The Royal Shakespeare Company has created a computer game based on the Bard’s works in an effort to promote them to a teenage audience.
The RSC is in talks with manufacturers, including IBM and Sony, the makers of the Playstation console, about marketing the game, which uses characters from The Tempest. If it is successful, the company hopes to devise similar games based on Shakespeare’s 36 other plays.
The Tempest video game, which was created with the help of programmers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, uses Shakespeare’s characters, including Prospero, Caliban, and Ariel: as in the play, the action takes place on a desert island following a shipwreck.
Each player chooses which characters to spend time with and follows a series of adventures suggested by lines from the play.
Tom Piper, the RSC’s principal designer who devised the game, said he hoped that it would capture the themes inherent in the piece in addition to giving those who play it a feel of what it is like to be an actor.
He said: “In the game, your fate is governed by who you decide to spend your time with: do you want to be seduced by an Ariel or led astray by a Caliban' The game gives you an opportunity to govern events and create a different world of your own.
“It will allow you to go where Caliban could never go and do those things he never could: you could, for instance, break into Prospero’s cell and destroy his books.”
Piper, who worked on the RSC’s acclaimed 2001 adaptation of The Tempest, added: “We are making a console game because we want it to appeal to a young market. If it was something designed for a PC, people would think we were aiming for their grandmothers.”
Last month the RSC organised a workshop of actors to work through some of the scenarios for the game. Michael Boyd, the new director of the RSC who took over the company last week, is heavily involved in the project.
He hopes that a series of computer games, which can be marketed for about £30 each, will prove a money-spinner for the company, which is struggling to cope with an annual deficit of more than a £1 million.
Over the past five years the Arts Council has had to give the company emergency funding of £9 million, on top of the £12 million it gets each year in grants.
Last week the council announced it was increasing the RSC’s grant by just £750,000 a year.