Friday, July 25, 2014

No one opens the door for a native New Yorker. (No one?) No one.

How did Odyssey's ready-for-prime-time 1977 hit "Native New Yorker" not find its way into the opening credits of a network sitcom back in the heyday of disco?



It was used to promote The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this year, with Fallon roller-boogieing down a New York City sidewalk, but why couldn't Busting Loose, a short-lived CBS comedy starring Adam Arkin as "a young man in New York City who has moved out of his parents' house to live on his own for the first time," according to the show's Wikipedia entry, give it a good home? What, not butch enough for you, Busting Loose?



Okay, I see your point.

To be fair, Busting Loose premiered in January of '77, and "Native New Yorker" didn't become a hit until that summer, apparently. That means the Barney Miller spin-off Fish, which debuted in February, would've been ineligible as well. (When a station in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, aired reruns of Fish in the summer of '83, it used Madness's then-current hit "Our House" in its promos, which is why Abe Vigoda and Suggs will be forever linked in my mind.)



However, the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Rhoda was entering its fourth season in the fall of '77 and could've used some new platform shoes.



ABC's Makin' It didn't live long enough to see its theme song reach number five on the Billboard Top 40. That's because the show was canceled months earlier. (Oh, the humanity.) Besides, Makin' It centered on a native New Jerseyer, not a native New Yorker. (It's worth pointing out that Greg Antonacci, who was scary as hell in the final season of The Sopranos as one of Phil Leotardo's henchmen, was a featured player on both Busting Loose and Makin' It. He also made a couple of memorable appearances in those days on The Rockford Files, on which Sopranos creator David Chase was a writer.)



Welcome Back, Kotter, you could've used a boost in your final season (1978-'79) after John Travolta left for greener pastures on the big screen. On second thought, never mind—John Sebastian's melancholy but ultimately uplifting "Welcome Back" is a perfect TV theme song. No need for a quick fix of something that wasn't broken to begin with.



The same goes for Taxi, which debuted in the fall of '78. I love you just the way you are, Bob James's "Angela."



I guess it wasn't meant to be, "Native New Yorker," but keep your head up—I have a feeling you're gonna make it after all.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Greatest Backhanded Compliments in Rock History, Vol. 1

"Love between the ugly is the most beautiful love of all" —Todd Rundgren, "Does Anybody Love You?" (from A Wizard, a True Star, 1973)



Monday, February 10, 2014

rhythm and blues and authenticity

The Coup's Boots Riley, speaking to Chicago rapper ShowYouSuck (Clinton Sandifer) in the February 6 issue of the Chicago Reader:

The short answer is, the hip-hop audience hasn't changed. It's just the people who are willing to come to the type of hip-hop that we're doing has changed. And to be fair, the style of hip-hop I do is not the style of hip-hop that a lot of people are listening to, based on what gets played on the radio and what gets played on video shows. A lot of black folks are going there. But even those audiences—who listen to the radio and who watch those video shows, 106 & Park—it's mainly white kids too. It's just that certain kinds of music sell because of the idea that it has a largely black audience, and that's always been the trick.

Peter Guralnick has a book called
Sweet Soul Music in which he talks about one of the reasons that him and his friends were more into Stax Records as opposed to Motown Records in the 60s—they had this idea that Stax Records was more of the black culture than Motown was. It had this image behind it that this is what black people listen to. So what happened was, a lot of white kids started buying it.

But in his book, he interviews people and finds out that no, they were marketing it toward white kids with the idea of authenticity behind it. Who was buying it was mainly white kids, just like any product in the United States. But what does get sold sometimes is this idea of authenticity. And if you don't have a certain image, then you must not really be authentic. Because we all know, black folks only act a certain way. And if you're not acting that way, then you probably don't have many black folks who listen to your stuff. [
Laughter.]

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cribbing dialogue from an Oscar winner is scandalous.


On the October 3 season premiere of ABC's Scandal, CIA shadow agent Rowan Pope (Joe Morton), who was revealed in the final moments of the second-season finale to be the father of protagonist Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), yells at his daughter, "I do my job so that fatty can watch reality TV, eat fast food, stare at the Internet, screw their husbands or their battery-operated products, and never use their teeny-tiny brains to think about the freedoms that I make possible—never think about the democracy that I make possible!"

Morgan Freeman, your legacy lives on.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

reluctant readers and video games

The following research paper was written in the spring and summer of 2012 to complete my master's degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Sorry, but I haven't yet figured out how to make the footnote hyperlinks work properly.)



From Gamers to Readers: Bridging the Gap

“Last month, you humped around a water-stained copy of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and nobody said boo to you. In that book, some British sisters vie to get their dance cards punched. In [Terry Brooks’s Shannara book series], a nuclear holocaust has wiped out almost every living thing. And ‘now’ — two thousand years in the future — the Ohmsford siblings have rediscovered a burning green magic, germinating under the world, the past waiting to be reborn as future.
“‘The Elfstones [of Shannara]’ is so much better than ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ Yet it has been made clear to you that the Austen book is a classic, while Terry Brooks is ‘a hack’ ...
“So give up on the honor system. (Thanks, Pizza Hut!) Start filling in the [fast-food chain’s] Book It! certificate with all manner of sanctioned bullshit: ‘Little Women,’ ‘Little Men,’ ‘Stuart Little.’ In the dead of night, keep reading Terry Brooks until you’re out of books.”
—Karen Russell, “Quests”
    (from The New Yorker, June 4, 2012)[1]

For centuries scholars, critics, and other keepers of the cultural flame have debated which forms of art are most worthy of study and preservation. The classical Greek philosopher Plato asserted that poetry, painting, and sculpture had no place in a utopian society[2], while in modern times movies and TV series are generally considered to be lower on the artistic food chain than books[3] — or poetry, painting, and sculpture, for that matter. Times change, of course, as do opinions, but within each discipline lies a separate hierarchy of “good” and “bad” art as determined by said keepers of the flame, e.g., Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice versus Terry Brooks’s 22 novels set in the mythical Shannara universe[4].
Further down the food chain are video games, though education scholar Hannah P. Gerber contends that they offer a variety pack of literacy: “reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and presenting are all engaged in when a student enters into many of today’s game worlds.”[5] So why don’t games command more respect from parents and teachers? I’ve never been a “gamer,” but it’s hard to deny their 21st-century status as mass-market, mass-appeal entertainment — in 2008 game publisher Take-Two Interactive sold six million copies of Grand Theft Auto IV in its first week of release, earning $500 million[6] which is why I’m surprised that top-tier publications like The New York Times and The New Yorker still don’t offset game titles with quotation marks the way they do book and movie titles. Presumably this is just a matter of typesetting style, a holdover from the early 1980s, when the new wave of arcade-based games appeared to be not much more than high-tech pinball machines with fancier bells and whistles. But The Chicago Manual of Style now recommends that game titles be italicized[7], a welcome if overdue acknowledgement of legitimacy for a form of audiovisual entertainment, albeit an interactive one, filled with an array of story lines, characters, and fully written “cutscenes” that provide exposition and advance the narrative just like a book or movie would.
In the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2012 exhibition The Art of Video Games a placard informs visitors that Pac-Man, one of the most popular arcade games of the ‘80s, was inspired by a children’s story about a creature that devours the young to protect them from monsters.[8] It’s an apt metaphor for adults who, in their attempts to turn young males into readers of “good” fiction, perhaps try too hard to wean them off video games and other boy-approved media, labeling cartoons, comic books, gross-out humor, science fiction, and various strains of nonfiction as “subliterature,” according to Thomas Newkirk, author of Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture (2002), “something that a reader should move beyond.”[9]
How can parents, teachers, and librarians bridge the gap? As Pulitzer Prize finalist Karen Russell (2011’s Swamplandia!) suggests in her short essay “Quests,” even fifth-grade girls aren’t likely to dive head first into Pride and Prejudice. But what if tween gamers familiar with the zombie shoot-‘em-up franchises Dead Space and Resident Evil were allowed to read Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which augments Austen’s original text with scenes of tongue-in-cheek horror? “The hook,” says Hannah P. Gerber, “comes in helping students recognize how literature can be paired with their interests and affinities toward particular game genres and game experiences.”[10]

“Just get ‘em reading”

            A March 2010 report from the Center on Education Policy showed that in almost every state in the U.S. in 2008 boys scored lower than girls on reading proficiency tests, sometimes by as much as ten percentage points.[11] The results encompassed elementary, middle, and high school — at the fourth-grade level alone, no state could claim that boys had bested girls in reading achievement — and the CEP’s report noted that girls have routinely outscored boys on reading tests conducted by the National Assessment of Educational Progress since 1992.[12]           
            It’s not that boys are lazy or just don’t want to read: They’re two to three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with a reading disability, and three to five times more likely to be enrolled in special-education classes.[13] They’re also 83 percent more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and 59 percent more likely to have to repeat a grade.[14] With those kinds of figures the deck is stacked.
Another problem is the paucity of men teaching elementary school and working in public libraries. “We tell boys reading is important,” says Jon Scieszka, author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales (1992) and founder of Guys Read, a website devoted to helping boys become readers for life. “But what we show them is that reading is important if you are a girl and want to grow up to be a woman teacher or librarian.”[15] As it happens, roughly 75 percent of elementary school teachers are female[16], as are 83 percent of children’s librarians[17].
            Male role models are an equally important influence in the home. In 2008 the Library of Congress named Scieszka the first National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature; he was succeeded by Bridge to Terabithia author Katherine Paterson two years later, and in January 2012 Walter Dean Myers, whose young-adult novels include the acclaimed Fallen Angels (1988) and Monster (1999), became the latest appointee. Myers, who is African-American, told The New York Times that in his new post one of his goals would be to reach out to low-income parents of minority students. “You take a black man who doesn’t have a job, but you say to him, ‘Look, you can make a difference in your child’s life, just by reading to him 30 minutes a day.’” He added, “We’ve given children this idea that reading and books are a nice option, if you want that kind of thing. I hope we can get over that idea.”[18]
Along those same lines, in 2010 best-selling mystery novelist James Patterson told Leanne Italie of the Associated Press that it’s never too late for a boy to become a self-motivated reader — he used his son Jack, a reluctant reader until age 12, as a personal example — but “parents have to take the responsibility seriously.” Patterson, who also writes/cowrites the Maximum Ride, Daniel X, and Witch & Wizard series for middle-grade and young-adult readers, stressed that schools should leave room on their required reading lists for books that children will actually want to read, including “fart fiction” favorites like Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and Andy Griffiths’s The Day My Butt Went Psycho![19] (The prolific author launched ReadKiddoRead.com, a site similar to Guys Read, in 2008.)[20] “Just get ‘em reading,” Amelia Yunker, a children’s librarian in Michigan, told Italie. “Worry about what they’re reading later.”[21]
Some parents disagree. Two months after Italie’s story was published The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed piece by Dallas publisher Thomas Spence, who took umbrage with Yunker and Patterson’s meet-them-halfway approach and quoted from C.S. Lewis’s 1943 book The Abolition of Man, in which the author cites Plato’s belief that good taste must be taught: “The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful.”[22] In other words, bathroom humor is disgusting, not pleasant, so knock it off already, junior. Spence’s solution for getting boys to read involves greatly minimizing their game-console and Internet usage, leaving plenty of free time for reading. He concluded, “Who knows — a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.”[23] Or he might pick up Lord of the Flies and fixate on how great life would be if adults were no longer around to tell him what to do.
Before they toss the Xbox or PlayStation in the trash, parents should consider focusing on the positive. In 2009 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, of which the U.S. is one of 34 member countries, published the findings of its Program for International Student Assessment. For one thing, 15-year-old girls are twice as likely as boys of the same age to read fiction for pleasure, but boys are more likely to read newspapers: an average of two out of three boys in OECD countries confided that they read the daily paper for pleasure, compared to only one in five who read fiction for the same purpose.[24] The PISA report suggests that paternal influence is a factor: mothers are ten times more likely than fathers to read a book, but fathers are ten times more likely to read a newspaper.[25]
This preference for nonfiction can begin at an early age. Librarian Glenda Childress made a note of which books kindergarten and first-grade students pulled from the shelves at her school in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the mid-‘80s and discovered that girls chose fiction 80 percent of the time yet boys selected nonfiction just as often as fiction, demonstrating “that boys and girls show rather divergent patterns in materials selection even before they begin to read independently.”[26]

