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Misinterpreting Classic Literature and Making It A Video Game: Part I


We are just a few months away from the release of Dante's Inferno, the game destined to win the award for most baffling choice of subject mattter. It's true, the game isn't supposed to be a direct interpretation of the Divine Comedy by ol' Dante himself, but rather inspired by the concept and setting. That's fine, I suppose. A direct representation of the epic poem would involve a lot less platforming, combat, and quick-time events and instead be a long, eloquent, wandering exploration of the physical manifestation of 14th century Christian values. I can see the need to take some artistic direction.

Instead we have a game which most would instantaneously call a God of War rip-off, another overly-bleak, over-the-top, platform jumper with ridiculously massive boss fights. This isn't a put-down of God of War, though. Oh no. The series is an excellent example of raising gameplay straight up into the part of the stratosphere known only as "Fucking Epic." But, just like in the wake of every great action movie that really hits the mark there will always be a wave of horrific attempts to meet it that only amount to a pile of steaming dog shit and terrible catch-phrases.

Will this be that?

Who cares. The real thing that's exciting to imagine is that if Dante's Inferno really is a success, will a string of classic literature inspired games hit the market? Will this become a new genre? If so, I'll do my part now and help the developers out a bit with other ideas for games mixed with literature that completely misinterpret everything.

Oliver Twist is one of the many book-children of Charles Dickens, that guy who wrote that Christmas story you've heard of at some point. The one that's been twisted into a thousand variations of books, cartoons, and way-too-creepy animated films. Like that one due out this year loosely based on the story, but starring a CGI pedophile who comes into your room at night.

But before Dickens was helping Jim Carey ruin his career even further, he wrote the ol' classic about a a tiny orphan constantly fighting against a world of petty theft. The book itself is more about walking the line of good and evil and how susceptible both the impoverished and the young are to its wiles.

But, forget about that nonsense. That's boring. But stealing shit? That's awesome.

Here we have a perfect playground for a game of sneaking around and taking what's not yours. Like Assassin's Creed slept with the Thief series and they had a pacifist baby. The game would provide you with a big sandbox version of 1800's London. Sure, the original series didn't take place there, but we're not here for accuracy. A giant burgeoning city like London would be perfect and, since we're in the perfect place for it, it should be completely steampunk. Why not? The genre is somewhat untapped these days. Bioshock proved how cool it could be, for sure, even if making bees come out of your hands isn't technically in any way steampunk. But those guns strapped with tubes and dials sure were badass.

The Oliver Twist game would need gadgets, as does every game in the stealth genre. To amplify gameplay of slowly creeping down hallways, you need funny little high-tech toys to make the experience less of a wait-then-run-then-stop-again process. Splinter Cell has always hit this nail straight on the head, letting you hack computers from vents, slip cameras under doors, and tap into enemy communications. The Thief series defined that these elements can sit well in historical time periods. But we're not here to just remake an old game. We're here to go apeshit with established characters and timelines.

Steampunk ramps up this 1800s era lack of bullet cameras and tazer rifles. Instead, we'll just strap that little orphan with steam-powered harpoon guns and big, grappling-hook launchers with gold pipes and tubes all over them and you've got yourself a mother-fucking game.

The developers we need to take note of Assassin's Creed's crowd system, designed to let the player move realistically through crowded streets. Blending in to your crowds of posh bourgeois and the unwashed masses would be an integral part. So would pickpocketing, of course, and it would play perfectly into that mechanic. Wall-climbing wouldn't hurt either, as parkour gameplay seems to be the thing these days.

But wait, this is getting boring again. Now all we've got is a run-of-the-mill stealth game with a touch of steampunk aesthetic. Something is missing. What could it be? Oh, I got it.


Giant, mechanical, steam-belching robots. Towering steel monoliths with flamethrowers where their eyes should be. I know robots weren't part of the original text, but I'm relatively sure that's what Dicken's was hinting at with his symbolism. I mean, the Oliver Twist game wouldn't be perfect without, well, a twist. As you climb the ranks from simple pickpocket to high-ranking master thief, you would begin to stumble upon a secret. A deep, darkly-hidden secret buried throughout the ancient texts and artifacts you've been stealing. The one thing that powers Britain in its ever-expanding empire.

Mecha-King Arthur.

Yes, the once legendary ruler and Saxon conquerer now lives on in the dank catacombs below the city where he is kept alive and runs the country through antiquated machinery that powers his disembodied head.

Of course, his evil empire would be powered by other fictional and non-fictional characters from literary history. Mecha Merlin, Sherlock Holmes's brain in a jar running a giant spider machine, Jack the Ripper. All these guys would have their brains or bodies resurrected into horrible mini-bosses to power the empire. Imagine that. Jack the Ripper as a massive steel half-machine, half-serial killer robot with an over-sized blade for a hand. Brilliant.

Timeline would be irrelevant, considering some of these characters didn't exist until after Oliver Twist was a thing. The only relevant thing would be how to mash-up British literary characters into an offensive action/stealth game where their limbs would be replaced ridiculously large miniguns.

The game would pack itself with plenty of weapon upgrades, adding more pipes and knobs to your illogical weapons of mass destruction and sometimes stealth. Brass buttoned vests that deflect bullets? Sure. Gold-plated jet-packs? Absolutely. Pocket-watches that turn your invisible? I think they had those. Guns that shoot tiny knives? Absolutely yes! Nothing is too over-the-top for this masterpiece.

Is this a new genre forming before our eyes? Will game designers start tearing apart classic stories for video game material, horrifically mangling the original in the process?

If it means shooting silver bullets from my steam-powered super-revolver at a robo-werewolf reincarnation of Robin Hood, then I really hope so.
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About AwesomeExMachinaone of us since 6:13 PM on 07.28.2009

Twenty four years ago I was adorable. Now I'm inquisitive and hilarious.

I have a plastic tooth to replace one lost in a mosh pit during my more ridiculous high school years. I speak shitty German and I ride a bike. My Xbox gets so much use, I'm sometimes embarassed. But I'm unemployed, so my time is spent writing blogs on the internet, reading good literary fiction, and playing video games.

In the grand scale of things, I'm a late-bloomer. My parents banned all consoles from my house as a kid. See what you've done? Now I game constantly to make up for years of lost time.

I won't list my favorites, because you've probably seen ten lists like it before me.

There's a life-sized Boba Fett standee in my living room.

No Clip Series:
Grand Theft Auto IV
Fallout New Vegas
Red Dead Redemption

The Slapstick Cephalopod: An Interview with the Octodad Team
Chicago Night Fights: Marvel vs Capcom 3
Inventing the Paint: An Interview with Author Tom Bissell
Top 10 Greatest Tiny Video Game Characters

Front-Paged Monthly Musings:
Groundhog Day: The Liberty to Pursue
Teh Bias: Critical Errors at Surface Level
Alternate Reality:Time for a new job
Something About E3: Imaginings from 20 Years Ago
The Great Escape: Tiny plastic guitars and wiimotes
My Expertise: Latent Racial Bonus
The Future: Overdoing the Over-the-Top
Love/Hate: A Gentleman's Baffling Love for Collecting Furniture
Nothing is Sacred: Games Taking Themselves Too Seriously

Worth reading:
We Are Destructoid
Writing on the Wall: How Graffiti Builds Universes
Combating Lawlessness in the Wild West of Red Dead Redemption
Being a Coward on Purpose
What Bringing About the Fictional Zombie Apocalypse Taught Me About Game Design
Why Video Game Designers Need to Watch the Road Warrior
The Needless Shit We Gamers Do

Xbox LIVE:The Disco Pony
PSN ID:The Disco Pony


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