Shakespeare MMO cancelled; do literary games have any hope?

An MMO set in the world of William Shakespeare may sound like hell to you, but for bookworm-turned-nerds such as myself, it sounded like a completely fascinating concept. Unfortunately, Arden: The World of William Shakespeare has been officially abandoned by its creator, Edward Castronova, who has released it to the public as is. Edward says “he was taking on too much by attempting to combine education and research. He believes that his experience should serve as a warning for other academics.”

It seems that Castronova was shooting for the stars with the ambitious project, thinking of it as World of Warcraft for the literary. I believe this may have been part of the mistake — while Castronova had $250,00 to create the title from a MacArthur grant, it isn’t quite the same realm as the $75 million that went into WoW. An indie project should be treated as such. You can’t get much more indie than an MMO set in the 1600s.

I’d like to hear your voices on this one: Do games like this ever have a chance? Castronova himself cited one of the biggest failures of the game was its “lack of fun.”  BioShock was considered an “intelligent” exercise in gaming and met with resounding approval, but the shooter formula paired with the setting and underlying concepts seemed have the magic to make it work. What makes it happen for gamers on this situation?

Can literature have a place in the gaming world, or is it simply a poor pairing, better left to educational PC games that no one buys?

[Via Technology Review — thanks, Justin!]

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Colette Bennett
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