Would Shakespeare Have Been a Good Game Designer?


The Executive Producer of Dante’s Inferno thinks that if the Bard were alive today, he would have been at the forefront of game design.

Shakespeare may have been one of the most influential people to have ever lived – and certainly one of the most influential penmen of all time – but there’s really not a lot of Shakespeare in modern gaming, is there? We have bards, but we don’t have the Bard. We don’t have epic boss fights pitting Othello against Iago, and we don’t have games based on Hamlet, either.

But not only does Visceral’s Jonathan Knight – Executive Producer of Dante’s Infernowant to make a game based on Macbeth, he thinks that Shakespeare could have been a good game designer, too. Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Knight mused on how the Bard would have done as the Developer.

Shakespeare would have been on the forefront. He was an innovator and not just a great story-teller. Arguably, he’s more of a medium innovator. He borrowed heavily. “Hamlet” is a complete rip-off of a story on the prince of Denmark. Some people think he lifted it from a work that actually came between the two stories.

He was such a master at harnessing the new. For him, the new medium was open air theater on the south side of the Thames. He solidified a big portion of the English language with his plays much like Dante did with Italian vernacular.

Not only might Shakespeare have had some decent input on the field of game design, says Knight, but Dante Alighieri (whose Inferno provided the very loose impetus for Visceral’s action game) might have fit right in too. In fact, the original decision to make a game based on Dante’s Inferno came from seeing similarities between the poem and modern videogames: Dante’s maps were like level design, and he even had “boss fights,” too:

“He often has a guardian and that to me feels like a boss. It could be a giant or epic character who prevents you from making progress and you have to defeat this giant monster. There’s King Minos at the end of Limbo, for example. In that sense, he’s sort of laying out various challenges.”

The full interview with Jonathan Knight is actually really interesting to anyone who’s been intrigued by Dante’s Inferno – or just wondered “wait, a poem about the Inferno? What?” – so give it a go.

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