My sister, Sara, brought to my attention that there are plans for a movie based on the board game Settlers of Catan. Since the first time I ever played the game was with Sara and her friends, it felt fitting that she asked me to write about my thoughts on the potential adaptation.
Loser: Board Games Adapted as Fictional Movies
No one needs a movie or tv show based on a board game. Battleship (2012) being the obvious example of why this idea will fail. All producer Gail Katz, and every other film studio, wants is name recognition so people will tune in. The reality is that Settlers is quite simple (once you set up the board and understand all the rules) and there is no backstory so the script will end up being a complete work of fiction with no real ties to the game anyway.
Obviously, people with money and producing power in Hollywood have realized the fanatic love of the game. I’ve been play with friends for years. We all should have known this was coming after it showed up in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Winner: Board Games as Documentary Film Subject
The better question is not “what will the film adaptation be like?” but “why fictionalize it?” Katz has the makings for a great story right in front of her in the form of a documentary. If she really wants to capitalize on the fan base this is the way to their hearts.
Some of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen are based on people’s obsessions with specific games. The King of Kong (2007) being my favorite. Its a brilliant piece of film that is a standard good vs. evil story with all the tropes of a Hollywood Western. King of Kong is about people trying to break the record score on an old King Kong arcade machine but it is so well executed that even if you’ve never seen an old coin-op machine you’ll find yourself quickly immersed in this subculture. If you want to be complete engrossed and amazing by the level of commitment people have to a game, watch the complete film on Hulu.
Other documentaries about striving for perfection in the world of competitive game play:
Word Wars (2004) – Scrabble
Wordplay (2006) – Crossword Puzzles
Darkon (2006) – Live Action Role Playing (larping)
Mile High Magic (2014) – Magic: The Gathering
What are your favorite films about games? Would you watch a Settlers of Catan film or documentary?
Final Thought: Clue (1985) is the only exception to this rule.