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Can a video game be a literary muse? Two Boston-area game development companies partnered to find out. Their collaboration, Elegy for a Dead World, takes players (or are they writers?) to three fictional worlds imagined by 19th-century English poets.

In the game, you’re an interplanetary reporter, given prompts to relay what you see to an imaginary readership. Say the game makers:

We created Elegy so that everyone can write. As you explore, the game helps you create the narrative….Elegy might ask you to write a short story about an individual’s final days, a song about resignation, or a poem about war. In the more advanced levels, you’ll sometimes get new information halfway through your story which casts a new light on things and forces you to take your story in a different direction. We like to think of those as puzzles — writing yourself out of a corner, so to speak.

The three worlds in the game are:

  • Shelley’s World, based on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 sonnet Ozymandias, which visualizes the ruins of Egyptian civilization.
  • Byron’s World, Lord Byron’s 1816 poem Darkness, which envisions the biblical apocalypse.
  • Keats’ World, based on John Keats’ 1818 sonnet When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be, which examines Keats’ fear of death.

The two game development companies involved—Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal, both based in Cambridge, Mass., say they created the game as a “palate cleanser.”

Dejobaan’s titles include a movie stunt game called Tick Tock Bang Bang, and a music-mixing game, Drop That Beat Like An Ugly Baby. Popcannibal has produced an adventure and romance game called Girls Like Robots.


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