Data vs. dialogue

            Sigmund Freud’s theory that boys want to master their world while girls want to understand theirs could help explain why many boys prefer the data of nonfiction to the dialogue of fiction.[27] Video game series like The Legend of Zelda, The Elder Scrolls, and Warcraft have helped meet the need for mastery in many boys — by earning points and continually “leveling up,” you can eventually win a game — while showcasing narrative elements reminiscent of those in movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. Boys are not immune to such books, of course, which offer another kind of mastery. “Kids have an inordinate appetite for very long, very tricky, very strange books about places that don’t exist, fights that never happened, all set against the sort of medieval background that Mark Twain thought he had discredited with ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,’” wrote Adam Gopnik in a December 2011 article for The New Yorker about Tolkien and modern-day young-adult fantasy fiction author Christopher Paolini, who came to prominence in 2002 with Eragon.[28]
“The enchantment the Eragon series projects is not that of a story well told but that of an alternative world fully entered. You sense that when you hear a twelve-year-old describe the books,” Gopnik explained. “The gratification comes from the kid’s ability to master the symbols and myths of the saga, as with those eighty-level video games, rather than from the simple absorption of narrative.”[29] If only teachers were willing to accept such tomes — the four books in Paolini’s dragon epic are all doorstops, the longest topping out at more than 850 pages — as “good” fiction. In Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community (2006) Catherine Sheldrick Ross and her coauthors, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie and Paulette M. Rothbauer, relate an anecdote about a teacher who wouldn’t allow a high school freshman to read Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring for a book report, arguing it was “trivial” and written at a middle-grade level.[30] (Tolkien, for what it’s worth, was a friend and colleague of C.S. Lewis[31], who wrote his own seven-part fantasy-fiction epic, The Chronicles of Narnia.) “The residue of guilt associated with pleasure reading,” they say, “is a legacy of an earlier era when fiction was a ‘problem.’”[32]
The arguments made against fiction at the turn of the 20th century — that “once the habit is formed,” for example, “it seems as difficult to throw off as the opium habit,” warned Pennsylvania librarian W.M. Stevenson[33] — are being used more than a hundred years later to attack not only video games but series books aimed at kids, which some educators accuse of being too pleasurable — “the literary equivalent of fast food,” as children’s author Marilyn Kaye called them in 1990.[34] But two decades later Chicago Tribune book critic Julia Keller extended the culinary metaphor in support of pleasure reading, reasoning that enticing reluctant readers “is like cooking for picky eaters: You don’t haul out the escargot, first thing. You start with hot dogs and mac and cheese, and work your way up to duck a l’Orange. Or maybe you stay with hot dogs. Nothing wrong with hot dogs.”[35] But for Thomas Spence’s sake, no “wiener” jokes, please.
“When reading is done in solitude and for pleasure,” say the authors of Reading Matters, “the suspicion arises that it may be unproductive and involve an escape from, or even a substitute for, life itself.” To that end, when Newsweek’s Jamie Reno spoke to two teenagers about their favorite young-adult books in 2008, both said they liked reading because of the escape factor. Seventeen-year-old Alexandra Roquemore, a fan of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, added that reading allowed her to “experience someone else’s life and understand different points of view” — thank you, Dr. Freud — while 13-year-old Christopher Collins tagged Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak series as a favorite (like Twilight, vampires are a selling point) and praised the written word because, “unlike movies, you create the world in your mind.”[36]
Building a world offers the allure of mastery, as does building a collection of series books, comic books, baseball cards, action figures, video games, or other forms of nontraditional literacy savored by boys. In Reading Matters Lynne McKechnie recounts that in a 2004 study of 52 children between the ages of 4 and 12, she found that more than three-quarters owned series books, that they read the books in numbered order, and that one particular 12-year-old had plowed through all but one of K.A. Applegate’s 54 Animorphs titles[37], which average between 150 and 200 pages in length[38].
Children like series books “because they are built on background knowledge and schema the students know they can tap into,” wrote remedial-reading teacher Kristie Jolley in the March 2008 issue of The English Journal.[39] They can help bridge the gap between picture books and novels for young readers[40], and because they offer many of the same elements and enticements as video games — the narrative components of first-person narration, simple story lines, repetition, and “exclusion of ambiguity” contribute to the books’ success with young audiences, say Ross, McKechnie, and Rothbauer, who emphasize that finishing a series can give a reader a sense of accomplishment[41], much like finishing an 80-level video game — they can help bridge the gap from games to books for reluctant readers.
            But because a conversation that begins, “Only 53 to go after you finish this one, son!” might not end well, parents of reluctant readers should consider gamebooks, which provide a degree of control similar to that found in video games. One type of gamebook, originally published by Bantam between 1979 and 1998 under the banner of Choose Your Own Adventure — nearly 180 titles in all[42] — employs second-person narration, making “you,” or at least the targeted demographic of 10- to 14-year-old you, the book’s protagonist, and presents options on select pages that allow the reader to boldly go where he or she wants in the narrative.
Or so it seems. As the name of Ballantine’s competing 1980s series, Find Your Fate, makes clear, free will is an illusion, the outcome of each branching path in the narrative predetermined by the author. But only one path leads to a truly happy ending, encouraging readers who don’t find the right fate the first time — falling into a bottomless pit, etc. — to try different options, including starting over from the beginning of the book or, more likely, bookmarking the page that presents two roads diverged in a yellow wood and returning to it after the bottomless-pit mishap to try the road not taken. It’s the print equivalent of a video game “cheat code,” allowing readers to stall their fate a little longer.
A quarter-century ago Jeff Norton was one of those readers. Author of the recently published young-adult novel MetaWars: Fight for the Future and producer of the 2006 animated movie Choose Your Own Adventure: The Abominable Snowman, whose 11 potential outcomes are determined through the use of a DVD player’s remote control, Norton recalled in a July 2012 blog post at TheBookseller.com that he wasn’t much of a reader as a child, preferring “the mythology and immersive worlds” of George Lucas’s Star Wars movies and Transformers[43], the animated TV series based on a line of Hasbro toys that were packaged with nuggets of exposition and character history on the back of each box.
“I learned quickly that, like sports, if reading wasn’t something I could win at then it was best avoided,” Norton said, and his attitude didn’t change until he got hooked on Choose Your Own Adventure books and their cut-to-the-chase chapters. His next stop was dystopian fiction, specifically Gloria D. Miklowitz’s After the Bomb (1984), which, unlike CYOA books, came with zero branching paths but still forced readers to “answer the fundamental question of dystopian fiction: what would you do?”[44]
Readers of Suzanne Collins’s best-selling dystopian novel The Hunger Games (2008) get to ask that same question as they follow a narrative that progresses through various levels of kill-or-be-killed competition, a video-game scenario if ever there was one. But if the book’s cover had spotlighted 16-year-old protagonist Katniss Everdeen “instead of a gold medallion against a black background, sales to boys would have been fractional,” wrote Elizabeth Bluemle in an April 2012 blog post at Publishers Weekly’s website. “This is a frustrating truth. And it’s our fault. We steer kids — no, we steer boys — away from stories they might respond to from a very early age.”[45]
Nevertheless, The Hunger Games is a hit with boys, maybe because of its gamelike narrative thrust or maybe because “adolescent boys, of the kind who take up books in the first place these days, already experience their lives as a series of ordeals,” Adam Gopnik theorized in The New Yorker. “A narrative whose purpose is not to push the hero or heroine toward a moment of moral crisis, à la ‘Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘Little Women,’ but to put him through a telescoped series of ordeals, which aim only at preparing him for the next series of ordeals: this is the story of their life.” He believes boys indulge in fantasy fiction “not for escape but for organization,”[46] satisfying their inner need to be the masters of their own data domains. But since Suzanne Collins subjects Katniss to a series of physical and moral ordeals, male readers can simultaneously master an alternative world and understand different points of view. Data and dialogue tie, allowing readers of both genders to win.

