Day 43

5.03: Good morning. I’m back, and this time it’s just about passable.

I think I may have blown a fuse or two in Brazil. I know how whoever it was left his heart in San Francisco feels; I left my brain up a tree in downtown Rio de Janeiro. If you’re passing by the Praça Quinze corner of Rua do Mercado anytime soon & find it being pecked at by frigate birds, do write in.

Anyway, more of that, perhaps, some other time (I say that quite a lot don’t I?). This morning the bee buzzing in my bonnet is all to do with canonical works of literature that somone’s turned – or might turn – into a computer game.

In response to the release of the game version Dante’s Inferno while I was away, Wired magazine has come up with a few suggestions of the classics which would suit being digi-interacticizated.

My favourite from their list is Kafka’s Metamorphosis:

When Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning from unsettling dreams, he finds he has morphed into Bug Mode. His feelings of inadequacy and insignificance form the basis for this 8-bit 2-D classic. Clamber up and down the buildings of 1912 Prague gobbling garbage power-ups and dodging missiles hurled by the final boss, a castrating patriarch bent on squishing you under his shoe.

Also I fancy a crack at what sounds like a damnably addictive Moby Dick:

Nantucket fishermen can kiss my blowhole. Built on the same engine used in Ecco the Dolphin and Jaws Unleashed, this game casts you as an albino sperm whale, roaming the seas and getting cetacean on puny humans’ asses. Dodge their harpoons, crush their ships and gobble their limbs.

But in proposing to make Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man into a computer game they’re blundering wildly. Surely the point about being invisible is that you could do what you want limited only by your imagination (as well as the obvious limitations like not being able to fly or warm soup in your shoes just by telekinesis). But when you play a computer game it comes already filtered by the imagination of the guy that made it in the first place, strained again through sieve of what the computer he wrote it for can actually achieve. In a world like that, surely invisibility would mainly entail the game player being forced “live out” some software developer’s sordid sexual fantasies, while thinking depressively about the the widening, engorging vacuum spreading from the core of his being. Then you’d just reach for the whisky bottle and shot gun.

I’ve got a better idea: The Faerie Queene. It’s perfect computer game fodder: set in a vast imaginary place called Faerie Land, which is full of challenges like monsters and chaste maidens in distress. Spenser wrote The Faerie Queene “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in virtuous and gentle discipline.” So in this game you measure your success not by how many fights you win, but by how patrician and sophisticated you become through winning them. Now it gets interesting. I propose the game be played in perpetual virtual reality, in which the players wear helmets all the time, and while they’re going about their daily life, a camera in the helmet translates the challenges they face at work and in the supermarket, on the bus on in the bath, into their equivalent scenes from The Faerie Queene. Then they rack up their points total by pounding monsters made of tricky emails to senior colleagues into a powdered sludge of gristle and bone. Last one to bag a title, estate and a place at court’s a knavish poltroon.

6.55: Well that didn’t go too badly, after a shaky start. The tricky chapter, I think, is finally licked, so tomorrow will be a day of frontiers new and lands of untold riches. Forward troops. Hang onto your hats and don’t spare the horses.

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~ by David Thorley on February 18, 2010.

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