Video game giant Entertainment Arts has found inspiration in literature — specifically, Dante Alighieri's classic "The Divine Comedy." In the company's heavily-promoted new title "Inferno," the poet goes to war against Satan's armies — including "a giant Cleopatra demon who spurts knife-wielding unbaptized children out of her nipples" — armed only with a scythe and fireball-spewing crucifix. While some Dante scholars are up in arms over what they see as a crass commercialization of the 700-year-old epic poem, a prominent gaming site lauds "Inferno" as a "metaphysical journey" that engages players "morally and existentially." Does EA's new game desecrate or celebrate Dante's work? (Watch a trailer for the "Dante's Inferno" video game)
EA deserves kudos: While the concept of creating a video game from a classic novel's storyline is a "highbrow idea that deserves praise," says Dan Ackerman at CNET News, playing "Dante's Inferno" isn't quite the same as reading the original. Truly, "we weep" for the poor freshman who will try to muddle through a class assignment based on the game rather than "springing for the Cliffs Notes."
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Why wreck a great poem? The audience for this game is "ill-matched" to Dante's original, says Rick Dakan at Joystiq. And if this product is really designed to spark interest in classic literature, then EA shouldn't market it with "tasteless and crass" ads like the one that aired during the Super Bowl. What's next, a game version of T.S. Eliot's 'Wasteland'? "April is the cruelest month… for kicking ass!"
The original's majesty remains intact: The video game uses the "Dante's Inferno" storyline only as a "light marketing skin," says Seth Schiesel at The NY Times. Aside from brief scenes where a Virgil character "spouts lines from the poem," there's nothing to separate this Hell from "any of the...thousands of generic hells" in other games. Scholars needn't worry though: "After so many centuries," Dante's classic "can withstand something as fleeting as being used to hawk a video game."
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