Ulysses is being developed into a virtual reality video game.

PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR

A set of Boston students have been working on the concept, based on James Joyce's 'Ulysses' as part of a class at Boston College.

The project - dubbed 'Joycestick' - aims to introduce new audiences to the works of one of Ireland's most celebrated authors, and at the same time, give a glimpse of how virtual reality can be used to enhance literature.

'Ulysses' traces a day in the life of an ordinary Dubliner named Leopold Bloom. The novel draws parallels between Bloom's day and 'The Odyssey', the ancient Greek epic.

Joseph Nugent, English professor at Boston College, said: "This is a new way to experience the power of a novel. We're really at the edge of VR. There's no guidance for this. What we have produced has been purely out of our imagination."

Based on the 650-page novel, the game lets users explore a handful of key environment described in the book. But it differs to that of a video game in the sense that it doesn't have tasks to complete, enemies to defeat or points to collect as currently players can only explore the virtual environments at their leisure whilst touching certain objects triggers readings from the novel.

Following a successful showcase at an academic conference in Rome last month, a version of the video game is expected to be released on June 16 in Dublin during Bloomsday - the city's annual celebration of the author and novel, named for its protagonist.

Enda Duffy, chairman of the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has experienced a prototype of the game.

'Joycestick' fills the blanks of the novel, as most of the places that are key to the story have been lost to time as Dublin has evolved.

She said: "The VR version in this way completes the book. It makes it real. 'Ulysses' is an ideal book to be turned into a VR experience, since Dublin is, you might say, the book's major character."

It's not the first time that developers have tried to bring works of literature into the gaming world - a computer game of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' became a viral hit in 2011 as it mimicked the look and feel of a classic 1980s-era Nintendo game.

But it is the first time developers have tried incorporating virtual-reality technology

D. Fox Harrell, digital media professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was impressed the group was attempting the project. He said: "It requires multiple entry points and modes of interpretation, so it will be fascinating to see how their VR system addresses these aspects of the work."

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