Friday, September 10, 2010

Interactive Shakespeare : Possible?

This stems a bit from the Performance thread, but it’s long been a curious interest of mine.  Imagine a Star Trek world where immersive-reality experiences like the Holodeck are possible.  Or, if you don’t want to go that far, just consider any of the well regarded “first person interactive” games that are all the rage today.  A game in which you play a role, and you will interact with computer-controlled characters to tell a story.

How does Shakespeare fit into that?

I’m not the only designer to dream of a world where you could insert yourself as Hamlet among a bunch of computer-controlled Claudii and Opheliae. If you want to just act the role, as if you were part of any other stage production? Then sure, no biggie, you’re following a script.

But what if you didn’t?  What if the play was going on around you, and you inserted yourself as some random spear carrier?  And then, right in the middle of the story, you jump out and kill the king yourself?

At that point, of course, it’s not Shakespeare. But that’s what I want to discuss – how much did it lose?  If you consider the possibility of changing the story, then have you effectively said that it’s no longer Shakespeare, it’s either all or nothing?  Or is there still some value there, some very high value at that, in using Shakespeare as the foundation for what becomes a whole new story?

This is different, by the way, from any random fiction writer who decides to do some Shakespeare fan fiction.  I’m talking specifically about the immersive experience of living out a story alongside the characters of Shakespeare.  Would that be huge?  Or would it lose all essence of what Shakespeare was all about?


Alexi said...

Your Star Trek reference got me thinking about the scene of Data playing Henry V on the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. If I recall correctly, he does just follow the script, and the point of the exercise is to teach him about what it means to be human. The clip is on Bardfilm somewhere if you want to check it out.

I like the idea of interactive Shakespeare, but I think it would take a great deal of effort to implement. If we want characters to have alternate dialog to accommodate unexpected choices from the player, for example, it had better be pretty good. We don't want any hack throwing some bog standard video game text into "Hamlet: the MMORPG." ;) The safest route is probably to plagiarize other stuff from the Bard. For example, if you're playing as Horatio and choose to recruit some Danish lords against Claudius, we might get some repurposed lines about tyranny and rebellion from Macbeth or the histories. Stuff like that could work.

Ty Unglebower said...

Sounds fun.