen film. A clever action to please the fans of the comic books.

Under The Hood

A second Watchmen tie-in is another story from the comic book that has been made into a film. Under the Hood explores Hollis Mason who was the first Nite Owl. It came out in the same DVD as Tales of the Black Freighter. This shows an effort into getting all the loose threads of Watchmen to weave seamlessly into the release of the film. What a nice way to connect the different stories and keeping the fans engaged and interested!

 

Watchmen Motion Comic watchmen-motion-comic

With Watchmen Motion Comic the comic books came alive. It was released between July 2008 and February 2009, ending just before the release of Zack Snyder’s film version in March 2009. In that way, the audience and the fans could get a small picture of what the film could look like. These motion comic chapters were able to download from iTunes and Amazon.

 

Watchmen: The End Is Nigh

WatchmenThe_End_is_Nigh_game_coverAnother platform that Watchmen steps onto is the video game tie-in. The first part of the video game expansion was also released on March 4, 2009 to coincide with the film’s release. The second episode was released on July 30, 2009. In this video game the players can play either as Nite Owl or Rorschach. The video game focuses on the events beforehand, namely the time when Nite Owl and Rorschach were crime fighting partners.

 

 

These tie-ins do in many ways seem to respect the source material, also called the ‘mothership’ of the franchise, which must be the comic books. On the merchandise side of Watchmen, they saw unlimited potential in the franchise. They made licensed costumes, toys and numerous accessories such as…

 

… but then, they took film merchandising one step too far

watchmen-condom

The condoms come in a package that resembles a matchbook with the Comedian’s iconic bloodstained smiley badge on the front, and the film’s name and release date on the back. When opened, the neon blue coloured condom is presented in a clear plastic wrapper with the tagline, “We’re society’s only protection.” You may wonder if they glow in the dark?

If you’re interested in how creator Alan Moore reacted on Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen and everything that follows, we suggest you read our blogpost about the conflicted relationship between the graphic novel and the movie adaptation.

This was some of the Watchmen tie-ins and merchandise, some more serious than others 🙂 Stay tuned for more Watchmen-fun when apocalypchicas watch broadens out the universe of the franchise!

WATCHMEN AFTER 9/11 – ADAPTING CULTURE

#apocalypchicaswatch #watchmen #9/11 #newyorkcity #worldtradecenter #adaptingculture  

In today’s apocalypchicas watch, we explore how the tragic events that happened in New York on September 11th 2001 changed the tone for the entire Watchmen franchise. For New York City, as well as for the rest of the world, these events would come to change something inside all of us: suddenly, our worldview was challenged.

As we already mentioned in our earlier blogpost on The Conflicted Relationship Between the Graphic Novel and the Movie Adaptation, Alan Moore’s comic book was published already in 1986-87, during a time when the uncertainty of the hovering Cold War, which would soon see its end, yet still prevailed in the American culture. But something happened between the release of the comic book and the later movie adaptation (2009) which was to change both the American culture itself as well as the Watchmen franchise. 9/11.

The movie adaptation was not only met by a refusal of being canon by its very own writer, Alan Moore, but it also sparked controversy among the fans of the franchise, as they too thought Snyder’s reimagined ending to be too far away from the comic. Snyder simply omitted the squid monster from the comic book, letting Dr. Manhattan to be the ultimate scapegoat for Veidt’s attack on the City:

911

And New York City wasn’t the only target for Veidt’s blue atomic explosions in the movie adaptation: several major cities around the world experienced the devastations, earning Snyder not to center the destructionist plot entirely on the citizens of New York, like in the comic book. But he omitted more than that.

Over 12 pages of the comic book were completely left out of the movie adaptation, pages filled with horrific and gory images of the destruction of New York. Images of bloody bodies spread across the streets of the City were suddenly not viewed in the same way as they were immediately after the comic book’s publication. Dave Gibbons even commented on this omission in an interview from 2009:

“It relates to the whole question about violence in the whole thing. I think the consequences of violence should be shown graphically, just to show that violence is unpleasant. It isn’t just [that] you get a little spot of blood, and then you put a band aid on it and you’re all better… I suppose you also have to say that in a way, post 9/11, it’s a very tender area anyway. So I think that might modify how you would treat it, if you were going to do it.” (Dave Gibbons, 2009)

How would you have treated the subject?

Snyder chose, in many ways, to distance his movie adaptation from its original text but also from the events of 9/11 by de-emphasizing New York City as “Ground Zero.” (Rehak 2011) This is apparent from the adaptation’s altered ending and in the many shots of the New York City skyline, shown in the movie, where the Twin Towers are apparent.

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While Moore and Gibbon’s work corresponded to their contemporary geopolitical surroundings, Zack Snyder successfully altered his movie to match with the geopolitical consequences that 9/11 had on the US and the rest of the world. The creators of Watchmen, the movie, adapted the franchise to the contemporary American culture – because the geopolitical landscape had changed.

