‘ARCANE: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS’ A BEACON OF HOPE FOR VIDEO GAME ADAPTATIONS.

Samm Tembo
5 min readNov 26, 2021

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Arcane: League of Legends, Riot Games/Netflix

Video games are a medium that stands in a lane of their own. Unlike books, music or film, video games aren’t a passive experience. By putting the player in the driver’s seat, video games allow the player a sense of control in progressing the narrative; making it a laborious task to adapt videos into film or television, with only a select few video games ever surviving the “video game curse”, as it’s come to be known by gamers. But one recent survivor is Netflix’s Arcane: League of Legends, based on the 2009 smash-hit multiplayer online battle arena game: League of Legends.

This show is so good it has a 100% rating on rotten tomatoes. Calling this show “great”, would be an oversimplification. It’s an absolute masterpiece! An exhilarating experience across all its 9 episodes. In the few weeks since it premiered on the streaming giant, the show has already been renewed for a second season, as has been confirmed by Riot Games, (the game studio behind both the game and the TV show) and Netflix.

Arcane: League of Legends , Riot Games/Netflix.
Arcane: League of Legends, Riot Games/Netflix.

Everything about the show is amazing. From the art direction to the sound design, the fight choreography to the writing all the way down to the acting. This show is pure perfection; a true benchmark in the future of TV animation.

I’d be lying if I said I played the games, but I’ve watched two of my closest friends engross themselves in the world of League for years. I found myself mesmerized by Arcane’s characters and its world which set the bar so high for video game adaptations. And I think one reason it does this so well, is that it’s not ball-and-chained to fan service. The show isn’t obsessed with giving nods to gamers. Instead, it focuses primarily on simply telling a story, and telling it well; that newcomers like myself can’t help but appreciate it without feeling like there’s context missing.

There’s no learning curve required to enjoy Arcane, it doesn’t require you to go on YouTube or Google to research hours-upon-hours of lore. And if it does, it’s only because the show does an amazing job of drawing you in enough to make you want to know more; not because you feel that something’s missing. Arcane gives the viewer everything they need to stay invested: a well-written story, a meticulously-crafted world populated by characters you can’t help but empathize with or at least love to hate. Very “human” characters with great moral ambiguity and justifiable motivations make you easily form an attachment; regardless of whether you agree with their motivations or not.

In spite of this, the show still does a great job of satisfying even the OG League fans with how much care and sanctity Riot Games poured into this labor of love. With the great reception of the 2020 Sonic The Hedgehog movie and now Arcane, it’s becoming more apparent that it is indeed possible to do a great TV or film adaptation of a video game; restoring my hopes of seeing more video games adapted for television. There are two titles in particular (I mean there’s more, a whole list in fact. But that’s for another article) that I’d love to see animated for TV: Bioshock and Dishonored.

Bioshock, a first-person shooter released in 2007 on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, from studio 2K games, is lauded as arguably one of the greatest games ever made! The game is praised for its narrative, (which is a critique of Ayn Rand’s theory of objectivism). Its political themes, immersive gameplay, and its visceral world.

Bioshock is set in an underwater utopia called Rapture, built on the seafloor of the North Atlantic, between Iceland and Greenland by Andrew Ryan, a self-made billionaire who believes society thrives if each of its members focuses on their self-interests and not the interests of others, and without heavy-handed intrusion from the state,(not very far off from the story of Arcane), inspiring him to build Rapture, a place he and his rich buddies could realize this ideal, far from the clutches and knowledge of the world’s governments.

Bioshock, 2K Games.
Bioshock, 2K Games.
Rapture, Bioshock, 2K Games

Like most stories that take place on and underwater, it didn’t take long after Rapture was up and running for shit to hit the fan, as a series of genetic modifications through plasmids (a type of drug that enhances human capabilities, granting its users powers…) and a civil-war sent Rapture to its ruin.

In the Bioshock games, you’re thrown into the story long after Rapture’s fall. And you learn about Andrew Ryan and his grand vision for Rapture mostly through monologues told through voice recordings and radio transmissions littered across Rapture. In a Bioshock TV show, it would be a great opportunity to explore Rapture from its conception to its collapse. And if the show is done with the same kind of writing, magnificent art direction, and character design from the video games, it’s hard not to see it garnering the same level of success Arcane has; or at least something close.

The same can be said about Arkane studios’ Dishonored. Another first-person shooter released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 with a great narrative, beautiful art style, and political themes. The world of Dishonored is rife with potential that could make for a great 7–10 episodes of TV.

Dishonored, Arkane Studios
Dishonored, Arkane Studios

Not every video game that should be a TV show needs to have political themes or be a first-person shooter, though. The pool of amazing titles to pick from is nearly endless. It’s up to the streaming services and studios looking to adapt these games to pick the stories they want to tell.

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Samm Tembo

Samm Tembo is a freelance photographer, filmmaker, lifestyle writer, from Lusaka, Zambia; sharing his love of storytelling with the world.