Games tend to work best when they’re inspired by, rather than direct adaptations of other media. This tendency makes sense because games are immersive in a unique way. Games make the player an active participant rather than a voyeur, reading from someone else’s perspective or watching a multitude of people act out a story. Even if a player doesn’t personally identify with their character in a game, there’s still a level of immersion that’s totally unique.
Literary games are interesting because they turn concepts into mechanics and let us enact new stories in familiar settings. While many games are inspired by books in one way or another, these are some top-notch literary games.
The Horror of Time and Space in Bloodborne
If you don’t look too closely, it would be easy to write Bloodborne off as a typical Victorian horror story. It’s not so much that Bloodborne is a direct adaptation of any one work, but rather that it draws heavily on an entire genre: cosmic horror, especially as written by H. P. Lovecraft. This isn’t horror that threatens you with death— this is horror that looms just beyond your understanding, driving you slowly insane with each tidbit you come to understand.
Lovecraftian horror unravels in dreams and space and time, dwarfing humanity next to incomprehensible monsters. A common theme throughout is the small role an individual human plays in comparison to the unending expanse of time.
Adaptations of Lovecraft’s work aren’t unusual. But what Bloodborne does uncommonly well is to play on the concept of a Lovecraftian protagonist; someone on the brink of madness (as outlined in this SPOILER-FILLED video). The game’s insight collection and frenzy state whittle away at the protagonist’s mind as they encounter various Lovecraftian monsters. The way that certain enemies interact with the player only reinforce this interpretation. The world of Yharnam isn’t too far removed from a Lovecraftian setting, and the influence is certainly there, but the way that Bloodborne makes use of these ideas is wholly unique.
Page 2: The Adventures of Geralt