College students turn James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ into a virtual-reality game

The goal of “Joycestick” is to expose new audiences to the works of one of Ireland’s most celebrated authors, as well as to give a glimpse of how virtual reality can be used to enhance literature, says the Boston College professor coordinating the project.

BOSTON — Students are developing a virtual-reality game based on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” as part of a class at Boston College.

The goal of “Joycestick” is to expose new audiences to the works of one of Ireland’s most celebrated authors, as well as to give a glimpse of how virtual reality can be used to enhance literature, said Joseph Nugent, the Boston College English professor who is coordinating the project.

“This is a new way to experience the power of a novel,” he said. “We’re really at the edge of VR. There’s no guidance for this. What we have produced has been purely out of our imagination.”

Nugent and his students hope to release a version of the game June 16 in Dublin during Bloomsday, the city’s annual celebration of the author and novel, named for its protagonist. They’ve already showcased their progress at an academic conference in Rome last month.

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“Joycestick,” in many ways, fills in the blanks of the novel, as most of the places key to the story have been lost to time as Dublin has evolved, said Enda Duffy, chairman of the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has tried a prototype of the game.

“The VR version in this way completes the book,” she said. “It makes it real. ‘Ulysses’ is an ideal book to be turned into a VR experience, since Dublin is, you might say, the book’s major character.”

There have been a number of efforts to bring works of literature into the gaming world over the years, including a computer game of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” that became a viral hit in 2011 as it mimicked…

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