Screenwriter David Hayter also revealed in an interview from 2009:

“The ending of the book shows just piles of corpses, bloody corpses in the middle of Times Square, people hanging out of windows just slaughtered on a massive scale. To do that in a comic book, and release it in 1985, is different from doing it real life, in a movie, and seeing all of these people brutally massacred in the middle of Times Square post 2001. That’s a legitimate concern, and one that I shared.” (Hayter 2009)

On whether he was afraid the audience might not like the new ending:

“I would have liked to have seen the squid. I would have loved to have seen it exactly the way it was in the book – but I also felt the same pain everyone else did living here when [September 11] occurred. My primary years working on it were also 2000 to 2005 and 9/11 was a lot fresher in people’s minds right afterwards. So it wasn’t just the studios. That was something I did for the studios without having to be pushed on it.” (Hayter 2009)

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Have you figured out what you would do, if you were to make a movie adaptation of the Watchmen comic that preserved the original feel while still pursuing new cultural forms of resonance and relevance? Send us your ideas!

 

Gotten you interested? We thought so! Stay tuned for more Watchmen-fun when apocalypchicas watch broadens out the universe of the franchise.

References:
Rehak, B. 2011. “Adapting Watchmen after 9/11.” Cinema Journal  51 (1): 154-159
Woerner, M. 2009. “How 9/11 Changed Watchmen.” Io9http://io9.gizmodo.com/5160960/how-911-changed-watchmen/ (Accessed 29-03-16)
“Cold War: A Brief History. The End of the Cold War.” Atomic Archive, http://www.atomicarchive.com/History/coldwar/page22.shtml  (Accessed 29-03-16)

THE CONFLICTED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE GRAPHIC NOVEL AND THE MOVIE ADAPTION.

#apocalypchicaswatch #watchmen #timewarner #alanmoore #DC #copyrights

In today’s apocalypchicas watch, we dig deeper into the conflicted relationship between the graphic novel and the movie adaptation. This journey was no picnic for neither the creator Alan Moore nor the movie production.

Writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins form the magical trio that created the commercial success of the graphic novels named Watchmen (1987). This series has received a lot of attention after its publication, including being recognized by Time’s List of the 100 Best Novels as one of the best English language novels since the early 1900s.

The idea of Watchmen as a group of New York citizens fighting for justice was not a new phenomenon in itself. What made this novel original and genius was its way of portraying these men and women in masks as ordinary human beings, with their weaknesses and strengths, struggling to serve justice in a world where the Cold War still spread fear and the pointer of the doomsday clock was terrifyingly close to midnight. Alan Moore attained a lot of attention for these novels with many critics and reviewers praising it for being one of the most significant works of the 20th century literature.

But then what?

alan-moore-watchmen

All of a sudden, Alan Moore distanced himself from DC – he never wanted DC Comics and Warner Bros to make a movie adaption of Watchmen (as was also the case for his other comics; V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, just to name a few). 

You may wonder how a movie adaption can be made, when the creator strongly opposes to its production? … Moore completely rejected having his name associated with the movie in every way, so creating a franchise based completely on the work of a man who wanted absolutely nothing to do with it anymore would seem highly unlikely. Alan Moore even negotiated to have his name removed from the film in 2008, and also asked for all the royalties to go to Gibbons.

But if Alan Moore so strongly opposed a movie adaptation of Watchmen, why didn’t he just deny them the rights to do so?

The thing is, despite Moore being the creator, he didn’t own the copyrights. He transferred the copyrights to DC in a contract in 1985. This contract actually allows him to reclaim his copyrights in 2020, however, there’s a few things to consider:

The contract listed Moore and Gibbons as co-creators, and therefore it is unlikely that he will be able to reclaim all the copyrights himself. Let’s say that DC makes Gibbons an offer he can’t refuse, then Moore won’t be able to transfer his copyright back to himself.
Also, the big media conglomerate Time Warner Inc. is the parent company of DC Entertainment, which is the parent company of DC Comics…
As the copyrights are in the hands of Time Warner, being one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, they are able to profit from Watchmen on the several media platforms they own. This is why Warner Bros. were the ones who adapted the movie, Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment who released the episodic video game prequel etc. And all of this to spread out the franchise on multiple media platforms, to make as much profit of the Watchmen universe as possible.

Zack-Snyder-at-the-Berlin-001

But what is, then, so different between Moore’s comic book and Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation?

As Moore denoted: “I shan’t be going to see it. My book is a comic book. Not a movie, not a novel. A comic book. It’s been made in a certain way, and designed to be read a certain way: in an armchair, nice and cozy next to a fire, with a steaming cup of coffee.”

