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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: Literary Inspirations

    - staff

  •  Jay Chaffin, Ohio University, Athens Campus

    A novel that I have always imagined would make a great video game is Victor Hugo's classic Notre Dame de Paris, better known in America as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The game would play as a third-person action adventure game in an open world, in this case the Paris of 1482.

    Playable characters would include Pierre Gringoire, a struggling poet based upon a real historical figure; Quasimodo, the hideously deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame; Clopin Trouillefou, the King of Truands and lord of the mysterious Court of Miracles; and La Esmeralda, the young gypsy dancer who much of the plot revolves around.

    Each character would emphasize a different play style and have different abilities. For example, as the monstrously strong bell ringer of the cathedral, Quasimodo's gameplay would focus on brutal, feral hand to hand combat, and he would be able to scale the sides of buildings with ease, allowing his gameplay to focus on a lot of platforming over the rooftops.

    I would keep much of the main plot of the novel intact. The Archdeacon of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo, develops a maddening lust for Esmeralda and sends Quasimodo, his adoptive son, to kidnap the girl. This sets in motion the chain of events that lead to a city wide witch hunt for Esmeralda and the downfall of almost every major character.

    However, a few character changes would be in order to make gameplay more feasible. In the original novel Esmeralda is fairly helpless, her only notable skill being her dancing, and Pierre is a tremendous coward who only charges into battle reluctantly. Therefore, I would make Esmeralda a capable fighter who is good at dancing around her foes and striking stealthily from the shadows, and Pierre, while still reluctant to fight, engages in battle much more often.

    Elements of the novel that lend themselves well to gameplay include Quasimodo's attempted kidnapping of Esmeralda, his later rescue of her from hanging, the climactic battle at Notre Dame where the Truands attempt to save Esmeralda while Quasimodo rains down rocks and molten lead upon them, and the devolving of the battle into a bloodbath as the King's guard arrives. In addition to this, I'd add numerous new submissions and plots to extend the main story and offer more gameplay additions. In particular, I'd expand on Clopin's leadership of the Truands and what they do before storming Notre Dame.

    If all the elements were to come together correctly, I think that Notre Dame de Paris would make an excellent video game, as well as reintroduce the story to another generation. Ironically, my few changes would still render a game one of the most accurate adaptations of the source material in any medium, as most of the numerous film adaptations stray greatly from the plot. The most important point, of course, is keeping the original title instead of using the more popular Hunchback of Notre Dame, to symbolize the true main character of Hugo's great novel: Notre Dame herself.


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