The Odyssey: A Video Game


I'm sitting here typing this to aggressive doorbell chimes from insistent neighbors. I forgot to buy candy. Pure blasphemy. I am so sorry.

For the last few days, in addition to working at my day job and on Bleecker Street, I have been busy clicking away learning to CODE.

It should be no surprise to anyone that The Odyssey is probably one of my favorite pieces of literature. Having first encountered it very young, it was a formative part of my development as an artist and, well, I guess, human. I have always wanted to stage the epic, but until that happens I decided to take it upon myself to try a different kind of adaptation...

In college, I minored in American culture, specifically with a focus in art - like poetry, folklore, stories - but I wrote my capstone on video games, specifically queer video games and the do-it-yourself movement that emerged. Read it here! Since then, I've been dying to create my own game. The only game I've ever created was on Twine, a sort of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" (CYOA) platform that helps users create text-based games.

I took a note from Zoe Quinn and decided to download RenPy, because at the time I realized several things about myself: I have no coding experience, little graphic/digital illustration experience, few tools for said graphic/digital illustration, and not a lot of time. I knew I wanted to create something narrative-driven, and I am a huge fan of Ace Attorney (I play it on the train to work every morning) and felt that something like that - a hybrid of a visual novel and a CYOA - would be feasible to make.

Learning python has been challenging, but it's so relaxing. Once you get the language down, you almost want to do MORE!

Using Robert Fitzgerald's translation and Mary Zimmerman's adaptation, I've nearly finished the entire prologue. I'll most likely stop there to focus on my other work, but for the time being I am satisfied with the progress.

Coming up, I'll do my darndest to upload/post a summary of my process and how it all came about.

Why The Odyssey?

I must have read poem for the first time, in its entirety, in high school. Otherwise, prior to that, my exposure was limited to children's versions or abridged ones. I feel particularly strongly about The Odyssey, especially because of its largely theatrical nature (I have often said to my friends, The Odyssey would make a great theatre piece while The Iliad would be an AWESOME TV drama. (Hire me HBO)). I also feel very strongly that video games, no matter what Neil Druckman or Amy Hennig say, are closer to theatre than to cinema. I'll be sure to compose an argument about this later, but for now, just trust me on this!!!

In addition to requiring audience participation, and the fact that the content of the game is INFLUENCED by the audience (or the player), the structure (or mechanics) of a game is largely governed by the restrictions of technology. Lest you be blessed with a Triple-A budget, most indie games will rely on gimmicks, illusions, and other cheap tricks to convey more grandiose and spectacular features. Theatre, even a Broadway show, is no different. Of course video games are cinematic, but those aspects are only arbitrary aspects. Video games need not be cinematic - lots of successful games don't have dramatic cut-scenes or action-filled montages. Rather, most rely on a screen and a puzzle there, challenging you to engage it. Games are performance! They are expression and they need to be engaged.

I chose to adapt The Odyssey for several reasons: because the stories are so wonderfully adventurous that even playing something that is fundamentally text-based would still be exhilarating; but also because The Odyssey is a challenging piece that really should be shared with the world. While oral tradition will never truly go extinct, accessibility to epics will become restricted by highfalutin barriers. This story is pretty friggin cool, and I don't think anyone should be denied a chance to experience it someway.

I think few folks, save for the obvious, would truly relate to Odysseus. I only liked the poem as much as I did because I felt more akin to Telemachus. But, in fact, I think that's exactly why the poem begins with his perspective: it is a conduit into truly understanding separation and anxiety before launching us into Odysseus' shoes. In a way, Homer has prepared us to empathize better through Telemachus so that when we join Odysseus on Calypso's island later, we will not simply look upon him as a warrior - but also as a father.

My game so far has the prologue nearing completion (I guess I should elaborate: When I refer to the "prologue" I do mean the Telemachy - or the beginning few books concerning Telamachus before we actually meet Odysseus. I understand that that term isn't necessarily correct - it's for brevity's sake!) and I think I will stop there to take a break and focus on my theatre projects. I will have it uploaded (as soon as I figure how to do that...) so ya'll can try it.

Until then,

Greg

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gk.strasser@gmail.comUSA: +1 248 535 0316 

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