Flowing upstream

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, told Wired magazine in 1996 that a “flow” experience is the state of “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake,”[47] but it won’t happen unless the participant feels confident in his or her abilities. Boys in particular want to feel competent and in control of their skill set whether they’re playing sports, music, or video games — or reading a book.[48]
Boys also want to be challenged, because without obstacles to overcome and goals to be met, an activity can quickly lose its appeal.[49] Mastery demands — and deserves — a hard-won victory. As an adolescent nicknamed “Barnabas” told Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, the authors of Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men (2002), the best games are the ones “that take a long time to beat,” while “Fred” said he enjoyed The Legend of Zelda because it “causes you to think a lot,” and “Bodey” praised a James Bond game because it had “a lot of hard levels and there are a lot of things that you can do.” However, when it came to reading “Haywood” told the authors he preferred books that weren’t “easy” yet “not so difficult that you don’t understand what is going on.”[50] For the most part the 49 boys in Smith and Wilhelm’s study shared Jeff Norton’s childhood opinion that reading was best avoided if the odds for improvement appeared to be slim.
Thankfully, fiction isn’t the only kind of reading material and reading books isn’t the only kind of literacy. Smith and Wilhelm found that young men who weren’t keen on novels still read magazines and newspapers (in particular the comics and sports sections) as well as websites.[51] And since the authors’ study was conducted over a decade ago, it’s safe to assume that boys in 2012 get at least some of their news and information from the websites of newspapers and magazines, which have migrated more and more of their content online in the past ten years. (In a 2010 “Around the World in 80 Games”-style article for The New Yorker, Nicholson Baker pointed out that his then-16-year-old son read gaming sites and listened to a weekly podcast about games.[52] It’s also worth mentioning that in World of Warcraft[53] and The Legend of Zelda[54] the characters’ dialogue isn’t voiced by actors — it’s displayed as text.)
Two other new-millennium markers of technology’s increasing role in everyday life are text messaging and social media. Children between the ages of 11 and 14 reportedly devote an average of 73 minutes a day to texting; with older teens the average rises to nearly two hours.[55] In addition 51 percent of teenagers visit social-media sites like Facebook more than once a day, according to a poll conducted by Common Sense Media, while 22 percent make more than ten visits per day.[56] Older generations might not consider texts, “tweets,” or Facebook status updates laced with acronyms like “OMG” and “LOL” to be worthy of much attention, but they are text — the written word lives to see another day.
            “The reason boys reject schoolish forms of literacy is not that they see literacy as feminized, but because of its very schoolishness — that is, its future orientation, its separation from immediate uses and functions, its emphasis on knowledge that is not valued outside of school,” say Smith and Wilhelm.[57] Given the choice, boys would probably rather read IGN.com’s “Wiki Guide” for the video game Asura’s Wrath than John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which may be a masterpiece but in all honesty does nothing for hand-eye coordination. The “literate lives of all the boys outside of school were surprisingly varied and rich,” the authors say, “but this home/outside/real-world literacy was practiced in ways that looked quite different from the literacy they were asked to practice in school.’”[58]
            Beth Yoke, executive director of the Young Adult Library Services Association, believes that forcing teenagers to read nothing but the classics is unreasonable since “we know that leisure reading is a critical component to academic success,” as she explained on The New York Times’s website in March 2012, and that being able to choose what one reads helps shape the quality of the experience.[59] Otherwise reading is work, not leisure. But if a boy were given the option of reading a video game novelization for English homework, would he take the bait? In her article for The English Journal middle school instructor Kristie Jolley reported that struggling readers often “lose motivation when faced with a genre they dislike that’s disguised as one they do like.”[60] Eric Nylund’s Halo: The Fall of Reach (2001) furnishes a backstory for the Halo video game’s SPARTAN II supersoldiers, and therefore might seem like a slam dunk to a parent or teacher who’s trying to bridge the gap — Guys Read named it Book of the Month in April 2012 — but all a struggling reader may see is a Trojan horse filled with 352 pages of words, words, and more words.
            Jolley believes that The Halo Graphic Novel, published in 2006, can be that bridge for Halo fans who also happen to be struggling readers.[61] Comprised of four separate stories[62] so as not to wear out short attention spans, it incorporates imagery a fan is accustomed to seeing in the game series, but like a comic book it still requires healthy doses of reading and imagination. Nothing wrong with hot dogs, as Julia Keller says. And for readers who are interested in leveling up to a bigger challenge, there’s the video game novelization.
            Jolley encountered resistance from some of her students about novelizations before they even knew what was between the covers. One told her, “Most people who are big into video games don’t care about books and vice versa,” while others couldn’t imagine a novelization being any good because they would be relinquishing control of the narrative to the book’s author, which isn’t the case when one plays a game.[63]
            Or so it seems. Just like in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, free will in video games is a fool’s paradise — God is in the details. “You want to give people decisions so they feel part of the story, you want to create the sense of those decisions having impact and then you need to contain a world without the decisions going haywire,” said Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, in the online journal Publishing Perspectives in 2010. “Basically, you have to make a story that is separate enough so that one changing strand doesn’t mess up the others, one where gamers feel like they are doing these amazing things, but it’s essentially an illusion. If you give them too much agency that has an impact, the games won’t work. It’s a balancing act and it’s artful when done well.”[64] Bissell might as well be talking about the challenge of teaching children without making them feel like they’re being forced to learn.
            He goes on to explain in Extra Lives that in an “open world” game such as Fallout 3 (2008), where players can take detours through landscapes ripped apart by nuclear war, the setting takes precedence over the plot that guides players through it, so “why bother with a story at all? Why not simply cut the ribbon on the invented world and let gamers explore it? The answer is that such a game would probably not be very involving. Traps, after all, need bait.”[65]

