I don’t play many video games these days, but when I found out there was a game based on Dante’s classic work I couldn’t help but investigate. What I found was not much like Dante, but something that was nonetheless ripe for reflection.
Despite having a BA in English literature I’d like to leave aside the “artistic license” that the creators used with Dante’s Inferno
. There’s really only a surface level comparison between the book and the game, but that criticism being what it is there are more important things to examine. For example I was immediately struck by the seriousness with which this game deals with humanity’s sinfulness. Not only are each of the circles of hell graphic in their portrayal of each specific sin (to the point of being extremely grotesque, vulgar, and very inappropriate for immature eyes, sometimes even for my own), but Dante himself can, based on his actions in the game, become more or less evil.
There are scenarios in the game where a poor soul will plead for mercy and if you choose to grant it then you can gain greater skill as a fighter in other levels. If you kill the pleading soul you will have a harder time fighting off the wickedness to come. That’s a very unique twist to a video game. After all, in games such as DI the most compelling parts often are the destructive elements, but this game actually rewards you for choosing to be merciful.
That being said there is another theological issue that weighed heavy on my mind as a worked my way through the game. Essentially, Dante is his own savior. Like most hero based games you are meant to battle your way out of each level, the goal being to keep yourself alive and to rescue the helpless (in this case Beatrice, Dante’s love). The twist in this game, however, is that you are actually battling the very forces of hell, God’s enemies, to both save your soul and Beatrice’s soul. It is a facsimile of Biblical salvation, where you save yourself from hell.
Of course the Bible doesn’t teach that Satan is in hell as our tormentor, but rather that hell was created for him and all who oppose the glory of God. The theology of self-salvation is really the heart of this game, but at the heart of Scripture is that every man needs a savior outside of himself, the one called Jesus Christ the Son of God. This savior entered hell on our behalf and conquered death, sin, and Satan for us. And our response is nothing but humble submission and gratitude. DI is compelling on many levels, disturbing and awful on many more, but it pushed me also to remember the importance of true salvation, and no video game has ever done that for me before.