Video games. High literature. They have nothing in common. True or False?
Last August, I wrote about Gaming and Literature, citing the pervasive influence of JRR Tolkien's Middle Earth on fantasy gaming online and off, just for starters. For those who think Tolkien is just genre trash, I hauled out EA's then-in-development game Dante's Inferno. I could foresee... issues... with the way the game was likely to play out, but said "...should this game inspire just one person to discover the original poem or excite discussion in online forums, over water coolers, and perhaps even at library events, then who has grounds to complain that Dante wields Death's own scythe in service to this unique retelling?"
I could only hope like hell something good could come of it. (Wordplay deliberate, there.)
Today comes word that at least one young man was just so inspired. Read about it here.
(Go, read! Shoo! Key point it includes is this, heard at a library: "Hey, Mom! See this book? He grabbed a copy of Inferno, the first book in Dante Alighieri's trilogy The Divine Comedy. Remember that game you bought me? This is the book it was based on, but this book is even sicker than the game! It was awesome!" Really, go read. Game Couch has lots more juicy goodness on the site for you to explore, beyond just this one post.)
Because of the game, the boy got his hands on this book. To judge by that comment, he actually read it. Can you imagine how hard his English teacher might have had to work to achieve this under other circumstances? "Read this really long poem by this Italian guy who died in 1321, translated by another important old poet who died in 1882." I suspect "reluctant reader" wouldn't begin to describe it.
I'm also bemused that the young man finds Inferno "even sicker than the game" when games are widely castigated as being the source of all that is sick and unholy and foul in the world today. No one would ever discuss banning Dante's Inferno the Poem, though; no sirree.
EA has done insanely stupid things to garner publicity for the game. They apologized but it was still insanely stupid. Not so stupid was for them to partner with Random House for a special release of the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation of Dante Alighieri's famous poem.
You need copies of this edition on your shelves. I'm sure you have other editions with covers that do not make it a mere video game tie-in, but let's cut to the chase. Which is more important: getting the masterwork of world literature in the hands of an excited reader, or worrying about what's on the cover?
My deep thanks go to @GameCouch on Twitter for making sure I heard about this. And in answer to the Game Couch blogger Aramis, I'd put down my money that this is not a fluke, and that boy won't be the only person to read the original with delight after getting into the game.
Republished with permission from Liz Danforth.
Liz Danforth is a old school game illustrator, scenario designer, and writer who was inducted into the Academy of Gaming Arts and Design's Hall of Fame in 1996. She has worked in libraries for two decades and blogs for Library Journal . Follow her on Twitter @LizDanforth and at http://www.lizdanforth.com.