Wednesday, 17 September 2008

21st Century charades

When was the last time you played charades, or whatever the branded hugely-expensive board game version is called? When I used to play charades, we had three media categories: a book, a film or a play. I think that was then supplemented by "a TV show", but that was about the time I put away childish things, or at least pretended to.

I've been catching up on reading lately, having a go at a lot of those classic books that I think I've read, but in reality have only seen a TV adaptation for. Now, most of these books are over one hundred years old and their authors had little choice as to the format or medium in which they told their story. The original format for stories was good old word-of-mouth, but a hundred years ago you were pretty much stuck with the printed word or the stage if you wanted a relatively mass audience.

These days, it's all different of course. Your original medium doesn't have to be the printed word or even film, as Pirates of the Caribbean or Tomb Raider has demonstrated. And with all the merchandising, tie-ins and spin-offs, it's getting quite hard to say what the lead medium for many stories is. It's all like that silly old Watership Down joke: "You've read the book, seen the film, now eat the pie!"

I did wonder what many of the old classic authors would have gone for as original medium if they'd been bright young 21st Century things. Sherlock Holmes would most probably have launched as a real-time internet game, perhaps in an alternative Second Life-like universe. Samuel Pepys, of course, would have been Blogger Supreme. The 39 Steps would have made a great video game, while Jules Verne may have gone straight to Lego for his underwater adventure. Dicken's novels did start their life as serialisations and I can imagine he might have gone for a London-based TV soap opera, full of realism and colourful characters. Treasure Island may have started life as a theme park ride, rather like its modern-day pirate equivalent. George Bernard Shaw may have missed out on the "Pygmalion" stage and gone straight to "My Fair Lady"- style musical spectaculars on stage, in cinema and on DVD.

And I wonder if we would have had a series of biting comedy shows under the banner of "Oscar Wilde presents" with Mr Wilde himself as the cleverest, bitchiest judge of all time on the world's best talent show ever.

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