Ever wanted to play a video game based on Emily Dickinson’s poems? Well, now you can, with the release of EmilyBlaster, a 1980s-style game in which players must pull words from the sky to correctly recreate Dickinson’s verses.
EmilyBlaster is a real-life version of the fictional game created by a character in Gabrielle Zevin’s novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, which will be released next month. Zevin’s book is about Sadie and Sam, who first met as children in a hospital computer room in 1987. Eight years later, they reunited and began working together to create computer games.
Among the first games Sadie created was EmilyBlaster, and now readers can play, after the book’s US publisher, Knopf, recreated it to celebrate the publication of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’s.
There are three levels in the game, each with a different poetry snippet: level one is That Love is all there is, level two is We talk as Girls do, and level three is Hope is the thing with feathers.
In the novel, Sadie does EmilyBlaster “out of desperation and almost without more time”: “Poetic fragments fell from the top of the screen and, with the help of a quill that squirted ink as it moved along the along the bottom of the screen, the player had to film the fragments that made up one of Emily Dickinson’s poems,” Zevin explains in the novel. “And then, once the player managed to complete the level by drawing several of Emily’s verses, you earned points for decorating a room in Emily’s Amherst home.”
Readers are told that Sadie’s class hated it, with one student saying she “thought some of the graphics were cool, but the thing is, the game kinda sucked”.
Zevin told LitHub that in addition to Dickinson’s poetry, the game was inspired by “edutainment games of the 1980s.”
“I liked the slight subversiveness of creating a game where the object was to draw poetry, and I thought Emily Dickinson’s compact verse style and memorable phrases would make perfect targets,” he said. she declared.
Zevin described EmilyBlaster as “a bit addicting and hard enough”.
This is the first time that UK book publisher Vintage has released a computer game based on a game-in-a-book. The publisher has created a website where people can play EmilyBlaster and create their own 80s-style video game avatar. And when Zevin visits the UK in July, he’ll be setting up an arcade machine in a book outfit complete, also equipped with Donkey Kong, at Waterstones Piccadilly in London for a week.
Zevin is the author of several novels including The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, which is being made into a film starring Lucy Hale, Kunal Nayyar, Christina Hendricks and David Arquette. She has also written children’s books, including Elsewhere, which won the Sheffield Children’s Book Prize for longer novels and the Stockport Schools Book Prize, and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.
Although this particular type of game, based on a in a book, is not that common, there have been several games based on books. Bestselling titles include The Witcher series and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, both of which started life as books. In 2020, Orwell’s Estate endorsed Orwell’s Animal Farm, based on George Orwell’s 1945 novel, in which players can assign tasks, manage resources, and determine which animals make sacrifices and which would be “more equal than the others”.
And just released We Are Not All Alone Unhappy, a short interactive game in which players are asked to create a pairing between two characters who received canonically unhappy endings in Shakespeare’s plays.