Because Arcane is the best product ever taken from a video game - editorial

Because Arcane is the best product ever taken from a video game - editorial

Although in Italy we do not yet have full perception of it, probably due to the Squid Game phenomenon that continues to catalyze the attention of the media, the Netflix series Arcane, taken from the narrative universe of League of Legends, has established itself in over 52 countries as the most viewed production of the platform, while at the same time transforming itself into the most successful product of those taken from a video game.

A situation that, naively, could be ascribed to the colossal dimensions of the video-game by Riot Games , the one that annihilates the metrics of the Super-Bowl every year through its esports world, the one that has been able to gather over 180 million players over the span of ten years, the one that acts as a yardstick for any company wanted to try to enter the "live game" market, the titles designed to last for years without ever going out.

That Riot Games has shown an incredible talent in captivating his immense installed base and capturing it for years in the Summoner's Rift which is the backdrop to the opera's queen mode, is certainly no secret. But being able to create a valid film or television product capable of transcending the boundaries of the videogame? Well, that's another story altogether and it's one of those paved with corpses, since most projects of this kind have failed miserably in their purposes.

These are emblematic cases like that of Final Fantasy, the historic brand of Square-Enix, which around 2001 staked everything on the production of the film The Spirits Within which nearly cost the now buried Squaresoft bankruptcy. It also happened to the film dedicated to Assassin's Creed, which despite the presence of Michael Fassbender failed to satisfy neither video-game fans nor cinephiles. Then there is a World of Warcraft origin story that, had it not been for the Chinese box office takings, could never have hoped to write off the initial investment.

Watch on YouTube. In recent years, after a long wait due to a sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome, cinema and TV series have returned to mix with the video game medium, churning out shows like The Witcher and feature films like Tomb Raider. If we look to the future, with HBO and Amazon having two potential blockbusters in the pipeline such as the productions taken from The Last of Us (with Pedro Pascal) and Fallout (written by Jonathan Nolan), it seems that the curtain is about to be raised on a first golden age of the category.

Without a crystal ball it is impossible to predict the possible impact of these projects, but we would like to affirm one thing with some certainty: it is very difficult for any future work to reach the same heights that Riot Games was able to achieve with its Arcane.

Arcane is enveloped in a magic that has allowed it to surprise the millions of League of Legends fans who have longed for a deepening of the narrative mosaic for centuries, and at the same time to capture in its vortex an incredible amount of people that the MOBA of Riot Games did not even know what it was.

This collision between extremes of the public has given rise to a transmedia bridge capable of rewarding all the elements of marriage, putting the spotlight on the artistic quality of the video game and initiating a real cultural exchange between consumers.

The story of Vi and Powder is a pretext to capture old and new fans in the immense untapped potential of the video game lore. In my small way, for example, despite knowing some facets of the Riot Games universe, I had never lost myself on the banks of the videogame, but attracted by the amazing quality of the animated series, I found myself confronting the fans by discussing the "lore" for hours. , of the settings, and above all of how many other narrative receptacles could hide behind the stylized characterization of the characters designed by the MOBA developers.

But even more important is what they experienced, those people who spend most of the time in the Rift of free time and who could not wait to dive into the world beyond the screen as in the lair of the White Rabbit. People who in the impressive setting of Zaun and Piltover found precious fuel to feed the subtle bond with all the characters they - at times inexplicably - loved, giving new substance to their stories and their characters, giving shape to those that until now they were mere reveries.

It is a rare thing, indeed, very rare. Looking at the entire medium of the video game, it is very difficult to find narrative universes just sketched and yet ready to open up as treasure chests, and perhaps the only Overwatch among the works that would be able to achieve the same goal comes to mind.

But even in the case of Blizzard Entertainment's shooter it would be difficult to obtain an equally rounded result: the mere fact that it is mainly based on firefights, for example, represents a major limitation to the cinematic potential of the animations it contributed to make Arcane an extraordinary work.

