Hollywood has a thing for adapting games for the big screen. Back in 2012, Hasbro tried their hand at it with Battleship to weak commercial and critical results; last year their horror romp Ouija proved more successful experiment, though only in terms of ticket sales; and as of right now, a Monopoly board game adaptation is moving forward and may begin shooting this summer.
And that’s just touching on board games; lest we forget, video game property Assassin’s Creed is getting the blockbuster treatment as we speak (courtesy of Ubisoft Motion Pictures), and Netflix is laboring over a live-action The Legend of Zelda TV show. The geeks are inheriting the earth, or at least the entertainment industry. But there’s perhaps no surer a sign of gamer takeover than the recent news about the acquisition of the TV and movie rights to The Settlers of Catan, German game designer Klaus Teuber’s multiplayer resource marathon.
As Variety reports, the lucky buyer is producer Gail Katz, who counts among her credits features like In the Line of Fire and Bicentennial Man, not to mention TV shows like Cashmere Mafia. As far as the particulars of the deal are concerned, there’s not much to go on; there’s even less regarding details about what Katz intends to do with the rights now that she has them. Will she produce a film? Will she try to get a television series off the ground? Where is she taking The Settlers of Catan in the world of visual media?
Katz did release a statement about her interest in the game, but it’s quite broad and generic and doesn’t say a whole lot about her aims in picking up the property. Here’s the quote from Katz:
“I’ve been wanting to see an adaptation of the game for years, ever since my Catan-obsessed college-aged kids introduced me to it. The island of Catan is a vivid, visual, exciting and timeless world with classic themes and moral challenges that resonate today. There is a tremendous opportunity to take what people love about the game and its mythology as a starting point for the narrative.”
Anyone who has played even just a few rounds of The Settlers of Catan might find some of the verbiage here a little baffling; there isn’t a trace of driving mythology, certainly not enough to serve as the foundation for a narrative. And the only moral challenges are those you’ll face when deciding how to out-maneuver your opponents when bartering for sheep. (Not that similar problems are stopping Monopoly from becoming a Goonies-esque kids adventure film.)
For anyone less familiar with how the Settlers of Catan game works, the basics are simple: build and develop your holdings through expenditure of ore, wheat, brick, wood, and the aforementioned sheep. The more your settlements grow, the more victory points you score. The first player to score ten wins. Easy, right? The deeper a person gets into the game, the more nuanced it becomes, but the outline is fairly straightforward.
How anyone is going to turn that into an actual story is another matter. The Settlers of Catan may be much better suited to TV than to film; but what kind of show is it going to be? A period drama about a Euro-inspired world wracked by limited resources? A Game of Thrones-inspired fantasy yarn about yearling nations on the rise, in which each clashes with the other over supplies and prosperity? Maybe they’ll go the meta route and focus on groups of Settlers aficionados and their lives (a’la The Guild).
It’s early to tell what’s in store for The Settlers of Catan; and between its online iterations and countless expansions, there are countless ways the adaptation could go. But the news is sort of bewildering. At least Assassin’s Creed has a plot that can translate into a movie; The Settlers of Catan has mineral disputes.
We’ll keep you posted on updates about The Settlers of Catan as they become available.
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