Sunday, February 7, 2010

Meet the team: Lauren Freeman

What was your initial reaction when you found out that you were assigned to write Dante's Inferno for Facebook?
Excitement, a sense of humility and fear in the face of such an incredible task! Seriously though, I think anyone with a literary education thinks of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy as possibly one of the greatest literary achievements of all time. To be assigned the task to adapt it was hugely humbling. Not to mention, it was a double honor because we were partnered with Electronic Arts, an indisputable leader of entertainment software. Fortunately, I worked with a co-writer, Brodie Jenkins, who alleviated some of the fear in knowing I could always blame her... just kidding! We worked really well together and played off each other's excitement for the piece. So, all in all, it was smooth sailing.

Talk a little bit about your creative process? How did you tackle this adaptation?
Well, first and foremost we reread Inferno in several different iterations. We had a rather colorful debate here at the office over which adaptation was the most valuable. I think John Ciardi and Robert and Jean Hollander's versions were the most dog-eared on my end. After I re-familiarized myself with Dante's version, we read EA's game scripts. From there, we discussed with EA which elements of the game we could use and which we should refrain from using.

It was an interesting situation because EA had adapted some of the major bosses that Dante encounters such as Cerberus and Geryon, in very creative ways. However, given the fact that EA's game wasn't going to launch until after the Facebook game, we had to really make a judgement call as to what aspects of the adapted gameplay could be unveiled. For those elements that EA didn't want to become public knowledge yet, we returned to the original source material (Dante's poem) and used the original imagery. So there was quite a bit of back and forth between the various versions.

All things considered, we had a good deal of creative freedom which as a writer is always appreciated. From the very beginning I decided that I wanted our missions to rhyme. It just seemed to be the most organic approach to the material. We generally only write 3-4 four succinct lines of text for our missions anyway, so why not have them mimic Dante's rhyming stanzas? Of course this made the writing process that much more challenging, but I'm really proud of the resulting mission text.

What is your favorite mission in the game?
I love the depiction of Cleopatra because she is really just a BAD, bad, apple in this game. I don't want to ruin it for people who haven't played yet, but let's just say she's in the realm Lust and she gives Tiger Woods a run for his money in that department.

You were the lead writer on Diva Life and Band of Heroes, two very different themes. Did you find it comparatively easier to descend to Hell with Dante or was this a difficult genre for you?
Well, my nickname as a kid was Lucifer, so... I'll just let that fact speak for itself.

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