The first day of the new year marks Public Domain Day. During this annual occurrence, numerous works enter into the United States public domain and are free to use by anyone with no fear of any copyright claims being levied against them.
In 2024, works from 95 years ago will enter the public domain date, so the hottest media from 1928 is soon to be rife for adaptation. What better source could there be for game studios to take ideas from? Here are the six best properties that should be adapted into video games, ASAP.
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc was a real historical figure whose story is perfect for video games. In fact, there have already been some well-received games, such as 2006’s Jeanne D’Arc. But I’m thinking an adaptation of the classic film The Passion of Joan of Arc could take the form of an Ace Attorney court drama instead, considering the film’s story centers around the trial of Joan of Arc rather than the actions she became famous for later on during the English and French armed conflicts. Can you envision the French patron saint shouting out, “Objection!!!”? I can.
5. The Circus
What are people always saying video games need more of? Slapstick humor, yes that’s exactly what I was going to say, I’m glad we are on the same page. Well, nobody did slapstick better than Charlie Chaplin, and that is on full display in The Circus. It is a love story set around... a circus (no surprise there) that includes incredible scenes involving monkeys, tightrope walking, and a hall of mirrors. It’s a delight and I think it could work as a comedic platforming game.
Virginia Woolf’s classic novel about a male poet who awakes one day to discover she is now a woman and then progresses to live for hundreds of years is a fantastic story. As a video game, I’m thinking we go for a Lost Odyssey-like story that investigates the idea of a truly long life as well as leveraging some of the more literary-minded elements of both Orlando and Lost Odyssey by having short interstitial stories in text form. We could have fun with it and truly embrace the game’s themes of sexuality and gender as well as its commentaries on literature as an art form, maybe even extending that to a commentary on video games as an art form.
3. Peter Pan; or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
Peter Pan’s copyright has always been a little weird. But the character goes into the Public Domain in the US in 2024, and there couldn’t be a better time for the boy who never grew up to join video games. 2023’s Lies of P set up a thrilling universe based on old stories like Pinocchio and even hinted at some Peter Pan content in a future expansion, so we might not even have to wait long to see Peter Pan make his way into a new video game.
2. The Threepenny Opera
Do you know what I think would be a fun video game? A socialist critique of capitalism from the father of dialectical theater. So isn’t it just my luck that Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera goes into the public domain in 2024? It’s been adapted into almost every medium but video games. Well, I say it’s time! Take a page from Kentucky Route Zero or even Disco Elysium and give gamers the complex social commentary underworld antihero experience that we all crave!
1. Steamboat Willie
Mickey Mouse is public domain now, baby! Unless Disney pulls some weird legal shenanigans (think the Doyle estate’s iron grip on Sherlock) then Mickey Mouse can now be used however you want him to be used. Do with that knowledge what you will. The public domain will probably only extend to this specific version of Mickey, so black and white but without a voice. Don’t go trying to do anything with Fantasia Mickey. But this does mean we can have a Mickey Mouse soulslike or first-person shooter. Let’s get funky with it, developers.