Friday, November 1, 2013

The Tempest: The Video Game

This post was originally written for a Shakespeare Class at BYU. See it here.

The following is a brief list of quotes from The Tempest that take on a whole new meaning when you think of the play in the context of video games:

"She / Is daughter to this famous Duke of Milan, / Of whom so often I have heard renown, / But never saw before; of whom I have / Received a second life..."

(Ferdinand, 5.1.212-216)

Water Nymph
CC by zionenciel

"Go make thyself like a nymph o' the sea: be subject / To no sight but thine and mine, invisible / To every eyeball else."

(Prospero, 1.2.354-356)

"O, wonder! / How many goodly creatures are there here! / How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, / That has such people in't!"

(Miranda, 5.1.203-206)

These are a few tongue-in-cheek examples, obviously, but I think they help establish a connection quickly, even if it is a shallow connection.

What really intrigues me, though, are the more profound, relevant connections that come up from certain themes. The first and perhaps most obvious is vision vs. reality, captured most poignantly in the following lines (As some may have already heard me explain, this quote comes at an important part of the play where Prospero, the exiled duke of Milan and self-made sorcerer by reading books, shows his daughter Miranda and her love Ferdinand a great vision, and Ferdinand says he wants to stay on the magic island forever):

"These our actors, / As I foretold you, were all spirits and / Are melted into air, into thin air: / And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, / The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, / The solemn temples, the great globe itself, / Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve / And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, / Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep."

(Prospero 4.1.161-171) 

The point made in these lines has perhaps never been more relevant, especially for gamers. All they "have" or "achieve" in a game is really just "baseless fabric...such stuff as dreams are made on" that they can't take into real life. Prospero doesn't have his powers before he lives on the island, and as he leaves the island he forsakes his powers, making the island somewhat like Prospero's "game."

Additionally, I think a video game could help pull out other themes of the play that are on more of a subtextual level. One example is with the character of Caliban:

"All the charms / Of Sycorax, toads, beetles, bats, light on you! / For I am all the subjects that you have, / Which first was mine own king: and here you sty me / In this hard rock, whiles you do keep from me / The rest o' the island."
(Caliban 1.2.389-394) 

Screenshot of Bioshock
CC BY Chadrew
Prospero gained his power after reaching the island--we're not sure how long it took him. However, at some point he had to decide to enslave Caliban and the spirits of the island. Many have connected Caliban with natives that Europeans enslaved upon reaching the new world, bringing up themes of power, abuse, and slavery. An RPG/Adventure game of The Tempest could extend this theme interestingly with game mechanics. The game could be designed as such that the player knows he/she can enslave Caliban, but may not want to morally and so consider that maybe they could get by without him. However, inevitably, the player could be forced to realize that he/she has to enslave Caliban to carry on. (A similar situation to this happens in Bioshock with the Little Sisters.)

This in turn brings a new interpretation to the play itself and the character of Prospero. Prospero has often been interpreted as angry and domineering, but as players play the game version set up like this, it could open a new interpretation of a Prospero turning to his powers to survive as he tries to rebuild his life after exile.

In any case, I hope this post shows that there are at least several possibilities for intersections between video games and The Tempest that not only take advantage of the supernatural elements in the play, but also explore and enhance its themes, ultimately enriching both the play and the video game medium.

(Lines and line numbers taken from Shakespeare Searched.)

No comments:

Post a Comment