Friday, July 17, 2015

Gamers Are Readers

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Photo: Joseph Jestes Photography

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is a book lover's book. It's also a book about gamers.

Twelve-year-old Emily Crane, who loves reading and solving puzzles, moves to San Francisco with her older brother, and two parents whose goal is to live in all 50 states. Her new neighbor, James, is not as into reading, but he is into games. So when Emily stumbles upon a book that she believes is part of a new game by Mr. Griswold (the Willy Wonka of the reading world, and a San Francisco native), she becomes determined to figure out the rules. James helps her navigate San Francisco. There's a bit of geography, and a lot of logic and detective work (in the solving of the mystery of whether or not Emily's discovered a new game by Mr. Griswold).

At the Nielsen Children's Book Summit last December (which studied the reading and leisure habits of children from preschool through teenage), Nicole Pike shared her analysis of the data collected about gaming for Nielsen Games. Pike said kids who game also read: "92% of kids and teens claim to game on a weekly basis; 68% say they read for pleasure on a weekly basis," she said. That's a significant overlap in a Venn diagram. What do they have in common? Gamers and readers are both thinkers. They like to guess, to anticipate, to figure things out. So it's no surprise that readers like to game, and gamers like to read.

At the ALSC Institute a few years back, Eric Nylund, then head writer at Microsoft Game Studios, said that kids wrote to him to tell him they "hate reading" but enjoyed Nylund's books based on games (such as HALO) and asked if he had any other book suggestions. He said he pointed them first to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. "They'll come back a week later," he said, asking for another suggestion. "Try Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld," Nylund told them; he called this "breadcrumbing." If they come back a third time, it's Tolkien, "and then I know they're hooked," he said. Book Scavenger has plenty to offer both dedicated readers and gamers who read.

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