Simone de Rochefort’s wonderful essay about playing Stardew Valley as Ernest Hemingway offers exactly the type of unique insight that makes me love reading video game criticism while also offering exactly the type of weird cross-genre mashup that I often attempt. (I also fall squarely into the overlapping portion of the Venn diagram of people who love the work of Ernest Hemingway and people who love RPGs.) So rather than attempt to recreate de Rochefort’s excellent piece, let’s instead follow it a step further and consider other real world people who would make for excellent video game avatars.
Defined by a ruthless desire to achieve his goals at all costs, Michael Jordan played basketball like he could save the world by doing it. (A scenario that clearly warranted further inspection.) Later in life, he would also contend with emotions so powerful that they meme-ified him. That combination of dominance and pathos is exactly what you want in a space marine; put a laser rifle in Jordan’s hands and he’d be a perfect commander in the Mass Effect trilogy.
A natural storyteller, Amelia Earhart was also the archetypal adventurer that post-Depression America so desperately needed. Earhart turned travel and exploration into an unbelievable feat of human willpower all the way until poetic tragedy stuck and she was lost to the very thrill that she loved. So yeah, plop her in the cockpit for your next No Man’s Sky run and get to adventuring.
Alexander the Great
Young and handsome, wise beyond his years, a preternaturally talented strategist and commander—with attributes like that, Alexander of Macedon is already a video game character come to life. (With Aristotle as his teacher, he even had the absurdly wise mentor capable of revealing deeper truths.) Pencil him in for the lead role in any strategy game you’ve ever played or maybe one of the more tactical squad-based shooters from the Tom Clancy catalog.
The debonair Brit who created James Bond was actually diluting his personal brand when he wrote a bunch of books about a spy who prefers his martinis shaken, not stirred. Fleming was an intelligence officer who tormented the Nazis and who once said his that his biggest regret was that he had “always smoked and drunk and loved too much.” He’d make for a compelling avatar in, well, any game with conflict, but especially anything stylish and featuring an element of sabotage, like the Hitman series.
This one feels like a slam dunk. Oprah’s larger-than-life energy is a perfect fit for the everything-is-larger-than-life world of video games. The power of Oprah could save Stardew Valley‘s community center in a week, it would have the inhabitants of Skyrim bending the knee as Oprah dragon shouts her book recommendations at them, hell, could the shrinking storm of Fortnite possibly contain the irrepressible power of Winfrey? I don’t think so. Play as Oprah, win the game.