Classic Literature/Video Games

Alerting us to a major victory for the world of letters, Mobylives reports that a deal has been reached to make works of literature available on hand-held video game devices:

Japanese video game maker Nintendo has announced a deal with HarperCollins to make classics of world literature available to read on its games playing devices. As a Telegraph report by Murray Wardrop notes, “The unlikely partnership means that the names of computer game characters such as Donkey Kong and Mario will sit alongside the likes of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters on the hand-held gadgets.” Dubbed the 100 Classic Book Collection, the package will cost about £20 (about $30) and will be available initially only in the UK. A Nintendo spokesman said, “We hope to encourage people to try books that they wouldn’t go out and purchase themselves.”

While I appreciate any move that will stave off the long-coming and inevitable destruction of literature and literary culture, this deal reveals a singular lack of imagination on the part of Nintendo and HarperCollins. The possibilities for cross-fertilization between literature and video games — for synergistic magic! — are far more varied and exciting than this.

How much more interesting would it have been to translate classic works of literature, by Austen or the Brontë sisters, into video games? Very. Imagine: Navigate Elizabeth through Pemberley, first-person shooter style, while fighting off Darcy’s zombified (or at least influenza-stricken) servants. In a multiplayer twist, take control of either Stephen or Bloom and, Final Fight-style wallop your way out of Night Town; when Stephen and Bloom team up, the Citizen won’t stand a chance.

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Or, better still, what if we transformed all our most beloved video game characters — Mario, Link, Sonic — into new literary classics. Yes, okay, I’ll admit, Bob Hoskins didn’t turn in a very good performance in the Super Mario Bros. movie — not nearly as good as Captain Lou Albano in the Super Mario Brothers Super Show — but is Super Mario Brothers not, at heart, a story of personal development, a sort of interactive Bildungsroman made for the age of psychedelic growth-accelerating mushrooms?

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Yes, yes it is. I think I needn’t say any more.

(x-posted at Plasma Pool)