Turning the classics into video games

Last June, Margaret told you about video game giant Electronic Arts’ newest action title — a loose adaptation of Dante’s Inferno. Very. Loose.

Dante, the one in the game, is no poet. Instead, he’s a war-ravaged crusader with serious post-traumatic stress disorder. But he has his domestic side, too. In fact, the game opens with him sewing a tapestry. Into his flesh.

Once he’s embroidered his taut, bare chest with a homemade superhero emblem, Dante sets out on a quest for salvation that will lead him through the nine circles of hell.

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You see, Dante has a lot to make up for. In a series of rough and bloody animated sequences, we witness each and every sin he committed while fighting the not-so-good fight in the Holy Land. Yeah, the guy deserves his damnation. But his girlfriend, Beatrice, gets a raw deal and is dragged to hell on a technicality. So Dante does what any videogame hero would do — he takes the fight to the devil.

The game was released Tuesday to generally positive reviews, which inspired the wits at Wired to imagine which other literary classics might be mined for future video game material. Some of the obvious ones — Alice in Wonderland, for example — have already been tried. But what about The Canterbury Tales? Or Huckleberry Finn? Or Grapes of Wrath? Remember, you don’t need to worry about being faithful to the source material (the kids won’t know any better).

For example, here’s Wired‘s pitch for Ralph Ellison’s classic look at race in America, Invisible Man:

What’s life like when you’re … invisible? Do you help save the town’s citizens from criminals, or do you rob banks, making it appear as if the money is just floating away? Eventually a Soviet conspiracy begins to unfold and you must sneak into the Russians’ compound to get your hands on their mysterious briefcase. Stay undetected by keeping your Invisibility meter full, or you’ll have to fight in a screen-filling battle royal!

And of course, there’s always room for Kafka:

When Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning from unsettling dreams, he finds he has morphed into Bug Mode. His feelings of inadequacy and insignificance form the basis for this 8-bit 2-D classic. Clamber up and down the buildings of 1912 Prague gobbling garbage power-ups and dodging missiles hurled by the final boss, a castrating patriarch bent on squishing you under his shoe.

Any other suggestions? I’m tossing around the idea for a video game adaptation of Camus’ The Stranger. Meursault is a commando in the French army, tasked with defending Algeria’s beaches from wave after wave of invading Arabs. It’s a work in progress.



  • Brian Saint-Paul

    Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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