Dante’s Inferno: The Video Game

7 Sep

Practically since video games were invented, groups of geeky bookworms have passed the time joking about a game based on Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s masterful epic poem known as the Divina Commedia. “Hey, and Minos could attack you with his giant tail! Ha ha! That would be great.”

Heads up, nerds: EA finally did it.

Dante's Inferno booth

I went to the Dante’s Inferno booth at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo intending to annoy its staff with smartass questions about how closely the game adheres to the poem. (Maybe a dick move; but turning Inferno into a video game is potentially also a dick move, so let’s not get judgmental here, okay?) As it turned out, the EA rep at the booth was completely prepared to address whether players would encounter various obscure political figures from 14th Century Italy in his company’s hack-and-slash video game.

“The biggest change we made was to turn Dante from a poet into a warrior,” the rep said. Indeed!

Real Dante:

Real Dante

Game Dante:


I’d contend that the biggest change EA made is theological. (By which I mean everything that the poem is actually about.) Confronted with the reality of sin and sustained by a vision of his love Beatrice, Poem Dante recognizes his dependence on God. From what I heard and saw, Game Dante is a warrior in a secular universe where human and cosmic evil can be defeated through skill, muscle and intelligence. Game Dante is on a mission to fight his way through the Nine Circles with a badass scythe made out of a dinosaur spine or some crazy shit, and rescue Beatrice from Satan’s clutches. He looks as if he might be able to pull it off.

By telling a story of a human hero who tries to get the better of Satan through strength or cunning, the Dante’s Inferno game could be located in the tradition of Western folklore. Exploring this idea further would make a great blog post that I’m never going to write. Much better than this one.

He was of course thinking this in 14th century Tuscan dialect

But anyway, yes: the EA rep said that they couldn’t put everyone in the poem into the game, but players will meet many of the historical figures that it mentions. Dante’s earthly enemy Filippo Argenti will play a large role in the story. Players who want to know what’s going on and who all these people are (as opposed to blowing past them as quickly as possible to get to the next battle) will have many opportunities to be enlightened by Virgil.

The game’s website contains some good information about the poem, and who knows? Maybe kids who dig the game will check it out. Attention, teenagers: Dante’s Inferno contains demons, people being cut in half with huge swords and people drowning in a massive river of shit. Beg your teacher to assign it to you.

Posted via web from Rockett Science Labs

2 Responses to “Dante’s Inferno: The Video Game”

  1. Diablo January 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    No offense, but I honestly think you know next to nothing about this project. This game is meant to capture the real, aesthetic feel of the poem. As a video game, of course it needs more action and adventure. Would YOU play a video game about a frail middle aged man who faints all the time? And throughout the game, Dante reflects upon his own sins, in accordance to the levels he visits.It’s not a one-dimensional game, it branches off into many different paths of thought.

  2. Wade Rockett January 4, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    No offense taken. What I know about this project is what the EA reps described to me, and the gameplay that I saw.

    Would YOU play a video game about a frail middle aged man who faints all the time?

    I have to admit that I probably would.

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