The January Round Table has as its topic: what would your favourite piece of literature look like if it had been created as a game first? In my entry, I've decided not to use my favourite piece of literature – I'm no longer sure what that would be – but instead the piece of literature that I have most wanted to convert into a game, not least of which because of the apparent insanity of such an attempt. Thus, without further ado, here is my take on how Jane Austen would have made a Wii game...
The box to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is rather different from most of the games around, showing several neatly dressed Victorian ladies and gentlemen in the grounds of a stately home. The tag line rather bizarrely reads “Adventures Among Polite Society in the Village of Longbourn!” Intensely curious about the game, I crack open the packaging and place the disc into the Wii. Soon, an on screen display reads “Please Wait... Establishing Social Norms” as the game loads.
After selecting a female Mii, I am presented at first with a third person pseudo-isometric view of a bedroom, within which is a neatly dressed Victorian lady with the face of the Mii that I choose. Another Mii-faced young lady enters my room and speaks:
“Why, Lizzy, you should know that you have to point your Wii Remote at the screen to begin.”
I do so.
“Marvellous! Now, press A to walk to what you are point at – it's ever so fun!”
It's a simple point-and-click interface.
“Why don't you get changed, Lizzy? Point at the wardrobe and press A.”
Inside the wardrobe, a small selection of dresses are shown to me, and I pick one to put it on with A.
Kitty continues here tutorial: “You can use A to select any object and engage with it politely.” This intrigues me: what does engage politely mean?
So I click on Kitty herself and press A. My avatar says: “Oh Kitty, you are such a dear child.”
Kittty explains to me that I can move the furniture around the room by holding A while pointing at an object, and then dragging it around with the Wii remote. When I release A, it stops in place. I can also rotate the objects either by twisting the Wii remote or by using + and - for fine adjustments. I rearrange my bedroom and wonder what I need to do to get new furniture. I can also press 2 when pointing at an item of furniture to "move it to the basement", or press 1 to bring furniture out of the basement.
I exit the bedroom and go into the hallway. There is a vase on a table here.
Kitty explains: “Should you wish to be wicked, you can engage with people and objects impolitely with B – but beware, for people do not like to be treated rudely!”
I cannot resist finding out what it means to interact with something impolitely, so I point to the vase and press B. My avatar walks up and knocks the vase to the ground smashing it.
Immediately, an older looking woman enters and scolds me: “Lizzy, how can you be so tiresome! You are such an ungrateful child.”
I point to my avatar's mother and press B. My avatar says: “Mamma, you are as vexing as you are ridiculous.”
A storm cloud appears above the head of the mother, and she assumes an angry expression and storms off, crying: “Mr. Bennett – Mr. Bennett! Did you hear what your daughter said to me! Mr. Bennett....!” Her disgruntled cries fade into the distance.
A new interface overlay appears at the top of the screen – a line of ten circles. The one on the right contains a red frowny face.
Kitty says: “You ought not to antagonise mamma so, Lizzy, but I forgive you.” She continues: “When you behave impolitely or improperly you gain a point of Rudeness. You can see it in the bar above. If you fill the bar with Rudeness your level of Notoriety will increase.”
This fills me with a desire to find more things to interact with impolitely! But Kitty interjects: “But you will be more popular if you can fill the bar with Charm instead. Either way will gain you a level of Notoriety – but what people think of you will be very different according to how you act.”
I decide to try and earn a point of Charm, so I track down mother who is scolding her husband, Mr. Bennett, in the sitting room. As I arrive, Mr. Bennett speaks firmly: “Lizzy, you must apologise to your mother for your actions.”
I click on father and press A for a polite interaction: “You are right, papa, forgive my indiscretion.”
I then click on mother (who still has a storm cloud above her angry face): “Mamma, I am an ungrateful child, and I shall endeavour to pay you more of the respect you deserve.” This seems to settle her – the storm cloud disappears, and a regular face returns. The bar of circles at the top of the screen appears with a yellow smiley face in the leftmost circle. The red frowny face is still in the rightmost circle.
Kitty explains: “You can fill the bar from left to right with Charm, or right to left with Rudeness. If the next circle is filled with the other kind of face, you will replace it.” ('Ah,' I think to myself, 'like the powering system in Doshin the Giant. That was a neat mechanic too.')
Thus, I decide to try and gain a level of Notoriety. Presumably there are many ways to be rude, so this should be very easy, but I decide to be a good girl and gain a level of Notoriety by being polite.
There is a door out to the garden here, so I exit, with Kitty trailing in my wake. “You can run by holding B when you point at place – but be careful, as running is very unladylike and some people may consider it rude. I don't mind though. Why don't you try it?”
I point to the far side of the flower beds and hold B – my avatar runs through the middle of the flowers, trampling them, and I gain another point of Rudeness, filling the second circle on the right.
“Oh dear, Lizzy!” Kitty exclaims. “I should have warned you: when you move with A, you will move along the paths and avoid causing harm. But if you run with B, you may damage those things you encounter.”
Clearly the capacity for mischief is quite high in this game! But I decide to stick to my goal of rising up the levels of Notoriety politely. I wonder if there's a way to repair the flower beds, and notice a garden shed. I click A on it and a set of tools appear. I choose the potting trowel.
“You can plant flowers with the potting trowel,” Kitty explains. “Simply point to a flower bed and press A to choose a flower to plant.”
