Gaming Jane Austen
I’m not a video gamer. While I love games – I have fond childhood memories of cutthroat family Monopoly matches and drawn-out Boggle tournaments on the bus to school – I was a ‘70s kid, too old, too tech-averse, and too girly to be a gamer in the boy-centric era of Pong and Pac-Man.
So I’m not quite sure what to make of Ever, Jane, a new Jane Austen video game currently getting lots of publicity as it searches for funding on Kickstarter. (Its promisingly tongue-in-cheek capsule summary: “In the virtual world of Jane Austen, it is not about kill or be killed, but invite and be invited with gossip our weapon of choice.”)
Ever, Jane is not the first Austen-themed video game, though it may be the first massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMPORG) to feature Austen’s characters. Amazon has offered Matches and Matrimony since 2011, and a year later BBC Worldwide launched a Facebook game called “Rogues and Romance,” since revised and renamed Jane Austen Unbound. Phone apps abound, and there's even an entire web site devoted to modest, fan-produced Austen video games.
I’m unqualified to judge the Ever, Jane prototype downloadable on Kickstarter, and I’m curious about whether there’s enough overlap between Janeites and video-gamers to support a sprawling, 24-7 Austen role-playing game, let alone to fund its $100,000 Kickstarter budget.
But the effort alone is further evidence that Janeites aren’t all the middle-aged, tea-sipping knitters of popular stereotype. Watch out for those virtual knitting needles – you may get one right between the ribs.