This blog post transcribed from the personal blog “NewsFangled.”
Most religions make a point of avoiding Hell at the end of their natural lives. But in this recent era, Hell is an idea that video gamers in this life can’t seem to get enough of.
If you watched the SuperBowl, you may have seen the ad. This game comes out today. It’s “Dante’s Inferno,” the tale of a soldier who fights through the Nine Circles of Hell to bring back his lover Beatrice. Its setting is based on the 14th-century epic tale “The Divine Comedy,” of a poet who looks through the different levels of the abyss. Only instead of the mild, observant poet, it’s a Crusader with Death’s Scythe and a magic crucifix.
Why Hell? Well, Earth, past-earth, future-earth, elves-and-dragons-earth and zombie-infested-earth were all taken. It’s only a matter of time until someone sets combat in Heaven a la “Paradise Lost.”
Blizzard Entertainment, the powerhouse behind World of Warcraft, is responsible for a handful of the games that pit the players against the horn-headed hordes of Hades. Most prominent is its “Diablo” series where, which is mostly like World of Warcraft with different lighting. Players create a character, choose its class and go out to defend the fantasy land from – in this case – the armies of the Burning Hells. Its other hit series, “Hellgate: London” have a more post-apocalyptic settling, and notably more use of lingerie as battle gear. (Apply Safe Search when necessary.)
The crucial question may well be: is Hell cool? Not according to the actual plot of the game. Dante may fight with Death’s Scythe, but he is still doing battle with the incarnate sins of Gluttony and Greed.
Crossing The Line
The Church itself has its own opinions on the game. EA Games, producer of Dante’s Inferno, faked a Christian protest outside of its own convention to drum up publicity. In the 2000’s the Vatican historically opposed franchises such as Pokemon and Harry Potter, before the Pope later lifted the accusations that it mimicked witchcraft and summoning demons. Both franchises were huge successes. So as the slogan goes, “any publicity is good publicity.”
At the same time, organized religion has tried to produce its own games. The less-than-successful series of Left Behind games is, no pun intended, testament to that. Players act as survivors after the Rapture, who charge up prayer levels to fire blasts at demons and nonbelievers. But even with support of organizations like Focus on the Family, the game has been blasted as intolerant as well, even by churches.
But the game is being stoned not just by religion, it seems. Neither is its biggest enemy a legion of concerned mothers. The games biggest critics are its fans that say it rips off the God of War games. “Dante” plays a lot like everyone’s favortie dashing-leaping-mauling Spartan, only in Hell and with a love interest. Truly a crime for which it would be better that Dante had never been born.
Either in spite of the critics or because of them, however, “Dante’s Inferno” — literary classic turned artistic hack-and-slasher– is going to somewhere in a handbasket.