Video Games, Literature and High Culture


Great literature has always presented us with the challenge of "playing" with our identity: the characters of novels represent our possible alter-egos, through which we can question our ideas and behavior. The "possible worlds" constructed by authors and the plots they envision bring forward the problem of possible choices in certain situations. Can poetic, aesthetic and theoretical-literary reflection teach anything to the world of video games from this perspective? What are the relationships between games and literature? Can the video-ludic experience have a positive effect on the construction of our "narrative identity"?



In literary criticism, the problem of authorial intent is one of the most debated, but it is certain that the renowned Italian poet, writer and literary theorist, Dante Alighieri, while writing the "Divine Comedy", intended on writing an important book not only as an object of leisure or entertainment but as a literary work for all of humanity. Is the question of intentionality also relevant in the complex world of video games? Can video games reach the level of "high culture" only if their authors "intentionally" want to create high and complex games or can it be achieved through other ways as well?



Any great literary work is a text that presents reality together with the specific and unique vision of its author: it gives us, in a contemplative form (in the sense that we cannot intervene to transform the plot or words in the book), reality plus the interpretative force of intellect and creativity of great writers. The video game, by its nature, reduces the contemplative experience in favor of the interactive one: what does this basic difference entail for works at the level of the production that have the ambition of being seen as products of "high culture" over time?



One of the many hats that literary science fiction wears is that of a visionary and sometimes cynical scholar capable of predicting the future or one of many possible futures. Therefore, in speculative fiction, the famous "heat ray" in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells is very similar to a modern laser beam from a technological point of view. Likewise, from a sociological perspective, 'High-Rise' by J.G. Ballard explores modernization and its impact on society. Can the gaming world somehow share this demanding burden? Is it in the DNA of the videogame world, in the small digital bricks that determine its body and soul, to ALSO be able to envision a technological and / or social future as science fiction has done since its birth? And above all, is it an interesting legacy to collect?