Setting the trap

            Games have had narrative bait since at least 1981, when Donkey Kong debuted in video arcades. At the time Space Invaders, created by the Japanese company Taito in ‘78 and licensed to Midway for U.S. distribution[66], was the hottest game on the American market, challenging players to destroy wave after wave of enemy spacecraft from a fixed position on the screen. Another Japanese game manufacturer, Nintendo, came up with a carbon copy titled Radar Scope in 1980, but it bombed with arcade owners and gamers, so Nintendo went back to the drawing board and allowed a young designer named Shigeru Miyamoto to try a new idea: a game with a story. A very basic story, as it were, cribbed from the 1933 movie King Kong — Mario the carpenter must save his girlfriend from a large ape whose favorite pastime is throwing barrels at people — but the game was a hit.[67]
            Hollywood came calling soon after, turning 1980’s Pac-Man (Midway via Japan’s Namco) into a 30-minute Saturday-morning cartoon on ABC in the fall of ‘82[68], followed a year later by the one-hour Saturday Supercade, for which CBS handed Donkey Kong, Frogger (Sega, 1981), Q*bert (Gottlieb, 1982), and Pitfall! (Activision, 1982) their own individual segments[69]. CBS also broadcast Pole Position, based on the 1982 Atari/Namco arcade favorite, and an animated version of Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop role-playing game, or RPG, that debuted in 1974 and influenced game developer Jesse Schell (Disney’s Web-based RPG Toontown Online) and designer Warren Spector (Deus Ex), as they testify in video interviews featured in the Smithsonian’s Art of Video Games exhibition.[70] “Sitting around with friends and telling stories together — that was huge for me,” says Spector. “And I’ve been doing that ever since. I mean, in the electronic game space all I’ve tried to do for the last 20-odd years is re-create that experience.”[71] In The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (2008) Schell elaborates on Spector’s philosophy: “The game is not the experience. The game enables the experience, but it is not the experience.[72]
            But if gameplay is a bigger part of the experience than the story that’s being told, writers tasked with adapting video games for TV, film, and print face a particularly steep uphill battle. In Pac-Man the title character darts through a maze eating pellets while evading four “ghost monsters”; if he eats any of the large power pellets stationed at the corners of the maze he can then devour the ghosts, who return to a penalty box in the middle of the maze — or is it purgatory? — before resuming the chase. Not the most compelling narrative, but a narrative nonetheless, with Pac-Man and the four ghosts taking on the roles of protagonist and antagonist, respectively. “The most common form of game — the agon, or contest between opponents — is also the earliest form of narrative,” writes Janet Murray in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace (1997). “The Greek word agon refers to both athletic contests and to dramatic conflicts, reflecting the common origin of games and theater. A simple shoot-’em-up videogame, then, belongs to the extremely broad dramatic tradition that gives us both the boxing match and the Elizabethan revenge play.”[73]
            Arcade games like Pac-Man were a form of theater in and of themselves in the ‘80s. World of Warcraft quickly became a popular MMOG, or massively multiplayer online game, after its debut in 2004, and two years later Nintendo’s Wii home system reinvigorated the social aspect of multiplayer gaming in the family living room, but “arcade games were always a public performance,” wrote The New York Times’s Ethan Gilsdorf when he covered the 2012 International Classic Video Game Tournament in Laconia, New Hampshire. “Players had distinctive postures, often throwing their bodies into the act of punching buttons and yanking on joysticks.”[74] The better the player, the bigger the crowd he or she could attract; in that sense the player really was an actor or athlete, taking part in a spectacle while simultaneously helping to create it.
             With that kind of control at his or her fingertips, no matter how illusory it might have actually been, why would a player then choose to become a mere viewer, especially if the game that inspired such fervor didn’t provide an immersive world like that of the Star Wars movies, the Lord of the Rings novels, or even the cardboard-and-plastic containers of Hasbro’s Transformers? In order to fill up a half-hour of programming each Saturday morning, the writers of the Pac-Man TV series had to take the skeleton of the video game’s narrative, which is essentially one long chase, and add the skin and tissue of character development and dialogue. Suddenly Pac-Man, who up to that point in his evolution wasn’t much more than a literal motormouth, became an anthropomorphic yellow sphere that walked, talked, and had a nuclear family. This domestic arrangement was hinted at in the cutscenes of Midway’s 1982 spin-off game Ms. Pac-Man, whose title character was renamed Mrs. Pac-Man for the TV series (game over, Gloria Steinem!). The Pac-Man family lived in a metropolis called Pac-Land, and the ghosts were assigned an evil leader, Mezmeron, who wanted to control the city’s energy supply of power pellets.[75]
            Pole Position’s writers had it worse: the video game features no characters, only a race car that the player controls from a situated perspective, meaning “we see the vehicle we are operating as if we are following just behind it with a movie camera,” as Janet Murray describes it.[76] For the animated series a narrative was concocted that centered on teenage secret agents and their computerized talking cars, making Pole Position an adaptation in name only. It was canceled after 13 episodes[77], while Pac-Man held on for 8 more[78].
            The TV shows primarily functioned as advertisements for the games, and Transformers, G.I. Joe, and My Little Pony were no different, cartoons spawned from Hasbro toys that popped up in syndication in the mid-‘80s and “inverted the Star Wars ‘make the movie, then make the product’ merchandising model,” wrote Mary H.K. Choi in the June 2012 issue of Wired. But because the shows offered little in the way of imaginative storytelling, they allowed kids to come up with better narratives on their own — a game unto itself — “that spackled over the holes left by the shows’ crappy dialog and lazy mythology.” Choi thinks current-day updates like Transformers Prime and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which air on the Hub, a cable channel owned by Hasbro and Discovery Communications, may do more harm than good by being good: “The toons are totally engaging, but they’re consumption-only transactions — no action-figuring needed. That breeds complacency and ultimately makes veal of kids’ imaginations.”[79]
In general “presold” properties are no guarantee of audience interest. Thirty years after ABC placed its bets on Pac-Man, Universal Pictures and the makers of Battleship took the microscopic narrative of Hasbro’s namesake board game and blew it up into a $209 million sci-fi war movie, earning just $65 million at the U.S. box office (foreign moviegoers were more forgiving, increasing Battleship’s gross to roughly $300 million worldwide).[80] Likewise, Super Mario Bros. (1993)[81], Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)[82], Doom (2005)[83], and Max Payne (2008)[84] were all commercially unsuccessful film adaptations of popular video games. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is number one on Box Office Mojo’s list of top-grossing game-based movies[85] — its fidelity to the Tomb Raider game series, and star Angelina Jolie’s fidelity to Croft’s skintight wardrobe, are two factors that likely contributed to its success, but the presence of a strong woman protagonist also may have attracted female moviegoers who knew nothing about Croft’s digital counterpart (see also: the Resident Evil series of game-based movies starring Milla Jovovich, each installment more successful than the last)[86] — but it came out over a decade ago, when its take of $131 million ranked it no higher than 15th on the year-end list of top earners. Incidentally, the two most successful films of 2001 were adaptations of novels: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone made $317 million, and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ended its theatrical run close behind with $313 million.[87] (The transition of game characters and their narratives to movie screens can also flow the opposite way: the Lord of the Rings gang, Harry Potter, James Bond, and Eragon have all been retrofitted for game-console use, and all, of course, began as characters in novels.)
In the 2004 anthology Gamers: Writers, Artists & Programmers on the Pleasures of Pixels Ernest Hilbert writes, “The [Atari] 2600 games demanded more imagination than radio plays or books had from earlier generations of Americans. In a primitive sequence of blocks — (‘graphics, man’) moving vertically and horizontally, accompanied by blips and beeps that would embarrass a microwave — we detected castles, battlefields, alien worlds, and carnivals. Games today are so sophisticated, and so damned fast, that I generally back slowly out of the room when I encounter one. Whatever their athletic merits, they do not seem to require much imagination at all. The game does all the work. All you have to do is play.”[88] Michael Sragow, blogging about the debut of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws on Blu-ray, echoed Hilbert in an August 2012 post for The New Yorker’s website: “Spielberg himself says that if he’d had digital tools to make ‘Jaws,’ he could have found a lot of ways to ruin it. Post-’Jurassic Park’-era C.G.I. effects, with their premium on seamless naturalistic detail, have made too many moviegoers passive and unimaginative, accustomed to films that do all the work for them.”[89]
