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Games Entertainment

Turning Classic Literary Works Into Games 93

Adventure Classic Gaming is running an interview with Chris Tolworthy, an indie game designer who is working on a project to make video games out of various literary classics. His decision to develop these kinds of games was sparked by a desire to reach out to gamers who want more "serious" subject matter, as well as finding an audience among people you would find in a book store, rather than a game store. Tolworthy has already released one game, an adaptation of Les Misérables, and has almost finished Dante's Divine Comedy. After that is done, he'll move on to other works, including Theogeny, by Hesiod, and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, aiming for two or three releases a year. He said, "I try to keep as close as possible to the original text. When I create a game I simply go through the book and adapt it chapter by chapter. As far as possible all my puzzles are based on ideas in the original book. So my Dante's Inferno is a lot closer to the book than EA Games' Dante's Inferno that changes Dante into a warrior with a giant scythe! Although I stick closely to the story, I would find it boring to only give the straight text, so my games always give a different twist. For example, I show Les Miserables from the point of view of a minor character who dies early on. In my Divine Comedy I show other points of view as well as Dante's, and they don't see things the same way. Really, what I'm doing is what theater directors do when they put a Shakespeare play into a modern setting. It's the exact same story, but presented in a new way."
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Turning Classic Literary Works Into Games

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  • Re:Spoiler? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SailorSpork ( 1080153 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @07:11AM (#28925079) Homepage

    Not every work of classic literature has to have *all* the major plot twists known. Hell, I bet the core gamer target for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies [] hasn't even read Pride and Prejudice!

  • by catherder_finleyd ( 322974 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @08:04AM (#28925317)

    An even better subject for a Steinbeck game would be "Grapes of Wrath". It could play well as both a historical learning game, and as a current events social commentary game.

  • Re:Spoiler? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mjm1231 ( 751545 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @10:48AM (#28927395)
    I agree in principle that any book/movie/play whatever is worth experiencing again, and therefore is not ruined by knowing the ending, though I think most people prefer their first experience of the ending to be firsthand.
    However, I disagree with the case of Usual Suspects. The ending basically undoes the entire movie. What you just watched was completely made up by Spacey's character. A slightly more sophisticated version of "and then I woke up." At the end, if the interrogating officer is left looking like a fool for falling for it, what does that make the audience?
  • by KillerBob ( 217953 ) on Monday August 03, 2009 @01:20PM (#28929895)

    Readers want to see characters fail and overcome; players ARE the characters, and don't want the hit on their ego. We're fascinated by characters in books, but rarely would want to _be_ that character.

    You've got it exactly... but some games do a pretty good job with it, though... they can, for example, play a couple of prologue/training levels and then take over in cutscene, depicting the fall, and then you give control back to the player so they can pick themselves up again. The real problem with adapting books to games is that books follow a linear story, where gamers these days expect a go-anywhere-do-anything environment. They expect to be given the choices, where they're made for you in a book.

    Perhaps the answer is to take the setting/universe of a book, and set a game there? That might work for MMO-type stories. The alternative is to tell a story/adventure based on a minor side character in a major literary work... the action is an aside from the main storyline depicted in the work it's based on. The story revolves around the one we all know, and events in the one we all know are referenced, but the main storyline in the game itself is different. In a sense, we get told two different stories at the same time... I'm thinking of the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead as a perfect example of the kind of meta-story I'm talking about.

    They could also set the game in either the epilogue or the prologue surrounding the events described in the book we all know. American McGee's Alice is a perfect example of that kind of storytelling.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351