Of all the videogame universes, Overwatch is probably the only one that can aspire to produce something similar to Arcane. Yes, because regardless of the actual contents and the specific weight of the League of Legends component, Arcane is an essay of animation mastery and shows off a technical sector so far unmatched in the panorama of episodic series. The concept artists of Riot Games have always been one of the pillars behind the success of the house, and even if it might seem impossible to do justice to their imagination, the partnership with the French studio Fortiche has produced a perfect synthesis of the greatest strengths. of animation and those of cinematography.

The fusion between the more traditional grammar of cinema and the possibility of bending the reality offered by animation has exploded into a result so balanced that it is hard for anyone to dissatisfy someone. Those who are distant from the designed work end up forgetting that they are in the presence of an animated series, while even those who have grown up on bread and souls cannot help but notice details and choreographies well above the average for the category.

Which, if you think about it, is part of the lowest common denominator behind Arcane's success: the ability to please everyone effortlessly. Video game fans and film buffs, TV series enthusiasts and animation experts, students of the League of Legends narrative universe and people taking a peek into the world of Runeterra for the first time. An undertaking that, until the launch of the show, had never been successful for any producer who had dealt with the very rich box of video games.

An undertaking that perhaps represents the direct consequence of the choice to enrich the brand rather than squeezing it, to tell rather than replicate. When the title of a video game lands on a poster, the trend is to re-propose the stories that have already proved their worth in the worlds made of pixels, while Riot Games has used the cities of Piltover and Zaun to raise to power. the experience of the fans and to capture a whole new audience on the net.

Masterpiece? Cult? It is not important: the hope is that Arcane turns out to be a seminal work. He did so through a simple narrative, which refuses to put naked events at the center of the script to instead transform each scenario and each character into a potential protagonist. Of course, there is the story of the sisters Vi and Powder, but it is clear that the purpose was to give life to an entire world, supported by the power of the details and the characterization of the supporting actors, to unravel only a minimal section of the fog. that envelops the creative potential behind the video game.

One thing is certain: we want more. And we are not just talking about Arcane and the first story told, we are not even talking about Riot Games only: we are talking about a sensible exploitation of the soul that supports the great video games. Now that at least some of the secrets behind the success of works of this genre have been revealed, the hope is to see a race towards the making of productions of this magnitude, but as briefly mentioned it is very difficult to identify potential competitors.

Maybe Jonathan Nolan, former writer of most of his brother Christopher's films, will be able to do something similar with the Fallout universe. But beyond the Bethesda video game? Which worlds would be able to give enriching products, and therefore not simple replicas of the original work as The Last of Us promises, capable of having an impact even remotely similar to that of Arcane?

Notwithstanding that that of Overwatch in our opinion remains the number one candidate, taking a guess we would say that the galaxy of Mass Effect could have a good potential, perhaps the Rapture at the center of Bioshock, or the universe of Final Fantasy Tactics. The essential condition is that there is a certain amount of "untold" from which to draw, in order to convey emotions through both media and create products that are able to shine regardless of the viewer's point of view.

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The only production on the horizon that could have similar consequences is Fallout according to Johnatan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Perhaps part of the secret also lies in the attachment that Riot Games has shown to feel towards its creative work, supervising the project in first person rather than blindly relying on the hands of third parties. Because yes, videogame authors often pour boundless love into their works, and it is a shame to see how the history of this kind of productions is studded with projects that have turned out to be on the verge of harmful.

The hope is that Arcane turns out not to be a masterpiece, not a cult, but a seminal work, a phenomenon capable of demonstrating to the creators of some of the most inspired and fascinating universes of all media that there is a way to do it justice. We would like to see operations of this kind more and more often, but at the moment we would not be able to point out any comparative candidates on the horizon.

For now we can console ourselves with Arcane, which is undoubtedly the best work ever taken from a video game.

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