Dante’s Inferno: Poetry Meets Gaming

Remember Dante’s Inferno? That really long poem written about 700 years ago? Maybe you read it in your classics class. This February, EA Games gave us a new way to experience the epic poem: by playing the video game of the same title.

The game version of the poem takes plenty of liberties with the work. It re-imagines Dante as a warrior–rather than simply walking through hell, he has to fight his way through it. And his motivation isn’t a deeper understanding of sin, as in the poem–it’s love. Beatrice, who the real Dante loved, becomes the character’s entire reason for going to hell. To win the game, players must rescue Beatrice from Satan’s clutches and make it out alive.

As expected, the major changes to the story upset plenty of Dante scholars. But as much as it pains me to say it (and believe that it does), the cold facts are these: Video games sell. Books don’t. My hope is that there are a few kids out there who will be so excited about the game that they want to read the literature that inspired it. And in their defense, the producers of the game did do one thing that might help win over traditionalists. They’re releasing a print edition of the poem in hopes that it will encourage gamers to read the original work.

–Mo Hickey