Friday, June 11, 2010

Let the Inaccuracy Begin!

Poet Dante, portrait by Botticelli: Action hero Dante, by EA:

So, how does a poet become an action hero? Maybe by not being a poet. Though Dante the video game opens with the Inferno’s opening lines about losing the path in a dark wood midway through his life’s journey, there are a few differences. Dante the video game takes place during the Third Crusade, which took place from 1189-1192, while Dante’s Inferno (the poem, not the game) is set, scholars generally agree, on Good Friday in 1300. Maybe the action hero comes back as a poet?

First, there’s a weird opening animated scene where it appears that, to get ready for the crusade, Dante the Crusade Hero takes a hooked needle, puts it in a bowl of hot water (sterilize it, man, because Crusaders can’t be slowed down by infections) and proceeds to sew a red Crusader cross directly onto his torso. Not onto his shirt, but onto himself. Like a tattoo, but of cloth, I’m guessing. Probably, though, this has the benefit of not actually being as permanent as a tattoo? So if you switch sides (Dante’s aligned with Richard and the Europeans), it’s like that tattoo you got in college but were smart enough to get somewhere like your lower back or thigh that clothing could hide it on a job interview. Coincidentally, I was in a doctor’s waiting room and saw the cover of ESPN’s magazine with Tennessee Titan player Vince Young on it, and he has a Dante-sized cross tattooed on his back (underneath his name, tattooed there as if it were the back of his football jersey, I guess so that if there’s ever a shirts vs. skins NFL game, everyone will know which player is V.Y.). And like Dante, Young appeared on the cover of an EA video game; since I’ve never played John Madden’s football game, I can’t compare the two action heroes. But this opening sewing on the cross scene, we learn later, appears to happen after your (or here, my) first battle as Dante.

It’s 1191, and Acre is under European control. Dante’s guarding some prisoners. A few of them get out and start attacking. I’m not much of a “gamer,” so I didn’t really know the controls. I just mashed the hell (pun intended) out of the four buttons on the xbox controller and did a lot of jumping and battle-axe swinging and killed these sword-wielding crusaders. Defending the Holy Land and all, I guess. Then after the battle ends, I run off. But one of them follows me, stabs me (i.e., Video Game Dante) in the back. So I have to fight Death, the grim reaper, who wants my soul and the souls of everyone I love. No way—in a prerecorded scene Video Game Dante tells Death that the ones he loves won’t have to pay for his sins. The Christian crusaders were told by a bishop that their sins would be forgiven in exchange for their crusading; Death says that isn’t so. Perhaps the cross Dante sews on himself is a sign that he’s bearing his own sins as this game continues? After much pressing of more buttons without really knowing what I’m doing, I take down Death and take his scythe as my own weapon. Then head back to Florence, where the game earns its “mature” rating for some nudity. I don’t remember nudity in video games from my childhood and adolescence. Like Pac-Man or Space Invaders. But I was entering Hell (or would be, eventually), so I should expect things to get messy.

After the opening battle scene and about a half-hour of playing, we find that we’re about three lines of terza rima into Dante’s poem—then we’ve left the poem and are into action hero mode.

Side note: Other than the opening about the woods and life’s journey, this doesn’t match Canto I of the poem at all. Interesting that it’s set in the Third Crusade where Dante’s Europe fights Saladin, the bad guy. He will appear in Dante’s poem, but as someone the Europeans respected for his nobility, though he gets stuck in Limbo because he wasn’t Christian.

No comments:

Post a Comment