What Do Video Games Have To Do With Literature? (Or, vice versa)

Last year, the Dante’s Inferno video game garnered an abundant amount of press (to show that they weren’t messing around, EA even had a Super Bowl ad spot for their video game epic), with seemingly mixed reviews —  could it be entertaining enough for the video gamers and contain any reasonable semblance to The Divine Comedy to satisfy those who care about it?  This bit from a New York Times review certainly indicated that the former at least was an open question: “In a survey of 800 people, Mr. Marineau said, 83 percent said they had heard of Dante’s “Inferno,” the first book of his “Divine Comedy,” but fewer than 20 percent could explain its contents.” The idea of a butt-kicking action hero Dante seems pretty novel, but I’ll probably stick with my Oxford World’s Classics edition over the EA one, just the same.

There’s at least one university course that is exploring the parallels between Virgil’s Aeneid and Halo.  On the notion of interactive storytelling, Roger Travis at the University of Connecticut makes a good point: “The popular notion that video games are unique in their interactivity overlooks a tradition well over 2,000 years old.” Travis’ blog, Living Epic, is a pleasing nexus of gaming meets classical studies. Sometimes I love the internet for being able to find things like this.

American McGee's Alice 2

When browsing through this rather thorough list of literature-related video games (although it uses the term “literature” very, very loosely in many cases), I couldn’t help but notice that Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland** recur with great frequency — which makes some sense; fantasy world exploration and mysteries seem to lend themselves well to video game adaptation. But, I’m sure most of these other games on the list suck. Just saying.

* Here’s a link to the backstory behind the Gatsby “NES” game (“Debunking The Great Gatsby Game Creation Myth“)

** I’m more than a little curious about the new American McGee’s Alice 2. If it’s anywhere near as creepily surreal as the first one, that could make for some good video-gaming time.


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