From The Table To The Small Screen
July 26, 2013

From The Table To The Small Screen

Yesterday, the much-awaited Shadowrun Returns released for PC. Just as with the recent digital release of Shadowrun Fifth Edition, this is the first of two video-games being released as part of the Year of Shadowrun. Shadowrun Returns will focus on the classic setting of Shadowrun, namely the 2050’s, while the upcoming Shadowrun Online will take place in the 2070’s, which is the modern setting for Shadowrun Fourth and Fifth Edition. Both games were funded through successful Kickstarter donations and both are hoping to serve as both a return to the world of Shadowrun for those who have since moved on, and as an introduction for those who have never had the pleasure of knowing what it is to run the shadows in this wonderful setting.

Shadowrun is not the first table-top game to make the transition from table-top to video-game. Dungeons & Dragons has had the most success with games like Balder’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, D&D Online, and others. Vampire: the Masquerade has had two games of their own, Redemption and the amazing Bloodlines. Supposedly there is an online World of Darkness game in the works. Even the vastly popular Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic used a variance of the d20 system for its core mechanic, including attributes, saves, and many other features found in the d20 versions of the table-top game.

Making the transition from pen-and-paper to mouse and keyboard/controller is a fairly natural one in most cases, although there tends to be some options that get lost in translation due to the more linear nature of video-games. Even so, given the mass media attention that videogames are, having a table-top game made into a videogame is a fantastic way for that table-top game to get noticed. When someone plays the videogame, they might find something about the game that they really like and look into where it comes from, turning back to the table-top version. On the other hand, fans of the original game tend to be fairly loyal and provide near guaranteed sales for the video-game upon release. Unfortunately, this also has the problem of rushed games being pushed out the door long before they are ready only to capitalize on the name behind it. Shadowrun Returns isn’t the first Shadowrun video-game, after all. There were relatively successful games on the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo, however, there was also a black-sheep released on the X-Box 360, a first-person shooter (and a poorly received one, at that) that had nothing to do with Shadowrun save for avatars that looked sort-of like orks, elves, and trolls and some high-tech looking weapons stolen from Halo.

Videogames can be wonderful interpretations of well-loved table-top games. They can be wonderful sources of inspiration and interpretations of setting. Videogames show us how other people envision the world of the game, which can be very similar or very dissimilar to our own. Sometimes, this is a welcome revelation, less so otherwise. Personally, I am more of a fan of table-top games than videogames, but having a favorite between the two does not mean I play one exclusively. I have played several of the games I have mentioned above, and enjoyed most of them. Personally, I feel that translating table-top games to video-games is a mostly untapped genre. It would definitely help if most development studios realized that there is more to table-top gaming than Dungeons & Dragons.

Image Credit: Hairbrained Schemes

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