Friday, July 24, 2009

Abandon All Hope...

A while back, Electronic Arts announced that they were adapting Dante's Inferno as an action video game, as a sort of God of War clone, but one in which a Medieval Christian iconography, as depicted in the first canticle of the Commedia, is substituted for the Greek mythos. If that makes no sense to you... that's because it makes no sense. Look:

I've been trying to figure out what to make of this. My initial reaction was unmitigated hostility. That anyone could even think any aspect of the Commedia was suitable material for an action game boggled and enraged me. And that then shifted into a sort of anxious curiosity. Translations, even from one medium to another, are not necessarily, in theory, doomed undertakings. But now that I've looked at some of their publicity material and seen some of their PR stunts, the hostility is back. The game is shaping up to be an offensive, ugly parody of Dante's intention... a prurient and savage mockery of his moral and religious kerygma. Leaving aside the more obvious narrative departures (especially what looks to be an unforgiveable mutilation of Beatrice), the developers seem either not to understand or, I think more likely, to be willfully working against the poem, as can be seen here, where they talk about their interpretation of the Circle of Lust. I can only assume most of them, if they've even read the Inferno, read it only to revel within, and now exaggerate, the poem's strong images. I'm going to guess that, if the game is even partially successful, the sequel will not be called Dante's Purgatorio or Dante's Paradiso.

It's not so much the imagery and art direction of the video above that agitates me. It's the fact that this - this! - is being called an interpretation of the Inferno. If you want to make a game about hell and about a warrior (not a poet or a pilgrim, but a warrior) dismembering demons and damned souls... fine. But don't call it the Inferno. Don't bring Dante into it.

In the past, I have posted about the Commedia. Dante's work, not only the Commedia but also his lesser-known works like La Vita Nuova, have had a profound impact upon me. In my personal canon, the Commedia is a central text - not a planet but a star around which spins an entire textual universe. To see it used like this, reduced like this... it feels a bit like witnessing a sex crime, one committed against Dante, against Beatrice, against the entire history of Western literature.

I hope this game fails... I mean really fails.


Nevis said...

You've got very specific opinions on this game, don't you? It sad, but it's pretty much like they just took the name and a few concepts and that's pretty much it, rght? I mean, did you really expect the game to tell the story?

dcornelius said...

No, I didn't expect it to stick to the story (how could it!), but it could have been possible to make this... or something like this... without completely trampling the source.

Life of Turner said...

But really, Dan, what do you think? I'm with you, though - the idea of using these classic works and cheapening them churns my stomach. I just hope they don't consider making Hamlet: The Prince's Vengeance or The Wife of Bath's Tale into video games. Sigh.


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