In a world of exacting social mores and limited marriageable prospects, the wit is mightier than the sword. Such is the premise of Ever Jane, a digital role playing game based on the novels of Jane Austen. Want to see your rival disinvited from the ball or exiled from the village altogether? A nasty rumor or tidbit of gossip might just do the trick.
“We want to bring women’s fantasies into video games,” says Ever Jane creator Judy L. Tyrer, formerly an engineer at Second Life and Sony Online Entertainment. “And I can’t think of a more commonly held fantasy than Mr. Darcy. We want to bring you Colin Firth in a wet shirt.”
But Tyrer also wanted games to reflect a different kind of heroism than the typical gun slinging macho man or pneumatic vixen seen in games. Austen’s heroes are the organizers and connectors. They are the women who orchestrate behind the scenes, such as The Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey. “Now SHE is a hero,” says Tyrer. “She holds the family together when the people in the family are lost. She’s not any man’s fantasy.”
On the face of things, immersive gamers and Austen fans have little in common. But Tyrer says the late 18th through the mid 19th centuries in England is a perfect gaming backdrop. “The gentry and royalty were in a state of terror after the French Revolution. Their fear of the mob was palpable and they clung to social mores at a level seldom repeated in history,” she says. And since digital games are inherently about imposing a set of rules on a group of players, Regency England has tremendous potential.
Tyrer likens the Ever Jane playing experience to online LARPing. You can choose to be a character from an Austen novel or create your own. The intended result is to have all sorts of new plot lines unfurling, characters scheming, and gossip percolating. “Think of it as fan-fiction, only instead of sitting alone writing with your own imagination, you are in a world with other authors.”
Tyrer is hoping to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter to improve upon the prototype. So if you’ve been pining after Mr. Darcy, give Ever Jane a try. Just be careful not to wind up hitched to the devious Mr. Wickham.