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Literature as Video Games

February 9, 2010

Instead of playing video games growing up I read. A lot. I was one of those kids that went to the library multiple times a day and asked to be grounded in seventh grade so that I could read all weekend without being interrupted by my neighborhood friends who did not understand my love of reading. So, my knowledge of literature is solid. Of video games, not so much.

However, I, along with 54% of the television viewing audience, saw the Super Bowl commercial for the video game version of Dante’s Inferno. And I’m not sure how many of you thought twice about that, but I sure did. At first I was appalled–how could someone possibly relegate the amazing text and sarcasm and judgement that Dante poured into his manuscript to a stupid video game?

But then I had a second thought–why shouldn’t someone make it into a game? Giving the player the opportunity to be the narrator of the Inferno allows he/she to experience what the narrator goes through in the text. And once the player (gamer? I really don’t know the jargon here…) realizes how intense and creative the story and characters are perhaps they will be interested in actually picking up the dense text and reading it. Hell, maybe they’ll even have a deeper connection with the story because of their experience with the game.

With this thought, I began thinking of other epics and books that could make cool video games. Check ’em out after the jump.

1) Homer’s The Odyssey
Homer’s epic about Odysseus’ twenty year journey to return home would make a great video game. There are scantily clad women who kill men, an angry cyclops, and a gods and goddesses who intervene along the way.

2) Homer’s The Iliad
If you have The Odyssey why not the more intense, battle driven Iliad? You get to fight. And kill things. A lot.

3) Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
My first inclination for the Middle Age era of literature was Beowulf, but there’s already a video game version, thanks to the film that came out sort of recently. But, Canterbury Tales isn’t a shabby alternative. Although this isn’t an action-packed story, it would still be fun to have the player journey through every short story. Or it’d be really boring. Let me know in comments.

4) Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
There are giants, names of lands that are impossible to pronounce, pirates, a flying island, magicians, ghosts, and the satirization of the court of King George I. Any objections?

5) Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Traveling down the Mississippi River on a raft with Huck and Jim in the post-Civil War South? Why wouldn’t you want to play that game?
What other literary classics do you think would make cool video games? Let me know in comments.

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