October 4th, 2009

If there’s one thing the world of geekery isn’t missing these days, it’s games inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton’s new movie has been hyped for its release March, 2010 since this summer’s gamer-filled Comic-Con. The sequel to American McGee’s Alice, also due out next year, has caused a similar stir. I reviewed a remake of the classic Wonderland-themed chess game, originally Through the Looking Glass, now AliceX. And just the other day I discovered Alice in Bomberland, an upcoming iPhone game worked on in part by friend and Braid artist David Hellman. That list, I’m sure, is far from comprehensive.

We could say that this renewed Alice flurry is a matter of semi coincidence — smaller developments studios piggy-packing off the release of two big projects, American McGee’s Alice 2 and Burton’s darkly vibrant film, which are both set to drop in the coming months. Our collective gamer love of the little girl who fell down the rabbit hole didn’t start in 2009 though. It goes as far back as… well, when? Do we have American McGee to thank? Or maybe cosplayers in white and blue? Or maybe cult classic Alice in Wonderland porn.

Whatever got us started, Alice has become a pop culture icon able to exist almost completely separate from the story in which she first appeared. We’ve appropriated the images of her fall, her nibbling mushrooms, of her teatime with the mad hatter, and we use them as the raw material to create new stories, some much like the original — others about, well, avoiding explosives. We’ve made her own our, and that goes for pop culture in general, not just geekery.

So why does Alice fascinate us more than other children’s stories? Is it the surprisingly modern absurdity of the story? Is it its sexual ambiguity and “perverse” undertones? Recommended reading: Will Brooker’s Alice‚Äôs Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture. But you can already tell I’m rooting for that perversion answer, can’t you?

Tags: books, little girls, new games

4 Responses to “Why we geeks love ‘Alice in Wonderland’”

  1. thesimplicity Says:

    I’d say Jan Svankmajer sparked the whole obsession more than anyone else. He took the story and transformed it into… well, a Jan Svankmajer film. I personally have his surreal visuals in my head whenever I envision an element from Alice in Wonderland.

  2. Fizzbang Says:

    The Wonderland books are based on a combination of mathematical illogic and altered reality that acts as catnip for geeky, creative, occasionally psychedlic types. And as this audience has gained a voice in media, Wonderland has been a steady influence and touchstone motif – from early science fiction and fantasy, to comics, to cartoons, to movies, to games, and so forth. The concept of “going down the rabbit hole” was embraced as a major theme in many works of cyberpunk science fiction, and is still embraced as a common term in game design today.

    I’m not sure I’d put much credence on the “perverse” angle, although that’s certainly given recent authors plenty of material to work with. But when it comes to “dark & edgy” interpretations of Wonderland, I think the brilliance of Old Man Murray still answers it perfectly:

    “The problem with making a dark and disturbing version of Alice in Wonderland is that it’s pretty dark and disturbing to begin with, which gives it little training wheels that help cultural firebrands ride it into geniusdom once every eighteen months or so. Masterminding a trippy reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll is like making a version of Crazy Traxi, only crazy! At this point, about the edgiest thing you could do with Alice in Wonderland is try to make it a little less fucking insane.”

  3. ShawntheSavage Says:

    One of the reason’s why I liked Alice in Wonderland so much because it’s one of the only stories where, at times, you find yourself rooting for the antagonistic characters of the story like the caterpillar w/the hookah, Cheshire the cat, or the Mad Hatter! I’m not sure if I could speak for everyone but I also fell in love w/the “Alice” character, as well! Who wouldn’t want to chase the rabbit down the hole, espically if you know you could fit down the hole as well!!! :-D

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