Everyone knows the basic story of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet-turned-real-boy who went looking for adventures and got into trouble instead. The story was originally published as The Adventures of Pinocchiowritten by Carlo Collodi in 1881. However, the story entered the public domain in 1940, giving creators like Disney the ability to use the story without fear of breaking copyright laws or paying a license.
Lies of P by Neowhiz and Round8 is a dark and violent tale of Pinocchio as an indie video game, in which players will navigate a hostile world as a “puppet mechanoid” in search of a way to find Mr. Geppetto and become human. Familiar characters such as the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket can be found in the game’s action-packed trailer, which features games and Pinocchio fans also excited. But why stop at Pinocchio? There are many popular stories that have entered the public domain, and several of them have video game potential.
Peter Pan (Published: 1911)
JM Barrie’s Peter Pan isn’t as childish as the 1953 Disney adaptation everyone knows and loves. In the original story, the main character kills the growing Lost Boys (whereas in the movie they are seemingly young forever), Wendy Darling is almost killed when she is shot with an arrow (it doesn’t hurt her in the movie), and Captain Hook is eaten by the crocodile (this is only implied in the movie as he is chased off-screen, never to be seen again).
A video game version of Peter Pan has a lot of untapped potential, and it could go in a number of different directions, from a carefree Disney-esque take on the story to something darker and more in line with the original tale. Imagine exploring a dark and gritty open-world Neverland as a fully grown Lost Boy trying to find his way home to avoid being killed by Pan, while dodging pirates and natives. With a touch of darkness, Peter Pan could really shine as a video game prospect.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Published: 1812)
The original collection of fairy tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is the basis of many popular stories we know today, from Cinderella at Hansel and Gretel at Rapunzel. And while many of these stories have faced adaptations that have “sanitized” them, they were originally dark and twisted tales. Since the stories are in the public domain, it begs the question of what a video game developer could do with them. Maybe what would work would be a mash-up like Kingdom Hearts, a game in which Disney characters come together and players must navigate a world with terrors and bizarre characters around every corner. With so many stories to choose from, the possibilities are nearly endless.
The Fall of House Usher (Published: 1839)
Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 short story “The Fall of House Usher” tells the story of an unnamed narrator who visits his old friend, Roderick Usher, the last of his family line, to discover that the man deteriorates mentally because he believes his dead sister was buried alive and comes back to haunt him. As the story progresses, the narrator seemingly becomes the victim of a two-man madness., a phenomenon in which a person takes on the symptoms of a mental disorder from a loved one. In the case of “The Fall of House Usher,” many of Roderick’s symptoms point to paranoid schizophrenia, but the story could also be told in a different, more literal light.
A story as disturbing as “The Fall of House Usher” begs to be adapted into a video game that lives up to the resident Evil Where Survive to franchises – one in which the ghosts Roderick dreads are real, and nothing, not even the character’s senses, can be completely trusted. In an adaptation like this, players would find themselves having to save their friend from the curse of the Usher family while surviving the horrors that entails.
A Dog’s Tale by Mark Twain (Published 1904)
Turning away from the dark horror of P’s lies is from Mark Twain History of dogs, which chronicles the tragic life of a St. Bernard/collie mix as she deals with loss in a cruel human world. The story is depressing, but if it’s adapted into the game, that could change, just like P’s lies took liberties with Pinocchio. Potentially, this game could tell the story of a dog trying to find his place in the world, and with the overwhelming praise given to games like Wander, there is no doubt that it would be a success. Given that the player would roam the world as a dog, this opens up possibilities for inventive challenges, moves, and gimmicks, like those seen in Wander.
Arthurian Legends (Published: circa 1135-1139)
With the success of games like Ring of Elden and Skyrim, it’s hard not to believe that a decent medieval knight RPG wouldn’t pull it off. An open world set in Dark Ages England, with a main campaign centered around finding the Holy Grail while taking on side quests, would have a lot of potential, especially if supported by a studio such as FromSoftware. It could be something like Assassin’s Creed meets Ring of Elden in nature. On a different note, the story could be adapted for modern times, putting a fresh spin on the legends that inspired so many stories people still tell today.
While it’s impossible to know where the creators of video games will eventually take us beyond what’s already been announced around the world, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of familiar public domain sources available to experiment. While some stories aren’t obvious contenders for video game adaptations, P’s lies shows how much creative freedom can be taken to turn a familiar story into something entirely new and unique.