Joyce’s modernist love story, Ulysses, is one of the few works of literature that has attracted such intense textual scrutiny. It has been referred to as the “most infamously obscene book in ancient or modern literature.” The book, published in the year 1922 contains 732 pages or 262,869 words which is much longer than any other book published during that time. It is even more remarkable as out of the 262,869 words in the novel, 375 words and phrases made their first appearance in print in Ulysses. Currently, it has been regarded as the No. 1 most difficult novel to read by Goodreads.
To turn such a book into a game might appear to be a herculean task but not impossible. Previously, there had been many efforts to incorporate the works of literature into the world of gaming. It started with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” game becoming a viral hit in 2011. The game tried to portray the scenes, look, and feel of the classical 1980s. These games help college students understand challenging novels better, for example, Joyce’s Ulysses.
The novel revolves around the life of a man named Leopold Bloom and chronicles his tedious daily activities. It was often difficult to unravel a meaning from this intentionally elusive prose, and hence, some students of Northeastern University decided to create a seemingly impossible, yet interesting virtually reality experience called Joycesticks based on it. Unlike a typical video game that involves having to defeat enemies or completing a task, this game enables the players to explore the gameplay aspect as well as the cinematic experience of the novel in virtual reality.
Matthew Harty, a student who played a chief role in developing the game, remarked that “It’s definitely a book that you keep getting more and more out of, each time you read it. The goal with Joycestick is to give people who only plan to read it once something to help them dig into those layers.” Joycestick presents a culmination of literature and computer science, and guides students understand the text better.