I do so, and select a red geranium. It is planted, and I gain another smiley face, next to the one on the left of the scoring track. I have two Charm and two Rudeness now. Planting flowers seems to be a good way to gain some Charm, so I persevere, planting three more in spaces in the garden. After planting the third, I gain another point of Charm – I imagine I could get more if I planted more, but that the rewards are regressing so I will have to plant more and more plants to gain further benefit.
Kitty says: “You can put away the trowel by flicking the Wii remote downwards. Why don't you try it?”
A quick flick releases the trowel.
Kitty then states: “Flowers must be tended to in order to grow. Why don't you water these with the watering can in the shed?”
I continue to mess around with the garden for a while, gaining several more points of Charm by tending to the plants, taking me to seven points. Kitty explains that even if I don't tend to plants, someone else in the family may do so, but I will gain Charm if I tend to these chores myself.
Suddenly, there's a man at the garden gate! He says: “Forgive my intrusion, is this the Bennett residence?”
I decide to greet him politely with A. “Indeed it is, sir, and you are?” (I gain a point of Charm for making a good first impression - I now have filled the eight leftmost circles with smilies, and the remaining two contain frownies).
“My name is Charles Bingley – I'm the new tenant at Netherfield Park. Your father was kind enough to visit me, and I wanted to extend this invitation to him and his family to attend a ball I am holding.”
He gives me the invitation, and I press A to thank him. He tips his hat and departs.
“A ball – how exciting, Lizzy! You must give that invitation to papa right away!”
Some time later, and we are all arriving by carriage at Netherfield Park for the ball. I am wearing my finest dress, and keen to meet the eligible bachelors and earn more Charm.
Dancing is simplicity itself – first, I wait to be invited to dance and accept with A (or alternatively, I can politely ask a gentlemen to dance – but I gain a point of Rudeness for being so forward). I can also curtsy politely by holding A and flicking downwards, in order to make a polite introduction of myself.
Once the dance has begun, I respond with the appropriate gesture at the appropriate point in the dance – pressing A, making a circular gesture with the remote, or a vertical flick, all as depicted on screen. Completing the dance earns me Charm - I can also “accidentally” trip other dancers by using B to earn Rudeness.
The successful completion of the dance earns me the Charm I need to fill my bar, and I “level up” in Notoriety – a beautiful calligraphic “2” is now displayed by the progress bar. I hear Kitty whisper to me: “Well done, Lizzy – you've gained in Notoriety from your charming behaviour. Delightful new choices are now available to you if you press 1.”
Pressing 1 brings up a screen with four boxes - two containing clothing, and two containing furniture. I am to press A to pick two items to keep. Items I don't pick may come up again, but I can press B to permanently reject an item. It seems I get new choices of clothing, furniture and so forth every time my Notoriety increases – this mechanic replacing cash in the game. It makes me wonder what happens if I gain Notoriety from Rudeness. A quick glance in the manual shows me I would get different kinds of clothing and furniture for playing this way, as well as other options for interacting in the world.
Kitty continues to whisper: “Your level of Notoriety increases from both Charm and Rudeness – you can be the paragon of polite society, the epitome of wickedness, or a mysterious blend of the two.” This intrigues me – so I could get to level 3 by being impolite, if I like. This is too tempting.
At this point, a new gentlemen arrives at the ball – tall and handsome. I see him move about the room, and some of the ladies present engage in polite conversation with him. But when they do, a storm cloud appears above their heads and they leave in disgust! Who is this stranger?
I move closer so I can listen in. Mr. Bingley walks up to the stranger and announces: “Come, Darcy, I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner.”
The stranger, Mr. Darcy, replies: “I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. There is not a woman in the room whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
I cannot resist interjecting. “You think it a punishment to dance with the women of Longbourn, sir?” I gain a point of Rudeness for my bad first impression.
Mother is standing nearby and is appalled. “Lizzy,” she cries, “remember where you are! You must not run on in the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home.”
I decide to maintain my campaign of rudeness. “Mamma,” my avatar responds with a press of B, “I am used to your tiresome scolding, but Mr. Darcy has better things to scoff at than your manners.”
More Rudeness is added to my progress bar.
Mr. Darcy says: “Are you so ungrateful a daughter as to insult your mother in public, so?”
I press B, and my avatar says: “Are you so haughty a guest as to insult all the women of Longbourn without exception?”
I decide to try a different tack, and hold A and flick downwards to curtsy. Then I click on Mr. Darcy to ask him to dance. “Would you care to join me on the dance floor?” my avatar asks. (Another point of Rudeness for being so unladylike).
Before Mr. Darcy can respond, Mr. Bingley interjects: “I'm certain he would be honoured, wouldn't you my friend?”
And thus we are dancing together. I perform the dance steps as required, but every time Mr. Darcy is required to act, I press B to trip him up – causing him to land ignominiously upon his rear end on one occasion! In no time at all, I have filled the bar with Rudeness and reached level 3 of Notoriety. A storm cloud appears above Mr. Darcy's head.
“Why do you aggrieve me so, madam? Why do you behave with such hostility towards me?”
I reply with B. “I should think it clear that your arrogant pride has insulted every lady present.”
He replies: “You have taken such a prejudiced view upon my behaviour that I think it hopeless to defend myself from your accusations. Now I shall take my leave before any further harm befalls me.”
Thus began the great love affair between my avatar and Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, available for Nintendo Wii, only in your imagination.