The first day of the new year marks Public Sector Day. This annual phenomenon marks the day when many works enter the United States public domain and are free to be used by anyone without fear of copyright claims being made against them. In 2023, the works brought into the public domain date back 95 years, so the hottest media since 1927 will soon be full of customization. What better source could there be for game studios to get ideas from? Here are the top six properties that should be adapted into video games as soon as possible.
6. Behind the scenes
Video games and movies have an homage and adaptation that goes both ways. While video games based on movies and movies based on video games have their good, bad, and ugly titles, it’s hard to deny the influence of cinema on gaming. The 2010s established a cinematic gameplay style that we still see today in games like God of Wår Ragnarok.
In the spirit of taking a page from cinema, the perfect property to adapt from the public domain would be Behind the scenes. The winner of the first Oscar for Best Picture, Behind the scenes follows two men who join the Army Air Force who are in love with the same woman. It’s a story full of romance and action, as well as aerial warfare, perfect for a video game.
5. The color out of place
HP Lovecraft is best known as a huge racist. He also wrote some stories that contributed to the cosmic horror genre. With one of its most interesting stories becoming public domain, developers can now adapt The color out of place without giving a damn to the Lovecraft estate!
Cosmic horror is having a major resurgence in video games, with titles such as Bloodborne and Signalis showing the potential of the genre in gaming. The color out of place follows a named narrator as he tries to unravel the mystery of a recent meteorite impact in the city of Arkham (not Batman’s Arkham) and falls into a web of cults and unknown monsters lurking around every corner. This story would be perfect for a survival horror game like this Resident Evil the Silent Hill.
4. The Hardy Boys
The second largest crime novel to come to the public is the first three novels The Hardy Boys series. The books follow brothers Frank and Joe as they solve a series of mysteries in their area. The Nancy Drew games already exist, so it only makes sense that the sister series would get an adaptation!
The Hardy Boys is ideal for a detective game focused on teenagers in the form of something like Life is Strange or the Telltale game directory. You could explore the city and ask people questions, make choices and remove pieces of evidence and conflicting statements to piece together the crime.
Few pieces of media have such iconic images as Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis. The image of a robotic woman in a futuristic art deco city seems to be burned into the public’s consciousness, even though few have actually watched the film.
Set in a futuristic urban dystopia, it follows the efforts of a small group to rally the working class to help overcome the massive class inequality that this city suffers from. If the setting and themes remind you of something BioShock then you won’t be wrong. That makes Metropolisits unique graphics, so exciting for a video game that plays the same type of philosophical story that BioShock series interrogates.
Novelist Franz Kafka’s work may not seem suitable for video games, but I think that’s just a lack of imagination! Take his unfinished novel Americawhich goes public in 2023. The story is a curious account of the wanderings of a newly arrived immigrant teenager in New York.
Literary fiction is more influential in games in 2022. Penitentiary, Citizen sleepingand I was a Teenage Outlander They all feel extremely literary in how they tell the game’s narrative to the player. America: The Video Game it could be a Disco Elysium-like dialogue-heavy RPG that delves into philosophical themes.
1. Sherlock Holmes
While some Sherlock Holmes stories are already in the public domain, those who wanted to use the character had to jump the gun and risk legal action from the Doyle Estate. A notable example of this is the character Herlock Sholmes in the Ace Attorney series, a not-so-subtle product of the public domain issues surrounding the detective. But in 2023 the latest Sherlock Holmes story enters the public domain.
Holmes is perfect for so many different types of games: detective puzzles, AAA adventures, visual novels — but I think we should see Sherlock make an appearance in Ace lawyer. Could Capcom just rename Herlock Sholmes in future games? Absolutely. But Sholmes is a great parody character and I want to see the “real” Sherlock Holmes come into the franchise and face his doppelgänger. Do it, Capcom.