I went to a tech festival to tell a 2000-year old story through video game puppetry.
Mozilla invited my video game puppetry troupe to give a workshop at MozFest, a festival that celebrates the Open Internet Movement. So I flew to London and, with a team of talented volunteers, led workshops in a machinima theater performance of “The Story of Niobe” from Ovid’s Metamorphoses using Halo: Reach.
In the workshops, participants controlled video game puppets and spoke lines. In one session, a volunteer even took on the role of the sniper/camera, Apollo. In the end, each workshop session succeeded in telling Niobe’s story.
Why did I choose to share an Ovid story?
For one thing, I’m a big Ovid geek. And I believe it’s important to tell these stories. Classics struggle to remain relevant in this age Pokemon Go, which earned almost a billion dollars in revenue in 2016.
Ask around. Which is more recognizable—Shakespeare’s Prospero or Star Trek’s Khan? And who is the more famous glutton—Erysichthon of Thessaly (also in Ovid) or Namco’s Pacman? And who is the tragic prince that all the kids know whose father is killed by his scheming uncle? Is it Hamlet or Disney’s Simba?
Harvard’s David Damrosch believes that we need “to foster a meaningful connection between older texts and newer media” in order for classics to survive. I founded EK Theater in 2007 to do just that, and we use video games as our medium of expression in this unique form of puppetry.
And why did I choose Niobe for the video game puppetry piece?
People are familiar with many Ovid characters such as Midas, Narcissus, and Icarus, whose fate Lin-Manuel Miranda recently planted into the contemporary consciousness through a lyric in Hamilton’s “Burn.” Niobe’s story is not as recognizable, so hers is a story I want to keep alive.
Well, what is possible?
In my case, I flew 3,500 miles (5,633 km) with two Xbox 360 consoles and five controllers, and I did my part to keep a 2000-year old story alive for a little while longer.