Maybe that’s why game-based movies, by and large, have failed to catch on with audiences: if you’ve played the game and absorbed its eye-popping visuals, it’s difficult for a movie to improve upon that experience, especially if it takes control away from you as the player. (Adaptations of the popular games Halo, Metal Gear Solid, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell were initially set for release between 2007 and ‘08[90], but so far none have made it past the script stage. In November 2010 a big-screen version of the action-adventure game Uncharted was announced, with Max Payne star Mark Wahlberg set to play the game’s hero, Nathan Drake[91], but it too is currently in limbo.) Again, the game isn’t the experience, but if its story isn’t captivating enough to stand on its own in a two-hour movie, there’s a problem.
Games have grown immensely sophisticated in any number of ways while at the same time remaining stubbornly attached to aspects of traditional narrative for which they have shown little feeling,” Tom Bissell writes in Extra Lives.[92] Two recent examples, Spec Ops: The Line (published by Take-Two Interactive and 2K Games) and Sleeping Dogs (Square Enix), have their storytelling virtues, says The New York Times’s Chris Suellentrop (see below), but are hobbled, respectively, by stilted dialogue[93] and sexist/racist stereotypes[94]. Seth Schiesel, who’s also written game reviews for the Times, thinks Heavy Rain (Sony, 2010) puts across a “character-driven narrative with the emotional engagement of a novel or film,”[95] but The New Yorker’s Nicholson Baker feels there’s nothing in the game that rises above the dramatic level of, say, NYPD Blue[96]. Hilbert suggests in his essay for Gamers that video games were better off when designers were forced by limited technology to keep it simple, inadvertently forcing the player to come up with the majority of the narrative in his or her head. In the arcade “when no one stood around, I imagined dialogue on my own, then the mind drifted to the unseen spaces of the screen,” he writes. “It was a state that took some time and money to achieve, but it was wonderful.”[97]
Don Daglow, whose game design credits include Dungeon, an unofficial adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons, says in an Art of Video Games exhibition clip that the “obligation in the early days of games was heavily on the user for willing suspension of disbelief. We really did ask users to use their imagination, and because that whole idea of computer graphics telling a story was so fresh, they were ready to do it.”[98] (Daglow programmed Dungeon on a PDP-10 mainframe computer network in the mid-‘70s[99]; dnd, another early computer role-playing game inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, was created around the same time on a University of Illinois system called, ironically enough, PLATO[100]. Its initials stood for Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations.[101])
If you’re a fan of the book you already know the story when you pay to see something like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or The Fellowship of the Ring, but once the lights dim and the movie begins you start to compare how Hollywood’s visuals stack up against the ones you’ve already shot in your head. You want to see if the filmmakers have mastered the mythology as well as you have, and you want to see how they’ll deal with the potential stumbling block of internal monologues. Some scenes will be left out, obviously — you try cramming all 300 pages of Sorcerer’s Stone into a movie that’s already two and a half hours long — but keeping track of what made the cut and what didn’t is also part of the fun.
Aside from their visual aspects, movies and video games share similar production expenses in the 21st century: Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011), an MMOG published by Electronic Arts and LucasArts, cost an estimated $200 million[102], and game development companies have been known to hire up to 200 people for a single project[103]. The financial rewards can be even greater: In the fall of 2011 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Activision) sold 6.5 million copies in its first 24 hours[104] and took in $1 billion in 16 days[105]. (Just as movie studios and publishing houses rely on the “comfort food” familiarity of series and sequels to protect their bottom line, so does the game industry, which saw overall sales decline in both 2010 and 2011.)[106]
The budgets weren’t always so big, of course, nor were the crews. Steve Cartwright, designer of the 1982 Atari game Barnstorming, explains in an Art of Video Games clip that 30 years ago “the graphics were crude enough that we did our own graphics, the sounds were crude enough that we did our own sounds. So we became the designer, the director, the art director, the musician. We even wrote the manual and designed the box.”[107] The manual and box art allowed the designer to add story exposition only hinted at in the game, not to mention illustrations that consisted of more than just squares and rectangles[108] (Atari’s Yars’ Revenge cartridge even came with a mini comic book, although it was written and drawn by artists other than the game’s designer, Howard Scott Warshaw)[109].
Single-player games are still being created on occasion by single-person operations. Fez, designed by Phil Fish, is one such game. Its reputation as the Finnegans Wake of interactive entertainment isn’t because of its story line, says The New York Times’s Chris Suellentrop: the protagonist, Gomez, must locate a certain number of golden cubes to stop the universe from self-destructing. “Finding the cubes is sort of a ruse on Mr. Fish’s behalf to get you to check out every corner of his densely constructed universe so you will begin to want to unspool the complex game that is layered atop Gomez’s childlike adventure.”[110] The protagonist’s quest is simply the McGuffin that ignites the real point of interest, the game’s mythology.
Fish, in the trailer for the 2012 documentary Indie Game: The Movie, says of his brainchild, “All you’ve been doing for four years is ‘Look at this ...’ You can’t see anything else. You don’t even see the mistakes in it anymore.” And Jonathan Blow, designer of 2008’s Braid, offers up the secret of his artistic approach: “Let me take my deepest flaws and vulnerabilities and put them in the game.”[111] Both designers (suggested Wii Sports team name for doubles tennis: BlowFish!) sound like novelists who fell down the rabbit hole in their quests to design the best games they could, which brings up a fundamental similarity between gaming and reading: both require large investments of time.

Extended play

Gatz is a stage production of The Great Gatsby in which every single word of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s text is used.[112] The 1925 novel is roughly 200 pages, but Gatz runs six and a half hours.[113] It’s hard to imagine a boy (or anyone else, for that matter) sitting still for that long, but boys can imagine spending the better part of a day — and the next day, and the day after that — immersed in fictional, fantastical worlds. Compare Gatsby and Gatz’s numbers with those of The Return of the King and its audiobook version — at 600 pages it’s the heftiest entry in the Lord of the Rings saga; the spoken-word edition spans 15 hours[114] — or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — 750 pages versus almost 22 hours on CD or cassette[115]. As Adam Gopnik said, mastering the mythology is often the main attraction of books like Eragon, just as it is in Phil Fish’s Fez or any number of video games that demand the player’s concentration for large chunks of time as he or she solves various story-based puzzles, often in solitude. The satisfaction comes from the simple act of doing, in the opinion of Chris Suellentrop.[116] An avid reader of mystery novels would likely say the same.
Certain console games can take as many as forty hours to complete, and, unlike books, you cannot bring them along for enjoyment during mass-transit dead time,” Tom Bissell writes in Extra Lives.[117] (You can bring along your smartphone or tablet computer, though, and on those devices games like Angry Birds and Bejeweled are the conquering heroes.[118] The industry’s financial slump in recent years is due in part to the rising popularity of these mobile games[119], which are free of charge and free of the complex story lines one encounters in World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Those two MMOGs have seen their subscriber numbers decline — Warcraft, published by Blizzard Entertainment, has lost approximately 3 million subscribers since 2010, down from a height of 12 million[120], and The Old Republic has had difficulty holding onto its 1 million customers since its debut in December 2011[121] — putting them in the same predicament as Dungeons & Dragons, which, not surprisingly, has lost plenty of ground to online pursuits like World of Warcraft[122].) For the uninitiated it might sound as if the author is exaggerating that running time, but the truth is his ballpark figure falls on the low end of the spectrum.
Here’s a sample of playing times gleaned from reviews written by Seth Schiesel for The New York Times in 2011 and 2012: “several dozen hours” for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo)[123]; 45 hours, including 90 minutes of cutscenes, for Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Square Enix)[124]; 50 hours for Red Dead Redemption (Take-Two/Rockstar Games)[125] and Mass Effect 3 (Electronic Arts)[126]; “more than 100 hours” for both Diablo III (Blizzard)[127] and Dark Souls (Namco Bandai)[128]; “150 hours or more on side quests” for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (Electronic Arts)[129]; 155 hours for Star Wars: The Old Republic[130]; and 20-30 hours a week over the course of six weeks for World of Warcraft[131]. Even a fairly straightforward game like Sony’s Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, for which “you, the player, do not make plot decisions,” according to Schiesel, “are not in control of what will happen next,” and “are not free to go off and explore as you like,” lasts 10 to 12 hours from beginning to end[132]; in “basic story mode” Max Payne 3 (Take-Two/Rockstar) lasts slightly longer[133]. A 100-minute Mark Wahlberg movie just can’t compete with those kinds of numbers, though director Peter Jackson certainly seems to be trying with his adaptation of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s 300-page Lord of the Rings precursor, turning it into three separate films[134]. I can’t say I blame him — books, like games, have always offered a longer stay-cation down the rabbit hole than movies.

