Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Games as a gateway to cultural literacy?

There's a new video game out called Dante's Inferno. It's based on Dante's epic vision o' hell, changing a couple of plot elements but sticking with the nine levels and all the monsters, plus many of the shades mentioned in the poem. And check it out: my students seem mildly interested in actually reading it now.


I'm not the sorta dude who scoffs or sneers at anything that makes a kid pick up a classic, so I applaud EA for doing this and I'm actually somewhat tempted to try out the game; what I'm loving, though, is the fact that students were interested in a classic that's not precisely easy reading. It's COOL reading, no doubt, but neither is it simple stuff.

Here's what happened: my spiffy Asst. Editor at Del Rey, Mike Braff, sent me a copy of the companion book, Dante's Inferno (the complete text of the Longfellow translation) with screen shots of the game and how they developed it, etc. Here's a link to the book. He signed it and I offered it to the kids as a giveaway in a drawing. I asked 'em to write their names on a scrap o' paper if they wanted to go for it, and over half of them did. Think about it: teenagers interested in reading a classic on their own initiative? That's...amazing! Hopeful! A new dawn, perhaps?

Now, if only they'd make games for other classics! How about The Great Gatsby? You have to save Gatsby and make Tom and Daisy pay for their carelessness! You can't let the rich people get away with everything! Stop them! Run over Daisy with Gatsby's car!

I think Robert E. Howard's stories would adapt well to the video game milieu. You're Conan the Barbarian, master thief and master, uh, barbarian. You try to steal stuff, and if you fail, just kill everything until you escape! Yeah! That's entertainment!

Seriously, I'm grateful to EA for the Neato Idea. I hope it works out well for them, and I hope many young'uns will discover Dante as a result.

No comments:

Post a Comment