Ahoy! ‘Moby Dick, or, The Card Game’

Call me flabbergasted.

There’s a hot new game being promoted on Kickstarter, and it has nothing to do with zombies or tomb raiders. It’s about a great white whale.

The fundraising campaign for “Moby Dick, or, The Card Game” has raised more than $65,000 since April 30, blowing far past the original goal. The leviathan classic of 19th-century American literature would seem a strange match for cutting-edge financing, but the guys behind this project obviously know how to grab the doubloon.

Their online proposal includes breathless descriptions of an “action-packed” game for two-to-four players “that’s easy to learn but fathoms deep.”

“Experience the wonders and terrors of 19th century whaling and interact with some of the greatest characters in American literature,” the proposal says. “Assemble your crew, hunt whales and try to survive the final chase for the White Whale!”

Still unconvinced? There’s a charming video of the guys playing their game and talking about how much they love Melville’s classic.

 

This morning I spoke with Tavit Geudelekian and Joel Clark, two of the five people who make up King Post, the hopeful new company behind this project. For several years, they had thought about designing a video game based on “Moby-Dick” — they’ve been producing apps for the iPhone — but then they decided to go retro and pursue a card game instead.

“We all have our own avenues into ‘Moby-Dick,’ ” Clark says, possibly over-estimating the breadth of Melville’s audience. “That’s what’s been so interesting about trying to adapt it. I’ve read it over and over again. But I see it very different than the way our designer sees it because he sees these more strategic elements, while I see the more poetic elements.”

Their game tries to satisfy all those various reactions to the story, and the remarkable response they’ve received would seem to indicate that they’ve hit the mark.

Geudelekian suggests that he and his friends really aren’t doing anything so radical to “Moby-Dick.” “We kind of take for granted that Melville intended the novel to be interactive,” he says. One chapter explains how to coil rope; a later one shows a sailor tangled in it and pulled overboard. That’s instructive and — literally — immersive. Just what he’s hoping for with this project. “We’re not going to replace the text, but in playing the game, people might be drawn back to the book.”

In response to the enthusiasm on Kickstarter, the founders have already announced “an online, mobile-compatible companion to the card game.” And now they’re considering adding “wooden oil tokens.”

The game should be available in September for $30.

“A wild whimsiness” for sure.

@RonCharles

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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