While literary classics rarely get turned into video games, they share some DNA. Where would role-playing games be without “The Lord of the Rings”? What would horror games such as “Silent Hill” look like without the influence of H.P. Lovecraft?
So turning a 700-year-old poem into a video game — as Electronic Arts has done with “Dante’s Inferno” — really isn’t that much of a stretch. “It’s such a powerful, universal concept,” says executive producer Jonathan Knight.
When Knight, a veteran of more lighthearted projects such as “The Sims 2” and “The Simpsons Game,” started thinking about an adventure set in hell, he turned to “The Inferno.”
“Dante synthesized hundreds of years of theological debate, reached back into myth and created this amazingly rich and detailed work,” Knight says. “Why do all the work all over again?”
Comparing the V-shaped map of the nine circles of hell to a game-design document, Knight points out that “Dante even spec’d out a boss character for each level.” And, of course, “the last boss is Lucifer.”
Still, the Dante of “The Inferno” is a mostly passive observer, so EA’s Visceral Games studio took some liberties. “We needed a hero who was a warrior, with a reason to be fighting,” Knight says — so, in the game, Dante’s beloved Beatrice has been kidnapped by Lucifer.
Phil Marineau, EA’s brand manager for “Dante’s Inferno,” acknowledges that reaction to such changes has been mixed. “Some people understand what we’re doing,” Marineau says. “Of course, some wanted us to leave a literary classic alone.”
However, Marineau argues: “Artists throughout history have interpreted ‘Dante’s Inferno’ in their own media. And video games are a new art form.”