New worlds, classic influences

            In 1985, four years after arcade regulars met Donkey Kong, Nintendo introduced a spin-off for its NES home system. Super Mario Bros., also designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, stars Mario, now a plumber, and his brother Luigi, who must rescue Princess Toadstool by navigating through the Mushroom Kingdom, a setting that makes reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.[135] (“Among the first video games to suggest that it might contain a world,” according to Tom Bissell[136], it helped reinvigorate the home market after poor-quality games like Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial sent sales plummeting two years earlier[137].)
Super Mario Bros. wouldn’t be the last time a video game called upon literary influences: When science fiction author Ray Bradbury died in June 2012 he was praised for his visionary ideas and stories by designers and creators at the game industry’s annual Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show, or E3[138], despite having called video games “a waste of time for men with nothing else to do” in a 2001 interview with Salon[139]. Adrian Chmielarz, the creative director at Gears of War game developer People Can Fly, told Associated Press reporter Derrik J. Lang that he grew up reading Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (1950), adding, “The way [game designers’] brains work, we read everything — anime, comic books, everything — and hope that someday our work will result in similar greatness.” And Corey May, lead writer of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, said Bradbury’s fiction had sparked his interest in dystopian settings.[140]
Now some video games are basing their narratives on those of famous books. Spec Ops: The Line, released in June 2012, was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella Heart of Darkness, as was the 2008 game Far Cry 2 (Ubisoft)[141], and although “The Bible: Goliath’s Revenge” probably won’t be arriving on the PlayStation Network anytime soon, there is Sony’s mythology-based God of War series — the third installment “uses the Greek stories to trick you, or your parents (few families abide by the rating system), into tolerating a level of participatory gore that would be otherwise impossible in a mass-market entertainment,” says The New Yorker’s Nicholson Baker[142], who probably wouldn’t receive any argument from Plato — and in 2010 Electronic Arts unveiled Dante’s Inferno, which uses the first section of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem The Divine Comedy as its foundation. That same year Namco Bandai put out Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, based on Journey to the West, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. (There are also two online games derived from The Great Gatsby, one of which surfaced in 2011 but has the intentional look and feel of a Nintendo game from the late ‘80s.)[143]
Alex Garland, whose 1996 novel The Beach, per The Washington Post’s review, “combines an unlikely group of influences — Heart of Darkness, Vietnam war movies, Lord of the Flies, the Super Mario Brothers video games,”[144] is credited as the writer of Enslaved, and now that the ‘80s generation of gamers has fully transitioned into adulthood — literally, if not perhaps emotionally — we may see more novelists try their hand at interactive storytelling. In a 2006 interview with GameSetWatch.com, D.B. Weiss, author of Lucky Wander Boy, a 2003 novel centering on video game addiction, and as of 2011 a writer and producer for HBO’s Game of Thrones (first a fantasy-fiction book series by George R.R. Martin, then a TV series, and now a video game), expressed an interest in writing for the medium; at the time he was working on a rewrite of Garland’s script for the still-unproduced Halo movie.[145]
One of Ray Bradbury’s most famous novels, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), envisions a future in which books have been outlawed. Luckily, they’re still legal, but it’s not hard to imagine a time when the majority of them will be read on electronic devices; some will likely be integrated with games. Scholastic, which brought J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to American readers, began publishing The 39 Clues, an 11-book series with online game elements (and a 6-book follow-up series), in 2008; four years later it debuted Infinity Ring, another multivolume work with interactive features — and, unlike The 39 Clues upon its release, an e-book edition — that will require players to read, and readers to play, in order to move forward in the story.[146] James Dashner, the author of Infinity Ring’s first installment, A Mutiny in Time, admitted to The New York Times’s Julie Bosman that his 12-year-old son would rather play a video game than read a book. “It’s so different from when I was a kid, and they just pushed the classics on you,” he said. “I think the parents and schools are figuring out now that we need to associate reading with fun. This is just a new, innovative way to do that.”[147]
            The Infinity Ring books spin a time-travel tale, and when readers go online, says Bosman, they’ll be able to “interact with the characters and press them” — literally, I presume, on tablets and smartphones — “for historical information,”[148] which could prove to be a draw for fiction-phobic boys. Sony is trying something similar with Wonderbooks, a work in progress introduced at E3 in June 2012. As Time magazine’s Jared Newman described it, the “augmented reality book” he tested out, a J.K. Rowling cocreation called Book of Spells, allows users to interact with its 3-D visuals via PlayStation accessories, but “seems more like a video game than an educational product” at its current stage of development.[149] That same month Hasbro introduced Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, an animated series on the Hub as well as a game that can be played online and with trading cards.[150]

Pixels and pages

Those are just a few examples of transmedia storytelling, a breed of narrative popularized by the success of Star Wars and its tie-in merchandise in the late ‘70s.[151] It also includes alternate reality games, or ARGs, which entertainment companies have used more and more in recent years to promote new movies and TV shows to young audiences who’ve never known a world without elaborate video games (Microsoft’s Halo 2 received its own ARG, ilovebees, in 2004).[152] ARGs can include treasure hunts, such as the one Warner Bros. devised for The Dark Knight, its 2008 sequel to Batman Begins: players who signed up online were sent text messages with GPS coordinates that directed them to bakeries, where they had to tear apart cakes to find clues.[153] Movies like The Dark Knight and Tron: Legacy — its predecessor, 1982’s Tron, was one of the first narratives to give credence to the idea of a vast “open world” inside a video game — are well suited for ARGs because of the mythology that’s already been established in previous movies, comic books, and other media, just as ARGs are “a way for studios to let their characters and storylines live on in many ways beyond the film, which is the aim of the transmedia approach,” says Variety’s Pamela McClintock.[154]
However, before video games and home computers became ubiquitous household items, and even before moviegoing became a couch-bound affair thanks to VCRs and video stores (R.I.P.), there was the movie novelization. This prehistoric form of transmedia storytelling can be traced back to the 1920s[155], and for the next half-century was the easiest way for a fan of a particular movie, outside of an occasional TV broadcast, to relive favorite scenes. Early-’80s video game adaptations of movies weren’t much different: “The first Star Wars arcade game allowed the player to repeat the actions of the movie hero, thus enhancing the player’s enjoyment and excitement when events in the movie were duplicated in the game-play,” writes Janet Murray in Hamlet on the Holodeck. “But the PC-based game Rebel Assault is even more exciting because it allows players to have their own adventures, parallel to those in the movies and carefully woven into the same event sequence and time frame.” She compares her 13-year-old son to Don Quixote as he played LucasArts’s 1993 CD-ROM game, participating “within a beloved narrative he had only witnessed before.”[156]
Movie novelizations are still published, mostly for sci-fi and horror films and big-budget spectacles like 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, but when DVDs began to supplant VHS cassettes in the new millennium, offering special features like deleted scenes, Slate’s Grady Hendrix suggested that publishers of novelizations should do the same in order to keep their boutique industry afloat.[157] The thing is, novelizations have always had deleted scenes, in the sense that they contain passages that are nowhere to be found in the accompanying movies. That’s because when a writer of a novelization is hired, he or she is handed a screenplay during preproduction that becomes the blueprint for the story that’s going to be told.[158]
But that screenplay may change many times before it’s actually shot — Alex Garland’s original draft of Halo is one example — and during filming entire scenes may be written on the set or dropped for any number of reasons (the famous scene in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Indiana Jones is confronted by a swordsman and immediately shoots him with his pistol came about because the film’s star, Harrison Ford, had contracted dysentery; he proposed that director Steven Spielberg drop a planned sword fight that would take three days to shoot and go with his idea instead, leading to one of Raiders’s more memorable moments)[159]. Further scenes may be dropped during the editing process because they slow down a film’s pacing or negatively affect the tone a director is trying to achieve, but because of the particular timetable demands of book editing, printing, and distribution, an author is often required to finish writing his or her novelization before the accompanying film has finished shooting to ensure that it’s on bookstore shelves by the time the film is released.[160]
“It is fairly common to find whole scenes missing from the book or conversely to read extensive narrative episodes that never made their way into the finished picture,” wrote Deborah Allison in M/C Journal in 2007. In her comparison of the two novelizations of Capricorn One, a 1978 NASA conspiracy thriller written and directed by Peter Hyams, Allison observed that Bernard L. Ross (a nom de plume for Ken Follett), the author of the version published in the UK, “regularly adds passages of back story,” “describes how each astronaut came to be involved in the mission and their feelings about it,” and creates flashbacks to their younger days “to explain and add believability to some of their later actions.” He also invents characters “to develop a subplot glossed over in the film,” constructing an overall work that builds on the strengths of Hyams’s original story but never upstages it.[161]
On his website writer Bruce Bethke reprints an interview he did for “a now-defunct magazine” in 1999 about his novelization of the Will Smith sci-fi western Wild Wild West. He explained that a 120-page screenplay, with each page approximating a minute of screen time, contains “about one-third of the content of a full-length novel,” hence the need for additional material in a novelization. “The cool thing about a movie is that you can use action and excitement to bound gracefully over gaping holes in the plot and yawning chasms in logic and sense,” Bethke said. On the other hand, “the cool thing about printed fiction is that you can get deeply into your characters’ hearts and minds, detach from real time, and explore what they’re thinking and feeling — in short, to explore the interior life that, if you were to see it on screen, would make you yawn and start wishing for a remote with a fast-forward button.”[162]
Writers of video game novelizations can also take the opportunity to explore the interior lives of characters. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell are three different series of games published by Ubisoft; the first is based on a 1998 novel by Clancy — it was developed as the book was being written[163] — and the last has spun off six novelizations since 2002, all featuring Clancy’s name on the cover above that of the actual author, David Michaels. But Michaels, much like a player’s avatar in a video game, is a pseudonym for various writers, including author, composer, and game designer Raymond Benson.[164] In 2004 Penguin published his first entry in the series, the appropriately named Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, followed a year later by Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Operation Barracuda. Benson’s novelization resumé also includes a pair of Metal Gear Solid game adaptations and three of the Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond movies, along with six James Bond novels proper between 1997 and 2002.[165]
Benson explained in a Q and A with the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers that in the Splinter Cell games “the player controls the main character, Sam Fisher, so in a sense the player is ‘inside’ Fisher’s mind,” but the games also incorporate standard-issue cutscenes. The chapters in Benson’s books that revolve around Fisher use first-person narration, and the chapters without him — the cutscenes — use third-person narration. “Just another way of trying to match the style of the book with the style of the medium upon which it was based,” Benson told the IAMTW[166], and his strategy seemed to pay off when Wired’s Clive Thompson read the first installment in 2005: “Once you’ve logged enough hours living in virtual worlds, perhaps it’s natural to develop an appetite for literature that fleshes them out. Now when I shove Splinter Cell in the Xbox, position Sam Fisher in a dark alley and watch him lurk there, waiting for the precise moment to sneak past some guards, I know what’s going through his mind.” As for Eric Nylund’s Halo: The Fall of Reach, “I learned that the Master Chief [the game series’s protagonist] occasionally frets about whether he’s truly won the trust of his underlings — and that he becomes scared in battle ‘all the time’ but stoically masks it.”[167]
It’s not exactly All Quiet on the Western Front, but then again, it’s not trying to be. More importantly, books like The Fall of Reach offer proof that “supernatural space-and-sword epics that read like video game manuals,” as young-adult author Robert Lipsyte put it last year in an essay for The New York Times Book Review, may, despite all evidence to the contrary, actually be able to “allow boys a private place to reflect on the inner fears of failure and humiliation they try so hard to brush over.”[168] Still, Clive Thompson says, video game novelizations “are in no danger of winning the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Some have the distinct whiff of having been hacked out in a single weekend.”[169]
Not quite, but novelization writers do traditionally work under tight deadlines. Okay, fine — Michael Avallone’s adaptation of the 1970 sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes reportedly was written in a single weekend, but four to six weeks is the average turnaround time for movie novelizations.[170] Prewriting and rewriting are also involved. Regarding Wild Wild West Bruce Bethke said, “I wrote most of the book in one month of nonstop manic pounding on the keyboard, but before that I put in at least three months doing background research and writing rough drafts of key scenes, and in a sense I’m still writing it, as the movie continues to evolve in post-production, and scenes and chapters come back for rewrite.”[171]
Depending on how you look at it, game novelization writers either have it better or worse. Eric Nylund says on his website that he had seven weeks to write The Fall of Reach[172]; William C. Dietz was given ten weeks to turn in the second installment in the series, Halo: The Flood (2003)[173]. But instead of taking a 20,000-word screenplay and expanding it to 60,000 or more, game novelizers are forced to wrestle with a less concrete narrative, a process that begins when they play the game and take notes, then play the game again and take more notes, all the while contemplating “the story that didn’t reach the screen, because that is what most clients are looking for,” as Dietz made clear in a Science Fiction Writers of America newsletter. “They’re looking for you to enhance the game experience by developing the main characters more fully, to take advantage of the intervals between action sequences to provide back story, insert interesting sub-plots and open up parallel stories”[174] similar to the one that enthralled Janet Murray’s son when he played Star Wars: Rebel Assault in the ‘90s.
Dietz added that the novelizer’s task is to respect the experience of gameplay “while bringing additional depth to the story, so that even the most jaded player comes away feeling that he or she not only had a good time reading the book, but know all sorts of things about the characters and story line they didn’t know before.”[175] Substitute “jaded player” with “reluctant reader” and you get at the core of Kristie Jolley’s argument for video game novelizations as an olive branch to such students, who want “a well-written text that makes use of their background knowledge and allows them to continue a storyline they already have mastery of.” The Halo books were popular with her Utah middle schoolers because their narratives dovetail with those of the games without shamelessly duplicating them.[176]
That’s a key factor: if a boy is given the choice of either playing a video game or reading a reenactment of it, he’s unlikely to choose the latter. In 2011 PSM3 magazine rated five of the best-selling video game novelizations and concluded that Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance (2009) by Oliver Bowden is “a step-by-step narration” of Assassin’s Creed II’s story line. God of War (2010) apparently takes the same approach, with authors Matthew Stover and Robert E. Vardeman going so far as to thank a YouTube user on the novelization’s acknowledgements page for posting gameplay clips.[177]
Even when novelizations stray from the beaten path of their namesake games, quality may vary, as will opinions. Dafydd ab Hugh (née David Friedman) and Brad Linaweaver’s Doom: Knee-Deep in the Dead (1995) is one of the five titles on G4TV.com’s unranked “Best Game Books” list — it “does a fantastic job of fleshing out the practically non-existent narrative of the run-and-gunner”[178] — but it’s number one on GameSpy’s inventory of “Top 10 Terrible Video Game Novelizations” because the authors “over-explain every non-important detail with such care, you can’t help but wonder if they’re actually messing with you.” GameSpy’s Michael Drucker says that bad novelizations, much like bad film adaptations, “tend to slow down the action while sucking out the connection players feel for their avatars. Once gameplay is removed, videogames that once seemed like great science-fiction stories, spy thrillers, or fantasy adventures turn out to be hollow husks of archetypes and cliches.”[179]
(You’re not alone, Transformers and G.I. Joe: A bad novelization can also inspire readers to come up with their own stories, as Rhyss Hess did in 2000 when he wrote an adaptation of Planescape: Torment, a Dungeons & Dragons-related video game, to counter Ray and Valerie Vallese’s official version.[180] There were also more than 850 different games listed on FanFiction.Net as of August 2012, including more than 8,500 stories written by fans of the Mass Effect series.[181] Its third and final installment, Mass Effect 3, was released that March, but according to Wired magazine’s website, when fans reacted negatively to its climactic sequence, complaining that it “didn’t provide enough closure,” the game’s developer, BioWare, released a downloadable “extended cut.”[182] Maybe those fans would’ve been better off creating their own series of YouTube videos à la Splinter Cell: Extinction.[183])
In those instances a video game’s narrative is unmasked as nothing more than a tool that advances gameplay, but Daniel Clark believes series such as Grand Theft Auto (Take-Two/Rockstar), BioShock (Take-Two/2K), and The Elder Scrolls (Bethesda Softworks) have reversed the trend. “The fact is, our lives are intricate portraits of human desire; its satisfactions and frustrations, both negligible and immense,” he wrote on IGN.com in April 2012. “When games mimic the agonies and ecstasies of our time on this planet, the depth of experience equals those inspired by any art form.”[184] In his own way Clark is restating Norman N. Holland’s take on reader-response criticism, the study of how one reader’s interpretation of a text can vary greatly from another’s, from 37 years earlier. “All of us, as we read, use the literary work to symbolize and finally to replicate ourselves,” Holland wrote in the journal PMLA. “We work out through the text our own characteristic patterns of desire and adaptation. We interact with the work, making it part of our own psychic economy and making ourselves part of the literary work — as we interpret it.”[185]

