Video games have always been touted as an interactive storytelling medium, and never has that been truer than today: with endless genres and character customization options, no matter who a player is looking to be and no matter where they want to be, there’s almost certainly something out there that will speak to them.
Ever, Jane is an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, a la World of Warcraft) set in the world of Jane Austen. Created by Judy L. Tyrer, founder of 3Turn Productions, the game sets itself apart from other multi-players. “Unlike many multi-player games, it’s not about kill or be killed but invite or be invited,” says the game’s description. “Gossip is our weapon of choice. Instead of raids, we will have grand balls. Instead of dungeons, we will have dinner parties.” (If you’d like to get some initial impressions of it from people who have already played, there’s a good article about that here.)
Finding novelty in telling stories through video games
This is by no means the first time a book-based story has been turned into a game. For example, Nancy Drew has an entire video game series, published by HeR Interactive, that unfolds much like the book series. Harry Potter has thoroughly infiltrated the Lego game world. The Witcher games are based on The Witcher short stories and novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. But none of these games are MMORPGs, and to open up Jane Austen’s world to that particular style of gameplay is an interesting, and perhaps bold, concept.
Off the bat, the game has a few things going for it. Jane Austen has a significant fan base, and of course there is an intersect point where “Jane Austen fans” and “gamers” meet. Most gamers love a good story and the immersion a good game can provide, which is why the MMORPG genre is a (wildly popular) thing to begin with. Jane Austen’s world as the backdrop to a video game has a certain novelty that could draw in even those who don’t normally hold with MMOs, and the inventive twist of popular mechanics (words instead of weapons, balls instead of battlegrounds), if handled correctly, could draw some interesting parallels about how there’s more than one kind of fighting in Jane Austen’s world—to say nothing of the possibility of creating a character and plunging yourself into all the Regency-era shenanigans you can handle.
Give it a try?
I’ve not played the game myself, so I can’t speak to its execution, and all the latest information I can find on the game suggests that it may still be in beta. But certainly the concept is an interesting one. The primary question for me is, just how big a fan of Jane Austen’s work do you have to be to enjoy the game? Can you successfully navigate this MMORPG if you haven’t memorized everything about Regency-era literature? Will you get shamed by the other players if you misstep? Exactly how much freedom do you have to drive the development of your character? (I admit, I am sorely tempted to download the game simply to insert my 21st-century persona and scandalize the town—though, to be fair, I have the same inclinations when reading Jane Austen novels.)
I’d be interested to hear from someone who has jumped slipper-first into this game. How have you fared? How much is story and how much is creating your own destiny? What kind of success can you find if you just want to play as a writer who doesn’t dance and lives alone, surrounded by books and a cat or two (asking for a friend)?