Rookie of the Year: Use Your Allusion
The following is the latest in a series of journal entries chronicling the author’s descent into next-gen gaming degeneracy – from getting his first television in years to trying to figure out why the @$@”$)@ you need two goddamn directional pads just to walk down a fucking hallway.
One of the pitfalls of writing this Rookie of the Year column is that many of my epiphanies about the videogames I’m playing are ancient history to the gaming world.
I think I’ve stumbled upon something that’s in my wheelhouse, and a quick Google search confirms it was covered six years ago and written about to death ever since.
Case in point: BioShock and Ayn Rand. I’ve now played a good deal of BioShock, and I’ve read more than my share of Rand. The similarities are so great, and so intentional, that I almost feel as if I’m playing the videogame version of Atlas Shrugged.
I won’t run through all the connections. Someone added them to Wikipedia long ago, and there are probably a thousand different tiny URLs linking to it from a thousand lit majors’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
So where does this leave me? I had first envisioned this column as a faux high school English paper, the conceit being I’d played too much BioShock to finish my book report on The Fountainhead.
Oh, the irony.
Now, I feel like I should be writing the exact opposite: why I stopped reading and started playing videogames.
Why bother reading when all the great works of fiction could be so elegantly ported to my Xbox?
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions off the top of my head – some of them short stories and plays – that could inspire developers. I expect to see some of yours in the comments section, too:
• Crash (J.G. Ballard). Genre: Racing. Deliberately wreck your vehicle for the pure, animal sexual release of it. Think Grand Theft Auto IV – with semen.
• Gravity’s Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon). Genre: FPS. Win World War II after alerting aerial bombers to key enemy targets by having sexual conquests inside them.
• Middlemarch (George Eliot). Genre: Casual (for Kinect). Help your dried-up, old fogey of a husband by genuflecting in his presence and elegantly hand-copying his manuscripts until he finally, mercifully dies.
• Underworld (Don DeLillo). Genre: Sports. Hit one home run, then spend a half century trying to find it.
• Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte). Genre: Puzzle game. Shuffle family members around against their best interests and will in a vain attempt to retard their growth and maximize their misery. Be careful to avoid the ghost of Catherine!
• Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes). Genre: Adventure. Giant windmill-shaped knights are causing much distress among the local damsels. Crash into them ineffectually until you pass out.
• Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut). Genre: Platformer. Race through the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, collecting members of your karass (ignoring any granfalloons) to pursue your wampeter. Make sure not to spill any ice-nine. [Editor’s Note: Granfaloon is one of the best bosses in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.]
• The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides). Genre: Mystery. Spy on the hot sisters across the street. Mostly cut scenes, but who’s counting?
• Moby-Dick (Herman Melville). Genre: RPG. Defeat the great leviathan after first spending weeks leveling up by learning every last intricate detail of the whaling industry.
• A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce). Genre: Fighting. Battle each and every demon your childhood priest conjured up to scare you into staying Catholic.
• Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Edward Albee). Genre: Online co-op. Team up with your wife or girlfriend to scare the shit out of other, younger couples. Unlock the shotgun for bonus points.
• The Cask of Amontillado (Edgar Allan Poe). Genre: Tetris clone. Line up the bricks to slowly bury your inebriated rival alive.
• A Sound of Thunder (Ray Bradbury). Genre: MMO. Immerse yourself in a typically vast world of witchcraft and wizardry, then travel back in time, step on a butterfly, and fuck it up irreversibly for everyone.
• The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka). Genre: Young Adult. Convince your parents you’re too sick to go to school by turning yourself into a cockroach.
• The Stranger (Albert Camus). Genre: Modern warfare. Shoot Arabs on the beach until the game, and existence itself, seems too meaningless to continue.
• The Catcher In The Rye (J.D. Salinger). Genre: Shooting gallery. Put on your people-hunting cap and take out as many phonies in as little time as possible. When you’re done playing, never leave your house or talk to anyone ever again.
• Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov). Genre: Um … this is probably a good cutting-off point. We don’t need game developers pushing their luck with the Supreme Court again. At least not quite so soon.
Matt Marrone used to read a lot more when he didn’t have a TV, an Xbox, a Wii, a Netflix account, an iPhone, an iPad … and a full-time job. You can follow his true-life story on Twitter @thebigm.