Publishers Need Modernization, Not Dante’s Inferno

Posted on July 12, 2010

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Taking a hard look in the mirror, and seeing myself through the eyes of my family and friends, it’s apparent that I am a lover of video games first and a lover of the written word second. That being said, ever since seeing the announcement of Dante’s Inferno, I’ve had an unsettled feeling in my stomach for EA’s take on the classic work of literature.

Why Dante’s Inferno gave me agita as opposed to other titles that pervert original work I can’t say. Honestly, I’ve never played the game. Maybe between all the shoddy adaptations released by the motion picture, video game, and literature industries, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Despite my usual tendencies to pick up the sticks and play, seeing Dante Alighieri’s poem perverted broke my heart, and I couldn’t find it worth my $60 to support that type of effort from the publisher.

More questions come to mind than answers. Why would EA use the Divine Comedy to make an action title? In no way is main character Dante depicted as a crusader mercenary in the poem. He’s not even brave. He’s flawed, frail, and faces Hell with the same naked fear any average mortal should. I’d love to play a flawed, sympathetic character like Dante in a non-action game. The video game industry being bloated with sword toting alpha-males, it is my opinion that  using The Inferno to expand beyond sword fighting archetypes would honor Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece and the video game industry at the same time.

If EA bought rights to the IP, why not use all of its components to make a dramatic experience closer to Heavy Rain or Mass Effect using emotions as a weapon, rather than a bone scythe? As famous as it is, EA didn’t need to use The Inferno’s name to make sales, because the work is far enough removed from the gamer population to not immediately ring a bell. But, rather than breaking barriers with classic literature through the lens of a video game, EA turned the Divine Comedy into a bad joke guised as an adaptation for “a new generation and a new medium.”

Assuming that the Divine Comedy’s story doesn’t fit today’s culture not only insults the literature, but it insults us. We can handle a deep and real experience with life, death, sin, and virtue. We don’t need publishers to dumb down content by making it into a generic action game. We can handle more. In fact, we’re craving more.

To be fair, reading the Divine Comedy isn’t easy–even interpreted versions tax the reader while its brilliance enlightens us. So, livening up the work can be excused. But, EA and Visceral Games changed virtually everything except for the setting–which was heavily altered to fit the vision of the designers. The best case scenario would be to use video games as a method to tell Dante Alighieri’s story as it should be told. To show gamers the fascinating world of The Inferno would be a remarkable step forward for the industry and prove yet again the power of video games to enrich people’s lives. Similarly, Beowulf released as a 3D motion picture and did the original poem justice, profited, and entertained all at the same time. I’m sure a rich company like EA can accomplish the same feat.

This is not to say that the game was a failure or a broken product. What I am saying, is that if EA wanted to sell a game where players fought their way out of hell, you don’t have to use The Inferno to achieve that. Any generic story filled in with hellish creatures pit against a righteous warrior would do. Why, oh why, use coveted literature?

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Posted in: Op-Ed