The Making of a Great Indiana Jones Video Game

Playing video games has changed a whole lot since Atari and Nintendo were the kings of pixel play. Games now look and feel more like a big budget theatrical feature than they do a simple game you play, and they often have film-sized budgets as well. They wrap you inside the story they’re trying to tell and create a world that is incredibly immersive and tangible.

Sometimes the games of today are better than the movies of today; with WB Games/Rocksteady’s Arkham series, for example, I get to experience a side of Batman that even film or television cannot offer. I love stories and I love adventure, so of course I love Indiana Jones. And I love playing great games that involve all three of those things, like Sony/Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Wait, what?

Well, ok I guess that’s a bit of a stretch, but there hasn’t really been a great Indy game in a long time. The Lego games are quite fun, but the last couple of gaming adventures starring my favorite archeologist have been disappointing if I want to put it politely. Years ago I got a PS3 and dreamed of playing a realistic adventure where I could actual be Professor Henry Jones Jr. on one of his fantastic journeys. With the modern gaming systems and realism they are capable of generating you would think that would be an opportunity that LucasArts would have taken. Right?

Well, we all know that Lucasfilm’s gaming company has had production problems on many of their games (both delivered and announced) over the past decade, so playing Uncharted has been the closest thing I’ve had to a Indiana Jones game. And let’s face it, Nathan Drake is the true son of Indiana Jones, not Shia Labeouf. I mean, no way is that kid Henry Jones the third. But Drake? Even if he’s not genetically related to Indy, he’s spiritually his kin. Sorry, I digress.

If you’ve ever played something as frustrating and bland as Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings you know what I’m talking about. They take mediocre graphics and combine it with a boring story to create a soulless game involving one of the greatest film characters of all time. How is that even possible? Compare the graphics and story of Staff of Kings to any of the Uncharted games and it is almost embarrassing how badly it stacks up. LucasArts loses in all major categories—playability, character designs, environments, and story.

I have joked with many of my friends that Disney Interactive (which recently let go 700 employees) needs to buy or steal all the talent away from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted team and have them create an Indy game. A good Indiana Jones game should be like a period Uncharted game anyway; all the elements are there. The only thing missing is the whip and the hat along with some swanky period cars and architecture. I know this is a fantasy and will never happen, but I think there is a more realistic option available.

Last week Amy Hennig, the creative director and writer behind the Uncharted series parted ways with Naughty Dog. It was a mutual decision according to both parties. But whether she left on her own or was tossed out is not something that has any relevance to my little idea, which is for Disney Interactive to hire Amy Hennig NOW. Bob Iger, please talk to Kathleen Kennedy. I know your strategy for television and films has worked out pretty well, but the interactive division is an almost utter failure. LucasArts wasn’t among the reasons Disney bought Lucasfilm, but certainly creating new products with profitable characters was. Amy Hennig’s contribution to a successful Indiana Jones game would go a long way towards establishing Disney’s credibility in the gaming division and rehabilitating LucasArts all in one bold move.

The Disney Suits beneath Iger like Alan Horn, Kevin Feige, John Lasseter and Kennedy are very savvy and smart people. Iger has succeeded mostly because he’s installed talented people beneath him and allowed them to do their thing. I think that Lucas turning the reigns over to Kathleen Kennedy was the right thing to do, and Iger was smart to retain her when the company was bought by Disney. She knows the company’s IP and is very adept at marketing the potential of them. So my proposal is to have Kathleen Kennedy talk to the folks in charge of licensing Lucasfilm properties and get them to bring in Hennig and have her put in charge of creating the next Indiana Jones game.

Amy knows how to create a great story. She has led a team of creative artists, designers and programmers on numerous games over her ten year tenure at Naughty Dog—and the three Uncharted games were exactly what an Indiana Jones game always should have been, but wasn’t. Perhaps Kennedy can get her involved, and the Suits can work out a deal with EA to handle the Indiana Jones property as well as Star Wars. Now, I’m not saying this will happen. I have a few contacts in the entertainment industry, but none of them have mentioned this to me. This is just a dream. The dream of a geek. The kind of dream a geek has where he wishes Star Wars would be bought by Disney so that more galactic adventures could continue without George Lucas screwing them up anymore. Hopefully, it’ll happen. But it probably won’t. Although, you never know.

Honor Hunter is a writer focusing on the entertainment business of film, TV, games and pop culture all around. The Mouse is his specialty, but not exclusively, as he posts about news, rumors and opinion of the world we all love to know.


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