… and a majority of the many fans of the comics seem to agree with the creator. With the release of the movie, the internet was filled with fans expressing their dislike of the adaptation otherwise, in our point of view, very skillfully made. And Moore’s dislike for the movie certainly doesn’t just stem from an immediate dislike of Snyder as a director: it has its origins, as is visible in the quote above, from the overall idea of spreading the franchise to the big screen. While Snyder did notion that he would strain himself to stay as truthful to Moore’s version as possible, the movie adaptation did entail differences. Snyder was very attentive on the fight scenes, which he extended, and he added a subplot on issues of energy resources to make the film more appealing to the contemporary eye of the 2009-audience. And, of course, who can forget about the ending. In the comic book, the story ends with Veidt faking an alien attack with a giant Cthulhu-like creature (which he created himself) destroying massive parts of New York City. With Manhattan’s return to Earth and the “alien” monster dead, we soon discover Veidt’s involvement, but when confronted, Veidt shows them international news broadcasts confirming the cessation of global hostilities. The world leaders unite to fight against this new threat: the aliens. In Snyder’s version, Veidt develops a very similar plan, only this time he turns Manhattan into the alien. While faking evidence of Manhattan being the cause of cancer in several of his old friends and colleges, Veidt builds a machine (co-designed by Dr. Manhattan himself) that allows him to yield together a force identical to Manhattan’s that he uses to destroy parts of New York City. The world leaders unite in order to fight Manhattan, with him suddenly changing from working for the United State’s government to being considered a threat against humanity, and he is forced to escape Earth. Moore let Manhattan leave because he wanted to create new life, while Snyder turned him into the “lie” that would leave all the world’s countries to declare world peace.

The members of our blog can’t really seem to agree on which ending is the best. What are your thoughts?  

 

 

Gotten you interested? We thought so! Stay tuned for more Watchmen-fun when apocalypchicas watch broadens out the universe of the franchise.

Reference List:
  McDonald, Heidi. 2012. “The Legal View: Could Alan Moore regain the WATCHMEN copyright?” Comicsbeat.com. http://www.comicsbeat.com/the-legal-view-could-alan-moore-regain-the-watchmen-copyright/
  Watchmen Wikia. http://watchmen.wikia.com/wiki/Watchmen_Wiki
“Who Owns What”. Columbia Journal Review. http://www.cjr.org/resources/?c=timewarner

WATCHMEN AS A TRANSMEDIA FRANCHISE

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Media culture changed with the invention of the Internet. The way culture is produced and consumed is now different from the time before the World Wide Web. This made it possible to create a whole new way of bringing a brand to the market for the media industry, and also make it possible for fans to access the storyworld of the particular brand. Now media companies have to keep both audience fragmentation and platform agnosticism in mind, when they produce media products. Where the industry earlier on was separated onto different media platforms, the development of the market today has assembled the different platforms under one franchise to simply control the expansion of the story world. The franchise is therefore also mostly owned by one of the big media conglomerates which are, then, able to control how the story world evolves and what happens to it in general. Henry Jenkins, one of the most prominent researchers in the field of media culture, defines transmedia storytelling as follows:

“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”

(http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html)main-qimg-7d5e1d8eab02b22bb184240d085f24bd

This means that a franchise such as Watchmen is build upon a series of platforms that each contribute to the storyworld surrounding the Watchmen universe. According to Jenkins, media companies creates a synergy; they integrate the franchise horizontally on different platforms to spread out the brand, which makes the story grow as well. When a brand is expanded onto several platforms the boundaries of the franchise are close to invisible. Jenkins notes that it is important for the franchise owners to beware of “additive comprehension,” which means that each unique part of the franchise has to be accessible on its own terms. Where classical narratives often end when the movie is finished or the last page of the book is read, transmedia storyworlds continue their growth, often with the help from a devoted fan base. Transmedia storytelling creates what Janet Murray calls “The Encyclopedic Impulse,” where fans become experts on the storyworld they decide to integrate themselves into. Jenkins explains it as a hunter/gatherer-phenomenon where fans seem to hunt after and gather as much information they can possibly get their hands on within their particular storyworld. Therefore, the storyworld also becomes some kind of a reality for the fans inflicted. He also argues that both spreadability and drillability play a huge factor in today’s convergence culture. Fans are able to spread – quite easily – information online and therefore also make it easy for other fans to dig for more information.

the-watchmen-best-worst-costumes

Watchmen originally started out as a comic written by Alan Moore but has now expanded into a transmedia storyworld both containing a movie, a video game, motion comics, cosplays and collectibles. What is quite interesting when speaking of Watchmen in particular is that the fanbase is actually dual. Either you as a fan view the comics as the “mothership” of the franchise, or you are a huge fan of the movie and think that Alan Moore should get his act together. Alan Moore did not want his comic to evolve; he wanted to stay on the platform he started out on and therefore also declined writing the script for the movie when Fox asked him. It created a division between the fans who started out reading the comics and therefore thought the movie was terrible and the fans who did or did not watch the movie but still think the movie was great. Therefore you could argue that Watchmen is in fact a franchise with two possible “motherships” depending on which fan group you belong in. To analyze Watchmen further we will therefore look at the different aspects of the universe. We will discuss the whole Alan Moore-issue, we will look at the different platforms more closely than what is done above, and we will look at the apocalyptic genre in terms of the movie.

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Gotten you interested? We thought so! Stay tuned for more Watchmen-fun when apocalypchicas watch broadens out the universe of the franchise.