At GDC 2019, I spent some time with representatives of Arte, a Franco-German, government-funded publisher devoted to releasing artistically valuable games that promote culture in its home countries.
One of its most interesting projects is The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature from Parisian developer La Belle Games. It’s an attempt to recreate Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, rather than the stories and movies about “Frankenstein” that have arisen in the intervening two centuries.
“The book isn’t just about the monster that we know from popular culture, but about what it means to be human,” said Arte co-producer Adrien Larouzée. “It’s about what happens when a child’s soul is part of an adult body, and that child doesn’t understand the way the world works.”
The Wanderer is a narrative adventure with a watercolor art style. The young Dr. Frankenstein shows the creature the world. Player choices dictate the creature’s emotional reactions.
Arte is 95 percent funded via entertainment-based taxes in the form of license fees. It has been in business for 25 years, mostly as a PBS-style TV network. Unlike TV and radio public broadcasters in the United States, it does not raise money through funding drives, but it takes limited sponsorship to supplement government funding.
Larouzée said the company is looking to offer support to games that have “meaningful content,” and that speak to European culture. The Wanderer is certainly an artistic project, but it also represents an ideal of European integrity. Shelley, a Briton, conceived the story while traveling in Switzerland.
The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature is due out later this year on Nintendo Switch, Windows PC, and mobile devices.