Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dante's Inferno - the Game

I kid you not.

From About this Game:
"Inspired by the real Dante Alighieri, but adapted for a new generation and a new medium, the hero of the game is a soldier who defies death and fights for love against impossible odds. The Italian mercenary Dante returns home from the wars to find that his beloved Beatrice has been murdered, and her soul pulled down into Hell by a dark force. He gives chase, and vows to get her back. For weapons, he wields Death's soul-reaping scythe, and commands holy powers of the cross, given to him by Beatrice."

And then it goes on to say:
"At the midpoint on the journey of life, I found myself in a dark forest, for the clear path was lost" (opening line of The Divine Comedy). In the game, Dante goes on a spectacular journey through the afterlife to save his beloved Beatrice from the clutches of evil. But what starts out as a rescue mission quickly changes into a redemption story, where Dante must confront his own dark past and the sins he carries with him into Hell. He faces the epic inhospitable terrain of the underworld, huge monsters and guardians, sinister demons, the people and sins of his past, and the ultimate traitor: Lucifer himself."

OK. So let me get this straight. EA Games has released a video game based on Dante? And apparently Dante fights creatures and kills Lucifer? And they thought it was a good idea? I am appalled on so many levels I just don't know where to begin. He's not there to save Beatrice... here's there to save HIMSELF. And he certainly doesn't wield a scythe.

::she sputters with indignation::

This is a work that is full of political and religious allegory and allusion. It's not an action adventure story like you'd find in Robert Jordan or Tom Clancy or Douglas Preston. The Divine Comedy is a Christian story - a Catholic story - steeped in St. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. As Dorothy Sayers put it:
We must also be prepared, while we are reading Dante, to accept the Christian and Catholic view of ourselves as responsible rational beings. We must abandon any idea that we are the slaves of chance, or environment, or our subconscious; any vague notion that good and evil are merely relative terms, or that conduct and opinion do not really matter; any comfortable persuasion that, however shiftlessly we muddle through life, it will somehow or other all come right on the night. We must try to believe that man's will is free, that he can consciously exercise choice, and that his choice can be decisive to all eternity. For The Divine Comedy is precisely the drama of the soul's choice. It is not a fairy-story, but a great Christian allegory, deriving its power from the terror and splendour of the Christian revelation. Clear, hard thought went to its making: its beauty is of that solid and indestructible sort that is built upon a framework of nobly proportioned bones. If we ignore the theological structure, and merely browse about in it for detached purple passages and poetic bits and pieces we shall be disappointed, and never see the architectural grandeur of the poem as a whole.*
So the game creators expect us to leave this vast richness behind, and treat Dante like we would any two-bit crappy author, ready for conversion to an action adventure movie and a video game and action figures??!? Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

*From the introduction to her translation of The Divine Comedy.

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