5 Video Games That Would Make Fantastic Ballets
The Wife With One F is a ballet fan and has been trying to interest me in attending some of Houston's by-all-accounts excellent performances for years. My opinion on the matter is that if I want to see superhuman feats of grace and agility, I'll just turn on lucha libre on Telemundo, but she tells me that that isn't the same thing. Must be something about the music, I guess.
Mentioning this to my brother over the holidays, he mused that perhaps the Dragon Quest ballet would tour the States, and I perked right up. Dragon Quest (Released as Dragon Warrior here in 1989) never really developed the depth and brilliance of Final Fantasy, but it's still a good old-fashioned kill the dragon, rescue the princess story. It's a damn sight deeper than The Nutcracker, that's for sure, and the Star Dancers Ballet in Japan apparently thought so, too, because they performed the thing like clockwork every year from 1995 to 2002.
Even better, they released a DVD of the performance and a helpful YouTube user uploaded the whole thing in 12 parts for you to peruse for free. It's honestly quite epic, and really brings the story of Erdrick and his descendants to life that challenges the game itself. As games get closer and closer to being considered art, it made me wonder what other titles would make good ballets.
Probably the easiest comparison to the kind of game that apparently makes a good ballet is the masterpiece of the Legend of Zelda series. While it's a game of impressive length, the best thing about Ocarina is that your interactions with other characters are usually on a simple enough level that doing so through dance is actually just as effective as any of the dialogue. Hell, there's even an interpretative dance already in the game, although it's more horrifying than anything.
Sure, you would probably lose a lot of the gameplay in condensing the action into acceptable stage length, but do we really want to watch the Water Temple made even harder by making some poor dancer do the damn thing in time to music on his toes? No, you just take Link out of the Kokiri Woods, meet Zelda, he gathers the amulets, she gets kidnapped by Ganon, and he wakes up in the dystopian future ready to take him on. Since we already have a full symphony of the game themes now, making this a ballet seems like a no-brainer.
You might not have played Catherine because, well, it's kind of a game for perverts. On the other hand our market research shows that perverts enjoy our articles very much, so if so, hi perverts!
Catherine is kind of a mixture of a Japanese dating simulator with Silent Hill. It follows a man torn between two women named Katherine and Catherine, one who he is having an affair with and one who is pressuring him to settle down and get married. His internal struggle is represented by nightmares involving falling block puzzles culminating in boss battles with monsters.
Performances could use a screen to project the text messages that are so important to the game, and the nightmare levels are more or less representational anyway so they make perfect dance settings. Plus, someone already proved you could use falling block puzzles to craft high art so there's a precedent.
Journey is already almost a ballet in and of itself. The game is little more than a solitary figures traversing a desert, a ruined city, and a frozen mountain. There's no real story, and interaction with other players in the game can only be non-competitive. The real point of Journey is to walk you though an incredible series of puzzles and action in order to symbolize Joseph Campbell's monomyth of a hero's journey.
The whole thing is told wordlessly, and the nature of the protagonist ensures that the main character can be played by either a male or female. This is especially helpful as finding good female leads in games is still a problem. Of all the possible source materials for a game ballet, Journey is easily the most perfect.
Speaking of female protagonists, the best one to take true front and center in a ballet would be Faith Connors. Mirror's Edge managed to do the almost impossible when it brought an actual feeling of physical contact from a first-person perspective. Controlling Connors is one of the few games in the world that made a player feel actually superhuman.
The world Connors inhabits is a totalitarian dystopia full of fast-paced chases and an oppressive, all-watching government. She and other runners are employed to hand-deliver messages to avoid the constant surveillance, but she is quickly drawn into a dance of assassination and betrayal. It's a gripping story that can easily be told through movement as well as with dialogue.
The world needs more frightening ballets. Stuff like the ending of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring where people dance themselves to death. To that end, I request a rebirth of Phantasmagoria.
Originally released during the interactive movie game boom of the '90s, Phantasmagoria remains one of the scariest games of all time. It follows a horror novelist who retreats to an old house to write, only to be attacked by a black magician who previously used the house as a base. Dreamlike scenes of the magician murdering his wives, scenes of sexual assault and torture, and a battle against a demon make for some perfect creepy inspirations to set to dance.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Houston.