Emilie Marcinkowski – Jane Eyre Translated to a Video Game

Source Medium: Jane Eyre

Destination: Video game

Scene: The moment in which Jane decides to leave Rochester and Thornfield, after she has discovered Bertha’s existence. In our edition, this scene starts on page 343.

Jane Eyre: The Video Game

This game will be a visual novel, a genre of video game where the player must win points and increase their statistics to advance the plot. In addition, depending on the amount of points, players can unlock alternate plots and endings, which then changes the course of the novel. In this game, the player inhabits the character of Jane, and oversees her decisions to move forward in the game.

For this scene, the player chooses whether they will marry Rochester. If the answer is yes, there will be a video montage of the scenes that follow. In this montage, the player sees when the marriage is interrupted, and gets to experience firsthand the discovery of Bertha. After this, the player must decide whether to stay and marry Rochester. A list of options will pop up: Yes, stay and marry him; No, leave Thornfield and go elsewhere; or stay and decide later. Obviously, if the player chooses to leave, this will mimic Jane’s decision in the novel, which may eventually lead to her arrival at Marsh End/Moor House. If they choose to stay, however, this will change the path of the video game and may lead to a different ending of the story.

The translation of Jane Eyre to a video game affords it a wider range of possibilities, but limits its efficacy in conveying emotion. It was not that difficult to translate the scene to a game format, as I could imagine the video game playing out in the same way that the novel does. However, I had to determine how to make the game interactive, instead of it being merely an animated movie version of the novel. So, I chose to allow the reader to become Jane, to make her decisions, to feel similarly (or in some cases, differently) to the way she does in the novel.

The advantages of translation are clear in that it allows the player to make Jane’s decisions. This widens the novel’s possibilities, in creating more choices for Jane rather than the limited choices that a novel affords the reader. Unless we could go back in time to tell Charlotte Brontë to change some aspect of the novel that we perhaps are not fond of (i.e. I would go back and tell Elizabeth Gaskell to change the ending of North and South!), we are limited by what the author has chosen for their protagonist. In this case, this means that the reader is resigned to the fact that Jane must leave Rochester, deciding not to marry him every time this particular scene is read. However, in the video game, the reader gets to choose a different path for Jane, meaning that the story has different possibilities and avenues rather than the limited one provided by the novel form. Also, being able to (in a sense) become Jane means that the player gets a chance to experience the same emotions that they would if they actually were the Jane in Brontë’s story.

However, while there is a chance that the player will feel the same way that Jane does, the format of the game also means that the player has a chance to feel emotions that are completely different than Jane’s. For example, some people might feel a stronger attachment for Rochester, and not feel the internal conflict between the love Jane has for Rochester but also her intense need for independence. In being able to choose based on their own emotional attachment, the player may vastly change the trajectory of Jane’s story. Thus, Brontë’s message, and perhaps the entire moralistic aspect of the novel is lost; the Jane that stays with Rochester is not the bourgeois, middle class individual that she eventually becomes, which is Brontë’s goal for the novel. Rather, this Jane becomes a dependent, not on an equal footing with Rochester, which subverts the original ending of the importance of the middle class. What is lost, then, is the voice of Brontë that emerges in the course of the novel; instead, the voice of the reader is the one that takes center stage in the video game format.

Thus, while the video game form allows greater freedom and choice in terms of the reader’s own reaction and choices in the story, allowing these choices also means that the original intent of the story could be lost, which decreases the effectiveness of the story.