Can Video Games Save Reading?

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Photo: WireImage

Probably not! In the Times today, in the second story in her series of "The Future of Reading," Motoko Rich takes a look at how authors, publishers, and libraries are hilariously using video-game tie-ins to encourage kids to read. Apparently libraries have taken to hosting Super Smash Brothers Brawl and DDR tournaments which, as far as we can tell, just draw a bunch of kids physically closer to the books they're ignoring — at an event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, "most of them said they did not read much, and rarely checked out books," with some anti-book youngsters bemoaning reading's lack of a competitive component. Explains 18-year-old Derek Hibbs, "You can’t say: 'I charge you to a reading duel. Go!'"

The current prevailing logic among publishers is that new books need companion online games — PJ Haarsma's Softwire series tricks kids into reading by including clues for the game in books, and kid-lit series 39 Clues recently launched with a Web presence that supposedly fills in the gaps in the novels. Which, of course, as the Times points out, may lead kids to skip the books altogether in favor of the games. By the end, Rich takes heart in a minor victory: "The reading that gamers do in instructional manuals, strategy guides or message boards, though often cryptic and more technical than narrative, might serve as a 'gateway drug for literacy.' And, finally, holds up 14-year-old Noah Tropp, presumably the only person under the age of 19 that the Times could find alive on the planet still reading books, as a golden example of the new way; Tropp read a graphic novel this summer after hearing about it while searching for game hints online. See? It's all gonna work out!

Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers [NYT]