If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you may have noticed more than a passing interest in transmedia storytelling. For those of you who haven’t I’ll give you this simple explanation before we continue – transmedia storytelling is the telling of different stories within the same story world, released intermittently on multiple platforms for example – a TV show, a video game, a movie and a tie-in novel.
Like most of the world, in the past month or so I have become absolutely captivated by the fantastic Netflix Original Show Stranger Things. As I write this article, Episode 1 is playing in the background – my third or fourth time watching it.
With a second season now confirmed for the show, I’ve gotten to thinking, like I do, about how the show could potentially branch out across media to become a transmedia franchise (something I believe is crucial for the survival of franchises in the very near future).
Last week I wrote an article about video games in which I asked the question: Why aren’t there any based off Stephen King novels? His work is full of rich characters and wonderfully weird and horrific story lines, yet nobody seems to be doing it. I presented readers with my top five choices for SK novels to be turned into video games. One such suggestion was King’s Magnum Opus IT a horror epic with science fiction undertones about a group of pre-pubescent kids, riding around on their bikes in a time before cell phones and the internet, facing off against an inter-dimensional being that has been abducting children.
If you haven’t seen Stranger Things, the show is about a bunch of prepubescent kids riding around on their bikes in the 80s’ as they try hunt down an inter-dimensional monster that has kidnapped one of their best friends.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.
What if Stranger Things DID choose to branch out into transmedia? What if their chosen secondary medium to release their stories was that of a video game? With the fantastic level of technology we have today on the PS4, PC, Xbox One or even VR systems like Oculus Rift or Playstation VR, the world of Stranger Things, including its 80s’ nostalgia vibe is ripe for cross media representation.
So if Stranger Things became a video game, what would it look like? Or more appropriately for this article, what are five things that would be fantastic to see in a Stranger Things video game?
1. A Nostalgic 80s’ Game World
Part of the charm of Stranger Things is its setting – the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the early 80s. The town is filled with wonderfully retro suburban houses, old grocers, a secret government facility and of course, surrounded by an ominous forest in which the first seasons' creature, the Demogorgon, hunts.
If Stranger Things were to become a game, it would need to make use of this beautiful setting. Imagine riding around on your push bikes in the early hours of the evening, watching the sun set behind the trees as you desperately hunt for some kind of inter-dimensional monster, before night descends and that monster begins to hunt for you.
A beautiful, open world environment based off this town would be ideal for a game, complete with an expansive underground military base.
2. Inter-dimensional Travel
So much of Stranger Things revolves around our universe and an alternate dimension known as “The Upside Down”. The series shows portals to this other world as being almost fleshy tears in reality that characters can crawl through to enter the other side.
If we were ever to see a video game, being able to cross in and out of the Upside Down would be a fantastic game play dynamic. The Upside Down is a terrifying place, and every second a character spends there, they are seriously risking their lives. A game could play off this feeling of claustrophobia every time the players enter into the Upside Down to complete various missions. This would effectively create an organic sense of fear in players’ minds as they travel through the game worlds.
3. Beautifully Sympathetic Characters
One thing Stranger Things has done is taken the internet by storm in relation to its cast of characters. The three boys and the supernaturally empowered 11 are often memed online now where fans will refer to them as “my kids”. And then, there’s Barb, and the intense Barb-mania revolving around her character (What Would Barb Do?).
If there’s one thing a video game does well, it’s allowing players to actually become the characters they are playing as. Being able to roleplay as your favorite Stranger Things kid would definitely work in the series favor. Being able to jump between them all throughout the game would also be an interesting dynamic.
4. Terrifying Creatures
In horror, one of the most important rules is to wait as long as possible to show the monster. Stranger Things did this brilliantly, by holding back for several episodes, and even once it started showing the infamous Demogorgon, it only ever showed the creature hidden in shadows.
Of course, in a video game, it’s a little different. While you still want to hide your creatures in shadows, having non-passive audience members means that the very act of being in the same room as a monster is enough to cause terror, even if you can see it in full light.
A Stranger Things video game could see the return of the horrifying Demogorgon, as well as many others, and wouldn’t it be cool if they were all named after Dungeons and Dragons creatures just like the original?
5. Telekinetic Powers
Last but not least has got to be the potential ability to use 11’s telekinetic powers. Picking up objects with your mind and flinging them across a grocery store, contacting people and monsters in The Upside Down via sensory deprivation tanks, snapping the necks of government villains… These are just a few of the things 11 does in the show, and allowing players to indulge in the same actions would translate into some pretty fun game play.
So there you have it, those five reasons are why we absolutely have to have a Stranger Things video game. Will it ever happen? Who knows? I definitely hope so. What do you think? What would you like to experience as a player exploring Hawkins, Indiana in the 80s? Let me know in the comments below.
**Update** To further to need for furthering the series via the video game medium, it has been brought to my attention that the Duffer Brothers actually ARE hoping to do a video game. In an interview with IGN, the brothers are asked if they would consider a comic book series to tie into the show, instead they responded by saying:
Ross: That’s a great idea! But what I really want is a video game.
Matt: Like an 8-bit… These fans, a lot of them have done this 8-bit video game art that’s blowing my mind.
I don't know whether 8-BIT would work for the kind of storytelling I believe would be needed for a game of the stature as described above, but frequenting the game world with retro-styled 8-BIT mini games would be an exciting possibility to include the 8-BIT art work the brothers are blown away by.