Tread the Boards Online

Have you ever visited a Renaissance Festival and wished you had the guts to dress up in those costumes and speaking in a faux cockney accent?

Well now can from the privacy of your own home! Sort of.

The MacArthur Foundation recently awarded a grant for the development of Arden: The World of Shakespeare. According to CNet “The idea behind the project is to produce a virtual world steeped in the rich lore and characters of the playwright’s work.”

The game will be a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft. Different parts will be devoted to different plays. According to the article, they are going to start with Richard III.

The grant was awarded to Edward Castronova who has famously studied the economics of online games. Arden will continue some of his work in this area and provide an arena for sociologists, political scientists and economists to study human behavior under changing situations.

But to the player these motivations shouldn’t be discernable during game play. They will be there for the fun.

The game universe will be generally limited to what could be found in Shakespeare’s universe. Magic will be limited to what might be found in The Tempest or MacBeth as will technology, professions, etc. Though finding Shakespearean text will empower you.

Though the intent is mostly to benefit social sciences, I wonder if playing the game might not provide good research for actors. Find out how a peasant might have really felt after spending hours of drudgery online. Want to discover real motivation for delivering Henry V’s St. Crispen’s Day speech? Get ye to the Battle of Agincourt. (Of course, you might be felled by dysentery on the way if the game keeps things realistic.)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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