Books and Games Again

The Times (via Linda Braun) has another report of books and video games today, but this time I’m feeling a little more cynical towards it.  The article is split between libraries and schools using games to foster scholarly activities and novelists capitalizing on the interest in gaming to market their books.  The former point is well taken (although I find the arguement that reading instruction manuals will improve literacy a bit dubious, particularly because hard core gamers don’t read them).

The later is true, but the article uses some really poor examples.  There are some great works in both the publishing and the video game world that bridge the two.  This article sticks entirely with the novels, and focuses on one person in particular who is in marketing first and an author second, not a great formula for success.  On the other hand there are people out there like Sean Stewart who came to the form (via Cathy’s Book) after having his feet firmly planted in both worlds first.

And on the other end of the spectrum, the article seems to presuppose that video games have not yet found a way to reach the same level of narrative complexity as books.  And while I agree they could be better, so could the great majority of novels being written today, and there are a huge number of games that have found ways to incorporate truly clever writing (Psychonauts, Sam & Max, Portal), complex narratives (Killer 7, GTA), and fictional worlds with incredible depth (Bioshock, Okami).  There may not be a game yet that has successfully combined all these elements, or at least not without sacrificing the gameplay to accomplish it, but there are plenty that have come close (I’ll actually accept some arguements in favor of Portal and Okami for having succeeded) and I have no doubt we will be there in the very near future.

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