Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are turning Blake J. Harris‘ Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation into a limited drama series, according to Nerdist. The book chronicles the rise of Sega, specifically the American division of the Japanese video game company. Sega went from being an underdog to a true international industry competitor against the gaming juggernaut Nintendo thanks to the leadership of businessman Tom Kalinske and the unconventional marketing tactics that he and his team came up with in order to revolutionize the gaming industry.
The development of a Console Wars series is a long time coming for Rogen and Goldberg. They first got involved to make a movie based on the book back in 2014. Before long, Harris himself was said to be making a documentary based on his own writing. As Rogen then told Collider, the dramatic narrative feature would have drawn inspiration from that documentary film. Currently, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island) and screenwriter Mike Rosolio (American Vandal) round out the creative team for the serial adaptation, with the former set to helm the pilot from the latter’s script.
Honestly, this team-up already sounds very promising. That said, there is a glaring concern stemming from the project’s source material. For full disclosure, simply billing Console Wars as a nonfiction book would not be entirely correct, because although it ostensibly does what it says on the tin, there’s a fair bit of embellishment within the book itself. Yes, it centers on a very real businessman. And there are over 200 interviews from ex-Sega and Nintendo employees referenced that combine to paint a picture of how the world’s most popular gaming systems engaged in a cutthroat corporate battle of campaigns.
However, although relevant points of video game history are touched on in Console Wars, there are several obtrusive factors that make it an astonishingly polarizing read. Firstly, Harris notoriously re-creates — as in, fictionalizes — conversations and circumstances in his book, greatly skewing a potentially informative tome of a fascinating topic towards unnecessarily flowery prose that dampens the incisiveness of any commentary (the writing itself is also subpar).
The heavy focus on Kalinske creates an obvious bias of perspective, which wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the overall retelling isn’t so obviously incomplete despite being 600 pages long. Any useful input from Sega’s Japanese branch is noticeably absent or recounted in plainly superficial ways, painting the publisher’s mother company in a rather nefarious light. And what about the women that appear in Console Wars? Are they portrayed as particularly nuanced characters? Hardly. In fact, these depictions mostly come across as sexist.
These issues certainly cloud the merits of Console Wars as a uniformly proficient historical recount. So, the question now becomes: could it still make for good TV? Possibly, especially when biopics don’t have to be exceptionally factual to be entertaining. Arguably, this is exactly what proponents of Harris’ book have acknowledged.
Nevertheless, considering how Goldberg outlines his and Rogen’s preoccupation with Console Wars in an interview with Digital Trends, some changes feel necessary. Goldberg said:
“I know childhood as a time when all I wanted to do was play video games. It’s a topic that sings to us. ‘Superbad’ was all about how we couldn’t get laid, but the reason we didn’t get laid is because we were playing video games. That’s the other half of the coin, and we want to explore that. […] There was a war going on behind it all, and these companies were in an aggressive battle to defeat one another. So it fascinates us that a fun part of our childhoods was also an epic battle between companies.”
Overall, the concept of Sega vs. Nintendo is a thoroughly absorbing topic worth exploring on TV. Regardless, a conscientious effort ought to be made to properly flesh out all characters beyond their stilted literary counterparts. Only then can the frustratingly clear-cut dualistic storyline of Harris’ book evolve into a more compelling character study and really take advantage of the riveting and aggressive business strategies afoot. The good thing is that we can likely trust Rogen and Goldberg to get the job done right.