Saturday, January 30, 2010

Inferno, Re-imagined

Today I stumbled across this article in the NYT about a new video game called "Dante's Inferno." It's going to be released in February. In this re-imagining, Dante is no longer the passive poet making his way through Hell with Virgil's guidance. Instead, they've turned him into a muscular, scythe wielding knight just back from the Crusades to find that his beloved Beatrice has been murdered. Our old friend Scratch grabs Beatrice's soul and spirits her off to Hell. The rest is pretty much as you might imagine: Super Crusader Knight takes on hordes of demons, etc. as he battles his way through the nine (9) circles of Hell.

Apparently, a book of Dante's Inferno has been released in conjunction with the game. Same words, same classic poem but with a mega-buffed Dante on the cover. See pic below:


I especially love the "Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" there on the lower left side and the "16-page full-color insert and special introduction from the game's executive producer." What could the game's executive producer say about this classic poem that a scholar can't?

A look at the website and the trailer for the animated movie shows Dante running, jumping, and slicing and dicing his way through the nine circles. Yes, they are coming out with an animated movie in conjunction with the release of the game. Sounds like a DVD to be sold along with the game itself.

This whole thing is pretty funny, but I have to say the official website does have a section where they give a time line of Dante's life, the Divine Comedy, and its tremendous influence. I wonder if this game will inspire teenage boys to seek out the original Inferno. They will find that it is not an easy read and that the real Dante is not an action hero. Speaking of which the company is releasing a Dante action figure:

In the game, Dante's weapons include his massive scythe and the holy powers of the cross given to him by Beatrice. Dante is told that he must not only find Beatrice to save her but also confront his own sins and find his own salvation. I wonder about the religious components in such a game, and what effect they have during game play. Probably no effect at all.

In spite of my initial curiosity I'll have to content myself with not playing this game since I don't own any of the gaming platforms. They should do a game of the Odyssey next, if they haven't already. Odysseus was not only a warrior but had a "cunning intelligence" and the Odyssey is a great adventure ripe for this kind of weird treatment.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thanks for this post. I was aware of the Dante's Inferno game but didn't know about the NY Times article. I played a demo of the Xbox 360 game and thought nothing of the literary implications. Though not as familiar with the original source material as I ought to be, I assumed they had borrowed with vast creative license and had no expectation that the game would adhere with any legitimacy to the artistic intent of the original story. It's not the first time that a video game has utilized literary references for inspiration. 2007's "Bioshock" video game used the philosophic quandaries presented by Ayn Rand to tell the story of a fantastic underwater city besieged with corruption and its ultimate destruction. 2005's God of War used Greek mythology as a background. For an interesting take on Lewis Carroll, check out 2000's "American McGee's Alice" (I also have a mid-90s Japanese Alice-inspired CD-ROM "Myst"-like exploratory game called "Through the Looking Glass" - more video game imagery inspired by "Alice"). (I'd be interested in reading a thorough take on literature in gaming, which I'm sure someone has written.) Unfortunately, too much of the content of these games is pure button-mashing action. I would prefer some form of virtual-reality storytelling with less reliance and hacking, slashing, running and shooting. I don't find it a completely bad thing, though, that more of literature is being used within these games. Our cultural tapestry, which now includes artistically viable video games is weaving together many different influences; we can't exclude some games from being taken seriously as an art form. I'm looking forward to a good, immersive video game take on "Moby Dick," as I don't believe that's been done yet. It's getting there; witness the 3-D filmic takes on "Beowulf" and Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." It wouldn't take much more of a technological push to put virtual cameras directly into the hands of viewers/players. Great works of literature can be a source of artistic renewal and continual exploration. The question is how to keep the original author's artistic intentions intact. (Sorry for the blathering!)