Worlds Collide, Or, Adaptation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery, Part 1

Last Friday, I left the cozy comfort of my small office (it's only a corner of my dining room) for the sophisticated environs of the Electronic Arts campus. Electronics Arts creates, develops, and sells video games. I was on a field trip of sorts, going to meet with the Executive Producer of EA's forthcoming video game, "Dante's Inferno".  As I've spent the past couple of years collecting books for a print catalogue featuring illustrated and unusual editions of the works of Dante Alighieri, I was interested to see how the book influenced the video game.

EA's offices are slightly larger than the dining room/corporate headquarters of Book Hunter's Holiday. All of the large buildings below make up the EA campus in Redwood Shores, California:

I'm not an avid video game player, but I know a lot of people who are. In fact, I live with a couple of gamers -- my sons, Tom (10) and Huck (8). When I found the building where my meeting would take place, I entered a massive lobby, lights dimmed as if I were inside a movie theater. Above me, several huge screens were suspended from the high ceiling, playing video game trailers with surround sound loud enough to register on the Richter Scale. This definitely was not the usual destination of my bookseller field trips -- a quiet, well-lighted bookshop. I checked in and then took a seat at a couch where I could (you guessed it!) play video games until it was time for my meeting.

EA's lobby is a lot like the inside of a movie theater:

My cousin Julie, who works for Electronic Arts, came down to the lobby to greet me. We're about the same age, but she works with cutting edge technology every day while I perpetuate the old technology, the kind that doesn't require batteries, electricity, computers, or a video game player to use -- books. Though we're close friends, our work worlds rarely collide. When Julie heard that my Dante catalogue was close to completion, she told me that EA was developing a video game based on Dante's Inferno. "Come over for a visit one day," she said, "and I'll set up a meeting with the person who's the lead in developing the game. He'd love to hear about your interest in Dante." Our jobs are different and I know next to nothing about video games, but how could I resist?

I know there are those of you who would want me to dislike the project based on the fact that it is a video game that is going to try to adapt (tamper with?) a classic and revered piece of literature, but I think (and will show in my forthcoming catalogue) that Dante's descriptions of Hell lend themselves particularly well to illustration and animation and that Dante's work has from the beginning been marketed to the popular culture. Would a video game be the next logical step in introducing Divine Comedy to a new generation? There was no way to know for sure without seeing the game itself. Thanking her for the invitation for the book nerd to enter the inner sanctum of the gaming geeks, a similarly monomaniacal and obsesssive bunch, I eagerly set up a date and hoped I'd find common ground when I got there.

After lunch and a brief tour of the offices with Julie, we got on an elevator and, ironically, ascended to a floor referred to as "The Ninth Circle". This is the area where the "Dante's Inferno" team works. I had envisioned that, true to the story, we would descend to the Ninth Circle to find workers in a dingy basement, but this was not the case. When we exited the elevator, we had to step through a huge replica of Rodin's "Gates of Hell" sculpture to cross the threshold into the Ninth Circle (the offices where the design team works).

Rodin's sculpture, "The Gates of Hell":


I thought of the many print editions of Dante I've seen and wondered what I'd see after I walked through the "Gates of Hell". The thought, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here" entered my mind, but only briefly. I stepped through the gates and into the offices. Worlds collided.

To be continued . . .