Edgar Allan Poe
‘Smoke portrait’ of Edgar Allan Poe (photographed in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London)
Today I’d like to speak about the master of the macabre and the biggest influence on Death In Candlewood: Edgar Allen Poe. I found the photo above by chance in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Piccadilly Circus. A genius artist (whose name I can’t find anywhere) held pieces of paper over an open flame and ‘painted’ this collage of Poe. It’s incredible in real life, which is why it’s in a ‘Believe It or Not’ museum, I suppose, and I think Poe would have approved.
I’ve been obsessed with Poe’s stories since I was a child. His gothic narratives have inspired many films over the years, but I always wondered why his influence hasn’t been stronger in video games. H. P. Lovecraft, another famous American gothic writer, has left a much stronger legacy – I can still remember playing BioShock for the first time and thinking it reminded me of the hair-raising Lovecraft novella, At the Mountains of Madness. Still gives me the chills.
The reason I’m surprised Poe hasn’t had more of an effect on games is because he’s such a good source for puzzles, investigative narratives and exploration, as well as being a phenomenal source for twisted psychologies. That would all fit perfectly into a number of different genres, from point-and-click adventures to RPGs and action games.
A number of people have asked me in particular about Elizabeth Caravan: is she alive? Is she dead? Is she somewhere in between the two?! I can only say that she’s one of the most Poe-esque characters in the game. Think of her situation: bed-ridden in a mansion with a tormented husband and little hope of survival. In her portraits, she sometimes looks like she’s smiling – other times you might pass and think how serious she looks. What do you make of that, eh?
So Poe’s general sense of mystery, madness and death is the huge influence on Death In Candlewood’s atmosphere. However, there are three works in particular which are key: the nightmarish ‘Ligeia’ (1838), the infamous ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1839) and the gruesome ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ (1845). Now, I don’t want to give too much away about Death In Candlewood, but if you have a read of these three stories I’d be very interested to hear what ideas, scenes or themes you think might have found their way into my game…
Ravings of love & death
Ah! I couldn’t finish an update all about Poe without recommending another Kickstarter project dedicated specially to him. I present:
It’s aimed at funding a beautiful artistic anthology of Poe stories and poems, every page colour illustrated and designed by the phenomenal artist David G. Fores. You really need to check it out – there’s only a few days left before it closes, and it’s right on the cusp of reaching its goal!