Gothic Fiction, the literature of horror and terror, is a literary genre that can trace its history back to the late 1700s. Gothic literature’s origin is often linked to The Castle of Otranto, a short romance subtitled ‘a Gothic story’ that was anonymously published by British author Horace Walpole in 1764. During its evolution, the Gothic has been through multiple revivals, and is currently enjoying a renaissance in to the success of novels and films such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Video games too have been dabbling with the Gothic imagination for a considerable period of time. In this article we will look at Clive Barker’s novel Undying and the video game of the same name. You can find the full unedited article
The game and book follow the same story line. Set in 1920s Ireland, the story sees protagonist and player character Patrick Galloway moving through a series of endeavours to rescue his friend from his personal childhood-based torments. The story evolves through a selection of stylised locations, all of which are made with a gothic style: ancient cloisters, crypts and numerous other Edwardian and Victorian locations. The locations in the book and the game lead to a cove which explains the torment of the island itself.

When considered in its own field, Undying is a bit of a spectrum of experiences, both in a positive and negative way - merging and recombining differing elements from gothic literature to form a surprisingly solid and interesting core. These changes of theme within the horror of Undying are also supported by other creative elements such as the game’s music, which often shifts its mood with exploratory choices made by the player, to the benefit of the game’s atmosphere. Composer Bill Brown praised the rest of the game’s creative whole for allowing his contribution to flourish. In addition, the graphics are sufficiently dark and realised, despite the age of the game causing a few rough edges.

The basic fact that needs to be considered is that Undying has a good story with a bold narrative that oozes free throughout. It’s clear that Clive Barker also helped to temper the developers’ impulse to create an overly flamboyant leading character for the player to control; one typical of video games overall but inappropriate for a relatable horror protagonist:

“Originally our hero’s name was Magnus Wolfram, a stocky barrel-chested man with eccentric clothes and a bald head and tattoos all over his body. We all thought he was cool, but Clive saw Magnus as unapproachable and seemingly superhuman.” (Dell Siefert, 2004).

What resulted from the literary expertise of Barker as well as the effortlessly combined visual and interfaced elements from the game design team was an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable romp around a Gothic-Emerald Isle.

Perhaps the greatest injustice with regards to Undying’s quality as a piece of gothic horror gaming, was that it went the way of so many critically acclaimed media products,; receiving high praise but low sales: such is the bane of many excellent games. Unfortunately, games are not simply books with a level of visuals placed over. Many other elements such as gameplay, branding and the platform on which it is released are all seen to be more important than the core Gothic-literature-based plot.

Despite Undying's visuals bringing an enthralling beauty to the game's gloomy twists and turns. The gaming quality actually created was lacking. It would seem that
could relate to a wonderful video gaming experience, but this attempt by Clive Barker only adds a little to the already strong story. Other games that are worth a look would be more modern titles, such as Clive Barker Jericho, The Darkness, and the most recent Amnesia for the PC.

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Published on: 4:04PM on 13th October 2011