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Public Domain Jam: #ClassicRead Games

September 25, 2014
Mr Good and Evil (Dex / Flickr. cc 2.0 license )

Mr Good and Evil (Dex / Flickr. cc 2.0 license )

A game jam is a competition that encourages game developers to create a game around a theme within a certain timescale. A recent competition, Public Domain Jam, asked people to create a game within a week based around stories that are in the public domain. This jam linked to the Project Gutenberg e-book site to highlight the wealth of inspiration from classic reads that is freely available. The Project Gutenberg site includes out of copyright classic books that are now in the public domain.

As the introduction on the game jam page pointed out:

“There are SO MANY other stories and characters out there that are also free to use: Robin Hood, Zorro, Dracula, John Carter, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Alice in Wonderland, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Hercules, Paul Bunyan… The list goes on forever, and these are all stories that are free to be remixed and remade by anyone.”

When the competition finished 61 games had been submitted, including ones based on familiar books and stories, such as Dracula, Macbeth, Treasure Island and fairy tales, as well as less familiar works, such as The Yellow Wallpaper.

Runners-up used classic books Alice in Wonderland, War of the Worlds and Oliver Twist for inspiration, but the winning game itself, Paper Jekyll (a platformer with a twist – literally), was loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde, a #classicread about a man releasing and subsequently trying to control the monster inside him.

A number of games took the format of the book, text, and turned parts of the story into works of interactive fiction (Jekyll and Hyde: The Battle for Sanity; The Yellow Wallpaper; Die Sieben Raben), whilst others were turned into action games.

They didn’t all necessarily follow the narrative of the story they were based on. Some just used characters and the theme of the story to base a game around, but it highlights that people can still find inspiration in a classic tale and can interpret and present the ideas in those tales in new ways.

Many of the games are free to play via the Public Domain Jam page. Why not give some of them a try and see how the game makers have put their own spin on these classic reads.

Gary Green (Surrey Libraries)

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