Makers of meaning

The idea that books are interactive like video games in any conceivable way might blow some boys’ minds — “you” are the main character in more than just first-person shooters like Doom (id Software, 1993) and Choose Your Own Adventure tales — but again, free will doesn’t exist in games. “Unless the imaginary world is nothing more than a costume trunk of empty avatars, all of the interactor’s possible performances will have been called into being by the originating author,” says Janet Murray.[186] (In the Assassin’s Creed series “the preservation of free will and the ability of the individual to guide their own destiny without outside control” are the basic principles of the titular creed, creative director Alex Hutchinson told Time magazine[187], a sly acknowledgement of his chosen medium’s determinist bent, especially since each of the series’s centuries-old Assassins, if I understand correctly, is an avatar controlled by the games’ actual protagonist, a 21st-century descendant of the Assassins named Desmond Miles.)
Written works have gaps, according to German critic Wolfgang Iser, author of The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction From Bunyan to Beckett (1974), and readers must form mental connections to bridge those gaps and create what is merely implied in the work. They actively make meaning when they read[188]; gamers do the same when they play. “The surrender is always partial,” says Tom Bissell in Extra Lives. “You get control and are controlled.”[189] Sometimes you make a ton of meaning, as Ernest Hilbert did when he wrote his own snappy dialogue for arcade games like 1942 (Capcom, 1984)[190], and other times you just try to reconcile a game’s cutscenes with what happens in its “ludonarrative,” which is where those performances, as Janet Murray calls them, take place.
Unlike the “framed narrative,” which consists of the cutscenes over which a player has no control, the ludonarrative, as Bissell describes it, is “unscripted and gamer-determined — the ‘fun’ portions of the ‘played’ game — and usually amounts to some frenetic reconception of getting from point A to point B. The differences between the framed narrative and the ludonarrative are what make story in games so unmanageable: One is fixed, the other is fluid, and yet they are intended, however notionally, to work together.”[191] He explains that in 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (not to be confused with 2011’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, but if you are, welcome!) the framed narrative — heroic Americans and Brits versus evil Russians and Middle Easterners — “has no emotional resonance” since the ludonarrative “does nothing to reinforce what that resonance might be, other than that shooting your friend in the head is bad news” because you then have to start over.[192] But you are free to shoot as many bad guys as you want, calling into question how good a guy you are once a gun is placed in your virtual hand. Gamers are just as often the makers of accidental meaning.
This disparity in video games’ special brand of storytelling is called ludonarrative dissonance, and the industry has taken notice, with “a distinct shift away from a purely active response (e.g. kill everyone in the room), to more complex webs of cause and effect,” says Daniel Clark. “Players are given far more choice in what type of order is restored (e.g. selfish gain versus community well-being), and by what means these conditions are met (e.g. through might or diplomacy).”[193] Maybe that’s because stories must have morality in order for them to stick in people’s minds, according to Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (2012).[194] In his write-up for The New York Times Book Review of the literary scholar’s latest work, neuroscientist David Eagleman stated, “Neuroscience has long recognized that emulation of the future is one of the main businesses intelligent brains invest in. By learning the rules of the world and simulating outcomes in the service of decision making, brains can play out events without the risk and expense of attempting them physically”[195] — which is exactly what people do when they read stories and “play” them in video games.
In Mass Effect 3 players are allowed to choose whether or not they want to deal with thorny moral dilemmas. If you’d rather skip “all that mushy, ethical hand-wringing about how ruthless you’re willing to be as you save humanity,” wrote Seth Schiesel in his New York Times review, “play in action mode and just concentrate on pulling the trigger. But wait. If you actually enjoy exploring complex characters with varying, competing motivations but can’t hit the broad side of a dreadnaught? Play in story mode and breeze through combat.” And if you want the best of both worlds, select role-playing mode.[196]
Some games won’t allow you to skip over or deselect unpleasant emotions. The Last of Us, a post-apocalyptic survival game set for release in 2013, was previewed by its developer, Naughty Dog, at E3 in June. It includes a moment in which the two protagonists stand over a man one of them has just killed in self-defense and quietly express remorse about what’s happened, but “the remarkable thing about this exchange is that it’s not a cut-scene or a staged moment,” said Time’s Jared Newman — it’s part of the ludonarrative. In his opinion The Last of Us improves upon Naughty Dog’s biggest hit, the Uncharted series, whose protagonist’s “lighthearted attitude never wavered even as he murdered hundreds of nameless enemy henchmen. The action on the screen was out of whack with the plot.”[197]
That’s not the case in Sleeping Dogs (2012): its lead character, Wei Shen, is an undercover cop posing as a gangster. “It’s a surprisingly fruitful metaphor, largely unexplored in the medium, for what it feels like to be a video game player who is joyfully complicit in a series of morally dubious actions,” wrote Chris Suellentrop in The New York Times.[198] Equally thought-provoking, he said, is Spec Ops: The Line, which pits Captain Martin Walker against a rogue squadron of his fellow Americans, proving that “killing waves of virtual American soldiers is far more disquieting than shooting foreigners.”[199] The fantasy genre appears to be taking up the cause as well — in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Atari, 2011), based on the Witcher book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, “the ethical choices you make determine the fate of kingdoms and entire species,” wrote Seth Schiesel[200] — and even Mickey Mouse has demons to face these days: in Epic Mickey (Disney Interactive Studios, 2010), designed by Warren Spector of Deus Ex fame, players must make decisions “to help or hurt those they encounter,” which “will have an impact on the world they play in and the outcome of the story,” according to Variety’s Michael Sullivan[201].
The 2012 video game adaptation of the comic book The Walking Dead — Telltale Games has released three installments so far in a planned five-episode series[202]; a first-person shooter based on the popular TV series, which itself is based on the comic book, is due in 2013 from Activision[203] — also compels players to make tough decisions, says Suellentrop, such as “deciding whether to give a gun to a woman who was bitten [by a zombie] and now wants to kill herself before she is reborn” as one, paving the way for ludonarrative moments that “have more sadness and subtlety in them than other games muster in 40 hours.” The Walking Dead’s ludonarrative isn’t as interactive as other games’, he says, but the first episode “is in some ways a ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead’ — now there’s a video game franchise waiting to be born — in which lesser characters from the comics are given lives outside the original work.”[204]
Long before Tom Stoppard’s pseudo-rewrite of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, however, there was The Odyssey, for which Homer uprooted a supporting character from his previous epic poem, The Iliad, and promoted him to protagonist. (The Aeneid is Virgil’s parallel story, or “paraquel,” to The Odyssey.[205] Think of it as The Bourne Legacy of the pre-Common Era.) Video game novelizations have continued this practice of “less becomes more” to expand the mythologies of their source material: John Shirley’s BioShock: Rapture (2011) and B.K. Evenson’s Dead Space: Martyr (2010) extract minor characters from their respective game series and make them the focus of prequel tales, while Greg Bear’s Halo: Cryptum (2011) and Drew Karpyshyn’s Mass Effect: Ascension (2008) build upon the interstellar folklore of their games.[206]
All four “fill in the blanks” — or gaps — “the game’s narrative did not,” says G4’s Brittany Vincent, and several of the gamer-readers who’ve left comments under her “Top Video Game Novels” post seem to agree. One calls Martyr “the best video game novel I’ve ever read,” another declares that Rapture “makes me want to play through the games again!” and yet another calls out Vincent for her recap of Ascension’s premise: “Dude, get your facts straight. The Ascension Project is an Alliance run project that has only been running for a few years at the book’s start.”[207] I have no idea what he/she’s talking about, but I applaud the obvious mastery of Mass Effect mythology. As Janet Murray says in Hamlet on the Holodeck, “Writers like James Joyce, Faulkner, Tolkien, or Gene Roddenberry evoke this kind of response by the encyclopedic detail and intricacy with which they present their fictional creations. Such immersive stories invite our participation by offering us many things to keep track of and by rewarding our attention with a consistency of imagination.”[208]
Commenters at both G4[209] and PSM3’s[210] sites recommend Karen Traviss’s five Gears of War books, none of which are direct novelizations of the Microsoft series’s three games; she fills in the blanks by creating “interquels,” or narratives that take place in between the events depicted in the games[211] (Mass Effect: Ascension is another example)[212]. And of the nine Halo books published so far, including a collection of short stories, the Halo Nation “wiki” considers William C. Dietz’s The Flood to be the only direct novelization in the franchise (Halo: Combat Evolved, the series’s first game, is the source).[213]
Prequels, paraquels, and interquels appear to have the strongest hold on gamer-readers’ imaginations, and BioWare may be best positioned to capitalize on their interest. Apart from Star Wars: The Old Republic, the developer is best known for single-player games, including the Dragon Age series, whose 2009 prequel novel Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne received a shout-out from a fan on PSM3’s website[214]; Mass Effect, which Nicholson Baker cited as the most novelistic of the games he test-drove for The New Yorker[215]; and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), a forerunner to the company’s MMOG. In these three series “the focus outside combat is on storytelling and characterization,” says Seth Schiesel[216], making them ideal for further world building on the page — even if the books don’t turn out to be that good.
Steven, one of the librarian bloggers at Boys Do Read (boysdoread.
blogspot.com), isn’t crazy about the Mass Effect novels — or the BioShock or Assassin’s Creed novels while we’re on the subject — but he still recommends them “when there is better stuff available” because “better stuff doesn’t always mean appealing stuff, and you have to start somewhere.”
[217] Would you like sauerkraut on that hot dog, reluctant readers? Maybe not yet, but video games and their ancillary literature really can start somewhere and lead readers to a new destination. Steven recommends without reservation Peter David’s Fable: The Balverine Order (2010), an interquel that bridges the high-fantasy story lines of Microsoft’s Fable II and Fable III.[218] The fictional world of Albion experiences its own Age of Enlightenment in the second game, mirroring that of Europe in the 18th century[219], and in Fable III Albion is undergoing its own Industrial Revolution[220]. The games and David’s accompanying novel can serve as bridges of their own on a path to learning about world history.
The Assassin’s Creed games and novels go one better by cutting out the middleman: they’re set in real-world locations and, with any luck, will make readers curious about the Italian Renaissance, the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire, and, in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed III game (it’s the fifth installment, but who’s counting?)[221], the American Revolution. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere make cameos[222], and the featured Assassin is half English, half Native American[223], and a hundred times more lethal than Johnny Tremain. (Paradox Interactive’s two Crusader Kings games take place in Europe during the Middle Ages and also feature historical figures, including William the Conqueror.)[224]
On the topic of summer reading assignments, middle school English teacher Claire Needell Hollander believes nonfiction is the solution for middle and high school students. That sounds promising for boys, but in a June 2012 opinion piece for The New York Times she concluded that the motto of “Just get ‘em reading” doesn’t work when it comes to teenagers and the acquisition of verbal and world knowledge, defining the former as “an increase in word recognition” and the latter as “an increase in understanding about the world around them.” She elaborates that when an 8-year-old reads, whether the material in question is a book or a comic book, both kinds of knowledge are acquired, whereas when a 13-year-old picks up The Hunger Games he or she “may encounter a handful of unfamiliar words, while contemplating human dynamics that are cartoonish, with violent revolution serving as the backdrop for teen romance.”[225]
Thus, Hollander probably wouldn’t agree that data and dialogue sign a truce when boys read Suzanne Collins’s best seller, but by stressing the “understanding” in world knowledge, she does sneak some distaff empathy into the male-dominated field of mastery. For an assignment in one of her eighth-grade classes a male student chose to read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007), Ishmael Beah’s account of growing up in Sierra Leone in the ‘90s during a civil war.[226] Players of Far Cry 2, the Heart of Darkness-inspired video game set in central Africa — The New York Times’s Chris Suellentrop compared it favorably to Spec Ops: The Line because it refused to confine its ethical quandaries to cutscenes and instead “aimed to turn its players into the ruthless Mr. Kurtz by placing them in a bleak environment and then persuading them to take increasingly murderous actions”[227] — probably wouldn’t need much persuading of the nonpixelated variety to read A Long Way Gone. Education scholar Hannah P. Gerber believes reluctant readers can also be turned onto young-adult fiction through the video games they play; she proposes Walter Dean Myers’s Vietnam-war novel Fallen Angels for fans of Call of Duty: Black Ops[228], the first game in the series to have a “mission” take place during that war, providing additional opportunities for boys to learn about history and perhaps even advance to fiction-nonfiction hybrids like Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990).
            Jane McGonigal, author of 2011’s Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, told The Daily Beast that year, “Surveys of thousands of gamers have shown that they’re more likely to play real music if they play a music videogame. So it’s an interesting relationship where the games aren’t replacing something we do in real life, they’re serving as a springboard to a goal we might have in real life, like learning to play an instrument.”[229] Or, English teachers hope, learning to love reading. Remember that libraries are particularly well positioned to address boys’ interest in nonfiction,” say the authors of Reading Matters. “Information books are less frequently published in paperback editions and less frequently stocked by bookstores” and are therefore harder to find outside of libraries than novels.[230] In Reality Is Broken McGonigal writes about Quest to Learn, a New York City public charter school (grades 6-12) founded in 2009 that requires students to “quest” in order to complete assignments, after which they can “level up” to more advanced work.[231] “Leveling up can replace or complement traditional letter grades that students have just one shot at earning,” she writes. “And if you fail a quest, there’s no permanent damage done to your report card. You just have to try more quests to earn enough points to get the score you want.”[232]
It’s impossible to say if game-based curricula will become the educational model of the future, but according to Max Lieberman in his scholarly essay “Four Ways to Teach With Video Games,” in a 2009 case study of two college-age World of Warcraft players, “critical analysis, multicultural communication, collaborative writing, and reflection about the relationship between in-game and real-world skills” were all identified as literacy competencies acquired by playing the game.[233] Libraries are well positioned to address the next several generations of such gamers, says David Eagleman. In his review of Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal he wrote, “Beyond books, the strong skeleton of story can be discerned clearly in media including video games and scripted ‘reality’ television. This is why libraries aren’t likely to go away, Gottschall suggests. They may change in character; they may even transform into habitats for massively multiplayer online role-playing games. But they won’t disappear.”[234] They’re “the past waiting to be reborn as future,” to borrow a phrase of Karen Russell’s, and their main currency, narrative, will continue to evolve into new mediums as it attracts novices to the older ones.



