The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper. [Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]
Devious experiments ahead.
Game: Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus has influenced popular culture for at least a century inspiring numerous films, television programs, video games and derivative works. Rather than focus on a single game, for now – there are at least six – it’s time for a diversion. Let’s focus on the source material.
Release Date: January 1, 1818
Publisher: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones
Genre/gameplay mechanics: a secret technique to impart life to non-living matter. [That is the core of the mechanic driving Frankenstein. Games vary and use different elements.]
Setting: North Pole, Italy, Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland in the 18th century. A sense of real places – as Mary Shelley did travel to some places – but with a gothic overtone.
Storytelling: “…Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist creates a grotesque but sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment.” Cleverly structured to give both sides of the story, and more layered than many adaptations give credit for. The creation is called The Creature (but erroneously named Frankenstein in many adaptations). Various interpretations of the motivation behind Mary Shelley’s story and plot adds to the overall depth.
Releases + Expansions:
The novel has inspired countless adaptations over the years, including (according to Wikipedia):
- Films: The first film adaptation of the tale, Frankenstein, was made by Edison Studios in 1910, and the first sound adaptation of the story, Frankenstein (1931), was produced by Universal Pictures, directed by James Whale, and starred Boris Karloff as the monster. For many, this is the classic version, although there have been numerous others since, from the Hammer Films through 1994 and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein directed by Kenneth Branagh to adaptations in the pipeline. Plus all the parodies, of course.
- Television: many adaptations again, and appearances in other shows. It’s two 1960s sitcoms that come to mind for me – The Munsters and The Addams Family. However, on my Must Watch list is the 2014-2016 three-season Showtime series Penny Dreadful with its ‘Universal’ characters.
- Novels: The story has formed the basis of many original novels, some of which were considered sequels to Shelley’s original work, and some of which were based more upon the characters as portrayed in the Universal films. Yet others were completely new tales inspired by Frankenstein. The most recent direct sequel is William A Chanler’s 2017 Son of Terror: Frankenstein Continued.
- Games: Although there have been at least six games loosely linked to Frankenstein, none of those had more than mediocre reviews – a missed opportunity. Why isn’t there a great game? Will a reboot of the classic film yield one?
Origins (Chronological): Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in 1797. She was the second child of the feminist philosopher, educator, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft, who died less than a month after the birth, and the first child of the philosopher, novelist, and journalist William Godwin. She grew up among intellectuals and her father described her at age 15 as “singularly bold, somewhat imperious, and active of mind. Her desire for knowledge is great, and her perseverance in everything she undertakes almost invincible.”
Thus, her knowledge, research, reading and observation were excellent. Her sources would have been extensive – for instance:
- Two of the most notable natural philosophers among Shelley’s contemporaries were Giovanni Aldini, who made many public attempts at human reanimation through bio-electric Galvanism in London and Johann Konrad Dippel, who was supposed to have developed chemical means to extend the lifespan of humans.
- 1812 – Humphry Davy‘s book Elements of Chemical Philosophy, in which he had written that “science has … bestowed upon man powers which may be called creative; which have enabled him to change and modify the beings around him …”.
- 1667 – John Milton‘s Paradise Lost, influenced Shelley as she included a quotation from book X on the title page, and it is one of three books Frankenstein’s monster finds which influences his psychological growth.
- 5th century BCE – Prometheus legend: The Modern Prometheus is the novel’s subtitle. Prometheus, in later versions of Greek mythology, was the Titan who created mankind at the behest of Zeus.
2.7 Stars: The only valid assessment possible is of the 2015 hidden-object puzzle game, Frankenstein: Master of Death on Steam. For the genre, it is a good game and received very positive reviews on Steam. The storyline was basic but there were loose elements of the original novel. However, the setting felt wrong.
- Storyline: 2*
- Gameplay: 2.5*
- Entertainment: 3*
- Genesis: 5*
Alternative ‘F’ thoughts:
I wanted to write about the Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths, having read the first three in the series – and knowing there was a TV series – but there’s no game.
+ ‘F’ Games played: Forsaken World.
What’s your favourite Frankenstein adaptation? Is there a game I missed?
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I never had the chance to teach Frankenstein when I was teaching high school English, but a friend of mine has taught it over and over again for years and it never gets old. All of us can relate to this tale of being an outsider.
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Outsider is the crux of the tale, Jeri – and strange that you use that word since many games use that word for the avatars chosen. In society, as you say, it happens to many of us.
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I’ll be honest, I liked this post more because of Mary Shelley than because of the game 😉
I read Frankenstein years ago and enjoyed it far more than I imagined I would. I found it so surprisingly modern.
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I agree, Sarah – the novel and writer is the strength. That was why I chose to focus on the book using the same format – release date became the publication of the novel etc. I was amazed that there hadn’t been a good game from such amazing source.