Gaming is for everyone!

22 10 2009

I have to admit: as bad as  I am at reading graphic novels, I’m probably just as bad, if not worse, at video games.  Which doesn’t mean I don’t like them (just ask my friend Sam, who once watched me die over 40 times in a row trying to beat one not-very-hard level of Super Mario Galaxy), it just means I might not get the same thing out of them that people who are better game players might.  It also means I play them less, though that may have a lot to do with me being a die-hard reader rather than a reader/gamer, like so many tweens are.  Which brings me to my question of the week: what books  generally appeal to reader/gamers?  And why?

I also have to admit: I’m a cheater when it comes to talking about die-hard gamers and what books they like to read.  My boyfriend is a die-hard reader who I am trying to convert into a reader/gamer.  He’s great because he’ll read anything I recommend, he just doesn’t like everything I give him.  Mostly, he likes adventure.  Books about deep-sea diving or sharks or dinosaurs, some fiction, but mostly non-fiction.  Despite the fantasy worlds of his favorite video games, I haven’t found that much fantasy that he really likes but I’m trying. But the adventure makes sense because what are most video games if not adventures?  This tells me that the storyline of video games he loves and the books he loves (or at least likes) are related.

Now obviously, my boyfriend isn’t a tween.  He’s much closer to that first generation of die-hard gamers who grew up with video games, but not the internet.  What of these tweens who have internet games, console games, computer games and some really cool multi-platform story experiences like The 39 Clues?  Does this expand the kinds of games and stories they have been exposed to and will be interested in?  My gut says yes, although the success of The 39 Clues points to a traditional adventure/mystery game coupled with the slow start of The Amanda Project might be saying something else.  It’s too early to really say but I know that the wall of video games at GameStop is a testament to the variety of video games out there.  Want to play with virtual animals and dress them for a party?  Try Littlest Pet Shop.  Or check out Wii Sports Resort, where you can race a tandem bike with your friends.  And all new moms and thirty somethings know that you can get fit right in your living rooms with Wii Fit.    Or you can get back to basics with Space Invaders 2, an update of the classic at its 30th anniversary.  Honestly, I could go on all day about the new, weird and sometimes great video games out on the market.  But it’s clear: there’s a video game for everyone, just like there are books for everyone.

Having all those video games out there means that there will no longer be one gamer/reader profile.  Though there have always been a variety of video games, most of the die-hard gamers that I know have been like my boyfriend, action/adventure lovers.  But now, we might have tweens who are die-hard Nintendogs players.  The books that will lure them in probably will be about dogs, or other animals.  Still, I don’t think that Jack & Jen randomly assigned the books to go with our week of gaming: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan and Well-Witched by Frances Hardinge. Both of these books are full of action, adventure, dilemmas where you have to root for the character (though you don’t actually get to choose what they do as in a video game) and a twist on what can happen in the real world.  Personally, I prefer The Lightning Thief and think it would have greater appeal for gamers, because it is so action-packed.  But Well-Witched really has a puzzle for Ryan to solve, which might have more appeal for fans of role-playing games.

The world of gaming is changing and gamers will change with it.  As David Levithan pointed out, the world of reading is changing, too.  In the future, I don’t think all books will be like The 39 Clues but might more video games go in the direction of a true multi-platform story like The 39 Clues?  It’s certainly possible.

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One response

24 10 2009
Jennifer Hubert

Alexa,

I like the connections you drew between gaming and the books we discussed for last week. I really wish I had been there, from the class notes and reading other people’s blogs, it sounds like it was really interesting!

I admit I know very little about video and online games and what I do know, my middle school students have taught me. I’ve never been that into this format of media, and if I have free time, you can bet I’ll be spending it reading! I think you’re right in your assertion that now the definition of video games is so broad that there is something for everybody and the traditional stereotype of a typical “gamer” no longer applies. Which to me means that this type of media has disseminated into our popular culture to the point of being totally integrated. I remember being at a party once and telling a group of hardcore gamers that I wasn’t into gaming at all. Their response? “Do you play Tetris on your phone?” I answered, yes, sometimes obsessively! “Then,” they replied triumphantly, “you’re a gamer!”

I’m not sure how I feel about multi-platform books yet. They seem sexy right now, but I’m not sure how appealing they will be in the long run. Simply due to their format, they will age quickly and need to be renewed constantly by publishers and replaced constantly by librarians. I only have a few boys in 6th grade who are reading The 39 Clues, and they like it, but I certainly don’t see it spreading by word of mouth the way Wimpy Kid does or even The Lightning Thief.

Thanks for your thoughtful post. See you in class on Monday.

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