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This Game Turns James Joyce’s Most Notorious Novel Into Virtual Reality

But will it make you want to finish Ulysses?

smithsonian.com

If you’re befuddled by James Joyce, you’re not alone: The Irish author’s books are notoriously hard to finish. Ulysses is especially challenging—it’s so difficult to tackle that there are scores of guides encouraging readers to stick with it. But now a new game may help you muddle through. As Shaunacy Ferro reports for mental_floss, a Boston College project will soon bring the novel to life using virtual reality.

It’s called Joycestick, and it takes players through the Dublin of Joyce’s masterpiece. Players are thrust into what’s been nicknamed Bloomsday—June 16, 1904, the day the entire novel takes place and the day on which Joyce fans celebrate his work worldwide. In the game, users can tool around the city and “pick up” 3D objects diligently modeled by the Joycestick team—objects like a hat or a gramophone that are central to the novel. As they explore, they’ll hear an immersive aural environment including narration, music and readings from the book.

The digital humanities project is the brainchild of Boston College English professor Joe Nugent and 21 collaborators dedicated to transforming Joyce’s book into a VR experience. Together, they’ve storyboarded, scored, modeled and coded the book into an experience they call “tactilely sophisticated and accurate to Joyce’s vision.”

Nugent’s not new to gamifying Joyce. In 2012, he debuted another project, JoyceWays, an interactive app that features a multimedia tour of Joyce’s work through criticism, audio, maps, video and other elements. The team raised millions of dollars for the project on Kickstarter.

JoyceStick has already been presented in Rome, but the team hopes to finish the game by Bloomsday this year, showing it off in Dublin on June 16. Nugent tells The Times’ Sean O’Driscoll that the game initially started out as a joke, but that his students became so intrigued that it became a complex reality. Will the finished product be as complex as Ulysses itself? Probably not—but by offering a simple, captivating take on the novel, it might just inspire more people to finish it.

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