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Literature and Algorithms: The Gaming Possibilities of Books

Literary Editor
In today’s digital world, there are many cool and interesting ways to read and interpret literature. Gone are the days when the only way that a person spent time with literature was by turning the pages of a book, because now the world is full of eBooks, audio books, and computer generated literature. However, it is rare to think about the possibilities of assessing literature through a game. The game in question is the long played game of chess and with the use of an interesting algorithm, there is now a way for you to play your favorite books or text against each other in heated chess matches. Dr. Graham Burnett, a Professor at Princeton, and W.J. Walter, a programmer, worked together to created an algorithm which gives the reader the chance to pit novels against each other in a game called Novel Chess . In the initial presentation of the game, the French novel Colomba goes head to head with the English Wizard of Oz, the outcome of which was 0-1, with a win for the book about the wonderful, wonderful wizard. What is even more interesting about the game is that any outside texts that are chosen can be used to play it. Ever wonder whether the Twilight series or Harry Potter would win in a chess match? Well, Novel Chess can set that exact match up in real time. Another facet to the game is that it challenges the typical reading of all of these novels. Not only is it possible to understand the symbolic significance of Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter, it can also be determined if Hawthorne’s novel has the textual fortitude to beat out Huckleberry Finn.
Another aspect of using algorithms to search for patterns of text in books is thinking about the way that a text is read. In a way, a computer performing the process of text mining, or a chess player strategizing while playing a match, is very similar to a person doing a close reading of a text. Each is looking for certain patterns and clues that are occurring within their text to grasp a larger interpretation of the text as a whole. However, for many people, the hidden patterns of books tend to go undiscovered or are not looked for at all. Therefore, it would be a change in the right direction if we took a page out of the book of our digital and gaming invested friends and made reading into a similar game in our heads. Instead of just reading a novel for the overall story, think about what the underlying patterns are in the text. Sometimes authors write codes and patterns into their works to be deciphered by the reader. Therefore, we can see that literature cannot only be used in games, but the process of reading literature can be a fun game within itself. So, take some time to have a new interaction with literature, play Novel Chess while searching for a hidden meaning.

Courtsey of “Great Gatsby Plays to Mate” by Jennifer Shahade.


About wesleyanword

The Wesleyan Word is the official student newspaper of Wesleyan College. Operated and produced by students, The Word is printed twice per month during the fall and spring semesters. Online editions are released every Wednesday throughout the school year. Wesleyan College is a 4-year private residential college for women in Macon, Georgia. Established in 1836, Wesleyan College is the first college in the world to charter degrees to women.


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