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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

In for the quill

Once upon a time, the hottest thing in video gaming was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Back then, the pixelated graphics necessitated by the limitations of 1980s 8-bit computer technology seemed the height of sophistication.


Today, nearly forty years after the NES’ release, it’s possible to play video games with far more complex and realistic imagery. But in the same retro spirit with which twenty-somethings now embrace LPs, board games, and non-electronic books, contemporary video games with NES-style pixelated graphics are apparently A Thing.


And so it is that we can now buy Jane Austen’s 8-bit Adventure, which sends a pixelated avatar of one of England’s greatest authors on a quest to retrieve copies of her books and defeat villains sprung from the pages of her own novels.


In the snippets available online, a tiny, pixelated Jane, looking more like an adorably determined toddler than a pioneer of the novel, strides purposefully through the countryside, levitates across battlements, and wields her quill pen like a light saber as she vanquishes a bird, a bat, and a top-hat-wearing Regency gentleman. (“She has a license to quill,” the YouTube trailer explains. I admit that this line reduced me to helpless giggles.)

Screenshot from "Jane Austen’s 8-bit Adventure"

Jane Austen’s 8-bit Adventure is not, of course, the first Austen-themed video game: I’ve written about such titles as Jane Austen Manors, Austen Translation, and Ever Jane (here and here), and that’s just scratching the surface. Somehow, though, it seems appropriate for a game featuring a Regency protagonist to use graphics that, in computer-era terms, might as well be two centuries old.


From time to time, I’ve wondered how much overlap exists between the category “video gamer” and the category “Janeite,” but apparently there must be some: The NES cartridge version of Jane Austen’s 8-bit Adventure became available late last month and is already sold out. (Digital versions remain available, for between $2.99 and $9.99, depending on the platform.)


I’m not a gamer, so I won’t be playing. But if any of you try your hand at pixelated quill warfare, please report back and tell us how it goes.


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