July 12, 2018
Say it isn’t so: video games are influencing kids to read books
by Michael Seidlinger
That’s a headline I never expected to write with any sincerity — but according to Alison Flood and Sian Cain at the Guardian, the popular video game Minecraft has become a sort of gateway drug for books.
You’ve likely already heard of Minecraft—it’s one of the most popular games in existence—but may not know about the openness and creativity the game offers. By allowing players to build entire worlds to their liking, Minecraft engages with players in visualizing details beyond the basics. The worlds created in-game can be as vibrant as anything told on the page.
Now, some are bridging the gap between game and literature. Litcraft, a partnership between Lancaster University and Microsoft, has built the world of Treasure Island in the game. By offering up a fully interactive depiction of Skeleton Island, professor Sally Bushell says she hopes to create “an educational model that connects the imaginative spatial experience of reading the text to an immersive experience in the game world.” This means activating the player in young students while at the same time keeping them interested in the source material.
This isn’t the first of its kind: The game has prompted countless homages to literature (like a living, breathing Hogwarts), but Litcraft hasmade sure the various worlds created as part of the project will be as vivid as possible. One particular playtester, named Dylan, might have phrased it best: “I’ve read the book, but you have to follow rules in that. In games, you can explore. Now I know exactly what the book looked like.” The emphasis here is on the visual component. Players most enjoyed being able to see what they had previously only imagined, empowering their imaginations and bringing favorite books’ inmost details to life.
Hopefully, more projects will come along to help bridge the gap between game and book. It’s reassuring to see a novel, conscious effort to inspire a generation of new, digital native readers to give books a chance. The moment they get caught up in the pages, unable to stop reading, it becomes evident where the storytelling power comes from.
Surely, you never regret getting lost in a book.
Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.