‘Queens Game’ explores a new media content form, combining the dramaturgy and aesthetics of today’s video game with traditional film and theatre approaches, in an interactive world. Its name comes from the chess rule, ‘promotion’, whereby if a pawn reaches its eighth rank on the other side of the board, it can become a Queen.
Princess Margrete of Denmark (1353 – 1412) succeeded in crossing the chessboard of Scandinavian politics, starting aged 6 as a pawn in the game set up by her father, to become Queen of Scania by her own efforts, wearing the triple crown of Norway, Denmark and Sweden and holding the largest state in Europe in peace for 24 years while the rest of Europe was in turmoil. Margrete was a skilled chessplayer – her personal chess-set is preserved at the National Museum, Stockholm.
‘Queens Game’ is Margrete’s story, told in her own voice, in childhood and youth, when she resided at Akershus Castle, Oslo. She was married at the age of 10 to Prince Haakon of Norway (aged 23) and gave birth to her only son, Olav, when she was 17. The topics of child marriage and teenage pregnancy are highly relevant in today’s diverse environment, and Margrete’s real and fascinating life of learning, inventiveness, courage and achievement provides a healthy counterbalance to the popular girls’-tales of Disney’s spun-sugar princesses.
‘Queens Game’ uses a virtual story-chess interface, and will be developed in two stages – first, as a pilot-demonstrator/prototype 3D navigable storygame (in collaboration with Snowcastle Games, Oslo); and then (in collaboration with Expology, Oslo) as a prototype Augmented/Mixed Reality experience, designed for the location of Akershus.
The project builds on the story-architecture and dramatic script, ‘Dronninger av Norden’, developed with support from the Norwegian Film Institute’s Interactive fund (with games designer/producer Ellen Lyse EInarsen) by writer/director Maureen Thomas, who will head up this Norwegian Artistic Research Programme project. The format incorporates both the visual aesthetics and storytelling-mode of the 14th century, using the ‘Codex Manesse’ manuscript illustrations as inspiration for characters and backgrounds, and the spatially organised narrativity of Malory’s ‘Morte D’Arthur’ (first published by Caxton, 1485 and still in print) as the basis for the story-structure. These aesthetics, still linked to oral storytelling, suit computer handling much better than the traditional linear modes of the contemporary novel, play or film.
‘Queens Game’, built on research into authentic historical material, incorporates original song and music. It is designed for a family audience (‘3G’ – ‘3 Generation’), from children to grandparents. It will look and feel like an explorable 3-dimensional medieval manuscript – a story from the realm of King Arthur come to life – transposed and transformed for the 21st century.