Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Apr 26 2018 01:00PM

Despite my near-total lack of interest in video games, I am always happy to hear of another game-creator developing an Austen-themed product (here and here, for instance), presumably with an eye firmly on the female market.

The latest is Austen Translation, slated for a May 1 release, wherein you play “a young unmarried woman of uncertain means who is closing in on her expiry date.” You attend four social events, during which you must outflank other eager bachelorettes and land a suitable marital prospect. (“Failure to marry is not an option,” warns the governessy British voice narrating the promotional trailer.)

The multiracial mix among both suitors and bachelorettes reflects a progressivism notably absent in Austenworld, and some of the scenarios teased in the trailer do not sound terribly Austenian. “An unscrupulous rival plants a needle in a rival’s hay bale seat”? Even Lucy Ferrars is subtler than that! (Also: hay bales?)

But I’ll happily take marital maneuvering and nasty needles over the usual gory fare of traditionally male-oriented video games. The stakes may be high – even, arguably, life and death – and the emotional abuse may be violent, but at least you won’t have to clean up any blood.

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 7 2017 01:00PM

Perhaps it is because game-playing is so common in Jane Austen’s novels – think Lydia Bennet’s lottery tickets, Mary Crawford’s spirited round of speculation, or Mr. Woodhouse’s backgammon board – that every year seems to bring a new Janeite game.

As blog readers will recall, I’ve greatly enjoyed some of the earlier Janeite entertainments, and so I’m happy to learn that we’ll soon have an addition to the collection: The Austen-themed board game Polite Society has reached its Kickstarter goal, and its Australian creators expect to deliver their final product by March.

Unlike some previous Austen games, in which players compete for glory in the marriage market, Polite Society concerns the less irrevocable, but no less cutthroat, competition for high-status dinner guests. Still, the general idea is familiar: Instead of potential spouses, game cards represent fifty-two potential guests -- heroes, heroines and secondary characters, both attractive (Jane Fairfax) and repellant (John Thorpe), from all six novels.

Under rules that recall the marriage-linked Austen games, inviting these characters to dine requires forking over varying numbers of cards representing Wealth, Wit, Beauty, and Heart. Once acquired, prestigious characters generate rewards that, in turn, make it easier to invite still more prestigious guests.

The creators of Polite Society are a pair of sisters who, in addition to their day jobs, run a company called Veldi Games. So although it’s not clear from the Kickstarter description, I assume that, once launched, Polite Society will be available for sale to the general public, not just to those who backed the original appeal.

But if you want to get in on the ground floor before the Kickstarter campaign ends on August 24, it costs only $5 Australian (about $4 US) to get a print-and-play electronic version, available now, and only $39 Australian (about $31 US) to get the boxed set next year. Which leaves you plenty of time to come up with a menu sumptuous enough to tempt Mr. Darcy.

By Deborah Yaffe, May 18 2015 01:00PM

I was one of those little girls who loves dolls. But none of your affordable Barbie nonsense for me. No, I had the toybox equivalent of champagne taste, which meant a substantial collection of stunningly beautiful, ridiculously expensive Madame Alexanders, complete with brushable long hair, satin dresses, frilly pantaloons and elaborate bonnets. Had the American Girl line existed in my day, I would have owned three or four of the dolls and insisted on a complete wardrobe for each.

Perhaps this history explains why I was captivated by news of the 99-cent Jane Austen Dress Up app for Android, which allows you to electronically customize your very own Regency lady. First you adorn her person, from bonnet and hairstyle to spencer and shoes; then you choose an elegant indoor or outdoor backdrop; and finally you decorate the picture with a Jane Austen quote.

Then you start again and do it about a thousand more times, because you want to see what all the different combinations look like.

Jane Austen Dress Up (from a creator called Story Seamstress) is far, far from the first Austen-related app or video game (I’ve written about some of the others here and here), and I am unqualified to judge its technical merits. Indeed, since I’m still holding out against this newfangled smartphone trend – I don’t think it’s going to last, do you? – I can’t sample the wares myself. But if you fork over the 99 cents, do let me know what you think.

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