Interview: Jonathan Knight

Spawn Kill and several other gaming outlets were graciously invited onto a conference call with Dante’s Inferno executive producer, Jonathan Knight. During said call, Knight divulged some particularly interesting information regarding the upcoming hack-’n-slash extravaganza, including details involving an animated feature film, why the decision was made to adapt The Divine Comedy into a video game.

And in a particularly interesting turn of events, Knight was kind enough to divulge his thoughts on the criticism surrounding the video game adaptation, admitting that the game is a “bastardization” of the original poem, but its merits far outweigh the criticism levied against it. You can check out Knights’ insightful answers to the questions I was lucky enough to ask below to prep yourself for the February 9th release.

There are a lot of animated scenes sprinkled throughout the game. Is there any interest in making a feature film similar to what was done with Dead Space Extraction?

Jonathan Knight: Well, we have made an animated feature. It’s with Film Roman and Starz, the same partners we made the Dead Space one with. It’s coming out in February, with the game, so we have done one and we’re really excited about that project and you should be able to check that out soon.


Why the Divine Comedy? Is this an idea you had from the start, or were you sitting around discussing literature and decided “Hey, that’d make a great game?”

Jonathan Knight: Myself and the team were really interested in the topic of Hell as a setting for a video game, and what I think was particularly interesting was the medieval vision of Hell with the Christian mythos. You know, like what Hell would be like, who goes there and why. Historically, it’s a fascinating topic to research, and how we came to decide to use this kind of theological institution and what the rules were about who goes to Hell, and what it looks like there. Not everybody believes that it was a terra firma kind of place.

Dante Alighieri basically took all the thinking and synthesized it to a very imaginative vision, something allegorical, but he personalized it so that it was a real place. You had the nine circles, towers, rivers, and monsters and creatures and he basically mapped out Hell. We went from this interesting topic to falling in love with his vision of it, and we said we’d just do a video game based around what he wrote.


How do you respond to all the critics claiming that you “bastardized” the poem? How do you feel about that?

Jonathan Knight: Yes, we have done a very loose adaptation. Sure, it’s a bastardization in the sense that it’s a bastard child of the original material. I think that’s completely fair. We definitely used the source material as the foundation for the game. We are very, very familiar with it and I think anyone who read the poem and will play the game, they will recognize hundreds and hundreds of references and touch points that we injected into the game, and a tremendous amount of material from the poem. But the main thing I would say is that the game is actually pushing people to read the poem. It’s like a gateway into getting people interested in The Divine Comedy and Dante and we’ve just seen over and over people writing in to us and on our Facebook fan page, saying “Yeah, I just picked up a copy of the poem. I’m reading it and I want to know more about it because the game is going to be interesting.” I’ve had school teachers come up and say the same thing to me. So I think the main response I would have is, lots of people are going to read The Divine Comedy that otherwise would not have. Dante’s in the spotlight after 700 years, and if you’re a Dante fan, that can’t be a bad thing. In fact, real students and scholars have told me that their professors were the ones who told them about the game.

I really do think we have a celebration of this great character and in a word, it kind of breaks the gap between very inaccessible literature and exposes it to a wider audience that’s playing video games. I think [the game] is a good way to do it, and at the end of the day it will get more attention and more people will read the poem because of it.

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