In The Great Gatsby--F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel about the
Roaring Twenties--Jay Gatsby's origins are shrouded in
mystery until late in the story, when we learn that Gatsby grew up in rural North Dakota with a different name
but reinvented himself as he accumulated wealth.
So it seems fitting that The Great Gatsby video game
went viral this week on the strength, in part, of a mysterious creation
myth, only for us to later learn that the game's origins are in fact more
mundane than we initially thought.
The Great Gatsby game's website states
that the vintage two-dimensional Nintendo game--in which you
contend with butlers, flappers, and gangsters at one of Gatsby's bacchanalian parties (if you die, you're told, "Game Over, Old Sport")--appeared to be
an unreleased Japanese creation called "Doki Doki Toshokan: Gatsby no
Monogatari," purchased for 50 cents at a yard sale. The site even
reproduces the original cartridge and user's manual, which it dates
to around 1990.
But here's what really happened: Charles Hoey, a developer at the San
Francisco-based Barabarian Group and Great Gatsby fan, was messing around with Photoshop one day when he hatched the idea for the game. Hoey partnered with Pete Smith, an editor at
Nerve.com, and released the game about a year later. According to The Washington Post, Hoey and Smith considered
creating "a full literary classics arcade" with Jane Eyre as their next
submission but instead decided to put the source code online for other
developers to make their own classic NES games.
We're now wondering whether The Great Gatsby game has spawned a classic literature-cum-video game web craze to rival LOLcats. The site Vector Belly has already released--no kidding--Waiting for Godot: The Game.