Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"To Be or Not To Be": A Hilariously Irreverent Romp through Hamlet



     A new game was released on February 4th that I knew would be a game changer (no pun intended) in the field of Video Games as Literature. As soon as I saw the game for sale, I gleefully purchased it. Unlike the bitter disappointment that was "Hamlet: Or the Last Game..." yadayada, I had faith that this new game, titled "To Be or Not to Be," would be excellent, regardless of its unoriginal title. After all, Kate Beaton of "Hark! A Vagrant" was involved!
   I got around to playing the game a week later, and played through several storyline options, of which there are probably hundreds or thousands, being that this game is based on the format of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. Not only is this game hilarious, but it shows clear knowledge of its subject matter. The game satirizes the play upon which it is based (William Shakespeare's Hamlet) with finesse, but also finds time to parody or satirize many other cultures and ideas, such as modern teenage culture, feminism and anti-feminism, Elizabethan culture, etc. The humor is vast, yet retains some semblance of intellectualism in every passage.
     One of the greatest things about this game is that it IS, in fact, a video game, but is almost entirely text based. "Choose Your Own Adventure" books were often short and contained few individual "adventures," but in the case of "To Be or Not To Be," had it been in book form, it would have been thick and daunting, as there are so many different adventure options to choose from. It is possible to play through the story almost exactly as it goes in the play, and I tried to do this, but there are so many hilarious options to choose instead that I have yet to actually play the story in its truest form. The game also uses these options to pick apart the flaws in the original story (usually flaws as seen through a modern lens), and you can't help but to take a more rational route than the one chosen by the characters in the original story. I also hear there is a storyline in which you can become a pirate, but I haven't found that one yet.
     Most importantly, however, is the fact that the game almost achieves the impossible by making Hamlet (the person) actually likable! Ophelia is portrayed as a highly intelligent feminist, significantly ahead of her time, but Hamlet is shown for what he truly is: a 30-something-year-old teenager.
     To conclude: this game can be enjoyed by anyone. Even if you never read or saw the play (or any of the terrible film adaptations), you will enjoy this game. It is comedy at its best, while still teaching Shakespeare laymen the basic premise and plot of the story (just don't expect to be able to write a school paper having played this game alone! Your teacher will become suspicious when you start to talk about ninjas).

    You can read my brief Steam review here, and as another treat for Steam users, I have started a Steam group for anyone interested in the subject of Video Games as Literature! Check the group out here!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Updates and Intentions

Hello Friends and Followers!

Web Address Changes
     If any of you have tried to visit the blog in the last week, you will have noticed that the address has changed! I have purchased the domain videogamesasliterature.com and am still in the process of figuring out the mechanics of getting it re-hosted, etc. For the time being, the address for the blog is blog.videogamesasliterature.com. This may change in the future, but you can always still visit the old blogger/blogspot link and it will redirect you. I am working on changing my links on social media to reflect this, and if you have anything linking to my blog, it would be good if you changed your links, as well.


Intentions for Upcoming Posts
     I have several projects in the works to post over the course of the coming month or two. I was ecstatic to see that a game called To Be or Not to Be was released last Wednesday. Though I purchased the game on release day, I have yet to play it. Rest assured, however, that as soon as I have played the game you will be hearing my thoughts! My expectations may be high, but I hope that will not be the case. After all, the game's description promises "The greatest work in English literature, now in the greatest format of English literature: a chooseable-path adventure! William Shakespeare’s Hamlet has finally been restored to its original second-person non-linear branching narrative format. Now it’s up to YOU to decide what happens next. Play as Hamlet and revenge your father’s death. Play as Ophelia and make scientific discoveries. Play as King Hamlet, Sr. and die on the first page!" (Steam, About this Game) Finally, I may have discovered the true link between video games and literature! I feel like Sean Connery, when his son, Harrison Ford, found the Holy Grail! Except without the dying part.
     I will also be reviewing a book entitled Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know about Narrative Techniques. I haven't nearly finished it yet, but I am excited to read about narrative technique from the point of view of a game developer. My hope is that this book will fit well with my arguments regarding the strong connection between what a video game is and what society perceives as "literature".

As always, feel free to comment with suggestions on games that you believe fit the literary theme, or books that you have to recommend!