One of the highlights of my childhood—and something I’m apparently going to bring up incessantly here—was Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey, a computer game based on well-read pup Wishbone’s retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey. In the pie chart of my life, the wedge representing the hours spent Playing Wishbone’s Odyssey would only be outdone by the one representing the hours spent dying in Wishbone’s Odyssey. The game follows the book nearly to the letter (minus some of the more unseemly parts), and to win, you have to complete Odysseus’s archery challenge to clear the suitors out of his home. (You don’t get to slaughter them on Wishbone’s watch.) And if you die along the way, you have to play Chutes and Ladders From Hell with Hades.
I tell you all this to make the point that books make for wonderful video games of all kinds. You can already play Dante’s Inferno and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes on your older consoles. And just look at Stride & Prejudice, a runner game for your iPhone that scrolls the text of Pride and Prejudice as you race along as a pixel-y Lizzie Bennet. What a time to be alive! Here are a few books I want to see make their debut on a gaming console near you:
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
This is the obvious choice. It is, after all, a book entirely based on video games of all shapes and sizes, with a special affinity for all things ’80s. Wade Watts’ quest to solve the riddle of a late gaming tycoon and the subsequent battle to get to Castle Anorak would be a prime candidate for an 8-bit scroller. Or something more sophisticated that allows us to participate in the book’s Flicksyncs, challenges in which you must perfectly reenact a character’s journey in a movie. Dibs on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The world of RPGs could use a little more girl power, and Katniss is the perfect candidate. It’s dark material, but that’s the name of the game in the world of Fallout. And we don’t have to follow the books exactly. There could always be a way to hack the game and do things like, oh, I don’t know, saving Rue.
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Schoolchildren across America would be more likely to embrace Steinbeck’s downtrodden Okies if, say, they were presented via an Oregon Trail–esque computer game. Simmer down, class, it’s time to breastfeed starving hobos!
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
Ye olde Sims, anyone?
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
London Below has already been made for TV, transformed into a book, performed onstage, and presented on the radio (with a Cumbercameo, no less). Let’s just complete the picture with an immersive video game featuring all of the typically Gaiman-esque oddball characters. Although interacting with Croup and Vandemar might scare the pants off
me unsuspecting adults.
Discworld series, by Terry Pratchett
By all that is holy in Ankh-Morpork, anything could happen when you’re allowed to explore Pratchett’s zany fantasy land. And, in the spirit of Wishbone, if you die in the game, maybe you could end up playing impossible board games with Death. He does ever so like them.
What book would you love to see made into a video game?