[1] Russell, Karen. “Quests.” The New Yorker 4 Jun. 2012: 100-101. Print.
[2] Aune, Bruce. “Plato’s Objections to Mimetic Art.” University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1998. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[3] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 181. Print.
[4] “Shannara.” Shannara Wiki - Exploring the Magical World of Shannara. Wikia, Inc. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[5] Gerber, Hannah P. “From the FPS to the RPG: Using Video Games to Encourage Reading YAL.” The ALAN Review 36.3 (Summer 2009): 88. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[6] Paul, Franklin. “‘Grand Theft Auto’ sales top $500 mln in 1st week.” Reuters 7 May 2008: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[7] “Internet, Web, and Other Post-Watergate Concerns.” The Chicago Manual of Style Online. University of Chicago, 2010. Web. 12 Aug. 2012.
[8] Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Art of Video Games. Washington, D.C. 28 Jul. 2012.
[9] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 90. Print.
[10] Gerber, Hannah P. “From the FPS to the RPG: Using Video Games to Encourage Reading YAL.” The ALAN Review 36.3 (Summer 2009): 88. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[11] Chudowsky, Naomi, and Victor Chudowsky. “State Test Score Trends Through 2007-08, Part 5: Are There Differences in Achievement Between Boys and Girls?” Center on Education Policy, 2010. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 88. Print.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 91. Print.
[16] Patrick, Michael David. Addressing the Lack of Male Elementary School Teachers: Factors That Influence Grade-Level Preference. Diss. Liberty University, 2009. Lynchburg, VA: BiblioBazaar, 2011. Web. 23 Aug. 2012.
[17] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 91. Print.
[18] Bosman, Julie. “Children’s Book Envoy Defines His Mission.” The New York Times 3 Jan. 2012: C1+. Print.
[19] Italie, Leanne. “Will fart fiction get boys to read?” The Washington Times 21 Jul. 2010: n. pag. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[20] Rosen, Judith. “James Patterson Launches ReadKiddoRead.” Publishers Weekly 21 Jan. 2009: n. pag. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[21] Italie, Leanne. “Will fart fiction get boys to read?” The Washington Times 21 Jul. 2010: n. pag. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[22] Spence, Thomas. “How to Raise Boys Who Read.” The Wall Street Journal 24 Sep. 2010: W11. Print.
[23] Ibid.
[24] “PISA 2009 at a Glance.” OECD iLibrary. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2009. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[25] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 91. Print.
[26] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 89. Print.
[27] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 90. Print.
[28] Gopnik, Adam. “The Dragon’s Egg.” The New Yorker 5 Dec. 2011: n. pag. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 13-14. Print.
[31] Hart, Steven. “The real fellowship of the ring.” Salon 3 Dec. 2003: n. pag. Web. 4 Sep. 2012.
[32] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 14. Print.
[33] “Fiction-Fiends.” The Literary Era: A Monthly Repository of Literary and Miscellaneous Information, V. 4. Philadelphia, PA: Henry T. Coates and Co., 1897. Google Books. Web. 4 Sep. 2012.
[34] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 82. Print.
[35] Keller, Julia. “The ABCs of summer reading.” Chicago Tribune 30 Jul. 2011: n. pag. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[36] Reno, Jamie. “Generation R (R Is for Reader).” Newsweek 13 May 2008: n. pag. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[37] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 82. Print.
[38] “The Complete List of Animorphs books - Part 1.” Amazon. Amazon.com, Inc., 2012. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[39] Jolley, Kristie. “Video Games to Reading: Reaching Out to Reluctant Readers.” The English Journal 97.4 (Mar. 2008): 85. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.
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[41] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 84. Print.
[42] Lodge, Sally. “Chooseco Embarks on Its Own Adventure.” Publishers Weekly 18 Jan. 2007:
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[43] Norton, Jeff. “Winning the reading war.” The Bookseller 10 Jul. 2012: n. pag. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[44] Ibid.
[45] Bluemle, Elizabeth. “He Won’t Read Books About Girls.” Publishers Weekly 5 Apr. 2012: n. pag. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[46] Gopnik, Adam. “The Dragon’s Egg.” The New Yorker 5 Dec. 2011: n. pag. Web. 13 Aug. 2012.
[47] Geirland, John. “Go With the Flow.” Wired 4.9 (Sep. 1996): n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.
[48] Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. 30. Print.
[49] Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. 35. Print.
[50] Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. 36. Print.
[51] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 89-90. Print.
[52] Baker, Nicholson. “Painkiller Deathstreak.” The New Yorker 9 Aug. 2010: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[53] Schiesel, Seth. “Lightsaber Rattling in the Online Galaxy.” The New York Times 19 Dec. 2011: C1+. Print.
[54] Schiesel, Seth. “Nostalgia Trip With an Old Friend.” The New York Times 30 Nov. 2011: C1+. Print.
[55] Listfield, Emily. “Generation Wired.” Parade 9 Oct. 2011: 9+. Print.
[56] Ibid.
[57] Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. 83-84. Print.
[58] Smith, Michael W., and Jeffrey D. Wilhelm. “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys”: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002. 94. Print.
[59] Yoke, Beth. “Why Expect More From Teenagers Than Adults?” The New York Times 28 Mar. 2012: n. pag. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.
[60] Jolley, Kristie. “Video Games to Reading: Reaching Out to Reluctant Readers.” The English Journal 97.4 (Mar. 2008): 83. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.
[61] Ibid.
[62] “Halo Graphic Novel.” Halo Nation. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[63] Jolley, Kristie. “Video Games to Reading: Reaching Out to Reluctant Readers.” The English Journal 97.4 (Mar. 2008): 83. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.
[64] Nawotka, Edward. “The Sophistication and Stupidity of Video Game Storytelling.” Publishing Perspectives 17 Jun. 2010: n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2012.
[65] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 12. Print.
[66] “Space Invaders.” Killer List of Video Games. The International Arcade Museum, 2012. Web. 4 Sep. 2012.
[67] Kennedy, James. “Mario’s Many Fathers.” The Wall Street Journal 20 Aug. 2011: n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2012.
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[69] “Saturday Supercade.” IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc., 2012. Web. 1 Sep. 2012.
[70] “The Art of Video Games: ‘Inspiration’ Exhibition Video.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012. YouTube.com. Web. 22 Aug. 2012.
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[72] Schell, Jesse. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2008. Web. 4 Sep. 2012.
[73] Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 145. Print.
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[76] Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 145. Print.
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[88] Hilbert, Ernest. “Flying Off the Screen: Observations From the Golden Age of the American Video Game Arcade.” Gamers: Writers, Artists & Programmers on the Pleasures of Pixels. Ed. Shanna Compton. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2004. 60-61. Print.
[89] Sragow, Michael. “The Unassuming Greatness of ‘Jaws.’” The New Yorker 14 Aug. 2012: n. pag. Web. 22 Aug. 2012.
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[92] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 11. Print.
[93] Suellentrop, Chris. “Military Expedition Into the Heart of Darkness.” The New York Times 26 Jun. 2012: C1+. Print.
[94] Suellentrop, Chris. “Hong Kong Incognito: Combat and Cockfights.” The New York Times 14 Aug. 2012: C1+. Print.
[95] Schiesel, Seth. “Expo Offers a Peek at Games of the Future.” The New York Times 11 Jun. 2012: C1+. Print.
[96] Baker, Nicholson. “Painkiller Deathstreak.” The New Yorker 9 Aug. 2010: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[97] Hilbert, Ernest. “Flying Off the Screen: Observations From the Golden Age of the American Video Game Arcade.” Gamers: Writers, Artists & Programmers on the Pleasures of Pixels. Ed. Shanna Compton. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2004. 66. Print.
[98] “The Art of Video Games: ‘Beginnings’ Exhibition Video.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012. YouTube.com. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[99] “Interview Don Daglow.” Game Thingie 10 Jan. 2010: n. pag. Web. 1 Sep. 2012.
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[101] Timmins, Mary. “In the Time of PLATO.” Illinois Alumni Magazine 10 Sep. 2010: n. pag. Web. 2 Sep. 2012.
[102] Bradner, Liesl. “Smithsonian scores with ‘Art of Video Games’ exhibit.” Los Angeles Times 19 Mar. 2012: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[103] Ibid.
[104] Schiesel, Seth. “Recruiting the Inner Military Hero in Men.” The New York Times 16 Nov. 2011: C1+. Print.
[105] Pham, Alex. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 clocks $1 billion in sales.” Los Angeles Times 12 Dec. 2011: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[106] Newman, Jared. “Why E3 Will Continue to Disappoint.” Time 12 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[107] “The Art of Video Games: ‘Beginnings’ Exhibition Video.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2012. YouTube.com. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[108] Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Art of Video Games. Washington, D.C. 28 Jul. 2012.
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[112] Brantley, Ben. “Borne Back Ceaselessly Into the Past.” The New York Times 6 Oct. 2010: n. pag. Web. 2 Sep. 2012.
[113] Ibid.
[114] “Audiobook Reviews: The Return of the King.” AudioFile Jun.-Jul. 2002: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[115] MacPherson, Karen. “Jim Dale is the amazing voice of Harry Potter audio books.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 19 Jul. 2007: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[116] Suellentrop, Chris. “Joystick or Leash, It’s All About Love.” The New York Times 25 Jul. 2012: C1+. Print.
[117] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 39. Print.
[118] Wortham, Jenna. “Zynga Pursues New Hits for a Fickle Market.” The New York Times 26 Jun. 2012: B1+. Print.
[119] Reuters. “Profit Declines at Electronic Arts, But It Forecasts Growth.” The New York Times 1 Aug. 2012: B2. Print.
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[121] Reuters. “Profit Declines at Electronic Arts, But It Forecasts Growth.” The New York Times 1 Aug. 2012: B2. Print.
[122] Gilsdorf, Ethan. “Dungeons & Dragons Gives Players a Role in Game’s Overhaul.” The New York Times 10 Jan. 2012: C1+. Print.
[123] Schiesel, Seth. “Nostalgia Trip With an Old Friend.” The New York Times 30 Nov. 2011: C1+. Print.
[124] Schiesel, Seth. “Time to Pause and Reflect on Happy Golden Days of Gore.” The New York Times 4 Feb. 2012: C1+. Print.
[125] Schiesel, Seth. “Bullets in Slow Motion, Lovingly Aimed.” The New York Times 15 May 2012: C1+. Print.
[126] Schiesel, Seth. “The Adventure Ends, So Take a Good Look.” The New York Times 10 Mar. 2012: C1+. Print.
[127] Schiesel, Seth. “Fighting the Forces of Hell, Soon With Real Greenbacks.” The New York Times 2 Jun. 2012: C1+. Print.
[128] Schiesel, Seth. “Virtual Realms That Merit More Visits.” The New York Times 24 Dec. 2011: C1+. Print.
[129] Schiesel, Seth. “From Ex-Pitcher, a New Game to Play.” The New York Times 11 Feb. 2012: C1+. Print.
[130] Schiesel, Seth. “Lightsaber Rattling in the Online Galaxy.” The New York Times 19 Dec. 2011: C1+. Print.
[131] Ibid.
[132] Schiesel, Seth. “Adventures Worthy of the Big Screen.” The New York Times 8 Nov. 2011: C1+. Print.
[133] Schiesel, Seth. “Bullets in Slow Motion, Lovingly Aimed.” The New York Times 15 May 2012: C1+. Print.
[134] Cieply, Michael. “‘The Hobbit’ Will Be Told in Three Movies, Peter Jackson Says, Not Two.” The New York Times 30 Jul. 2012: n. pag. Web. 2 Sep. 2012.
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[136] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 54. Print.
[137] Oxford, Nadia. “Ten Facts About the Great Video Game Crash of ’83.” IGN 21 Sep. 2011: n. pag. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
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[140] Lang, Derrik J. “Ray Bradbury remembered by game developers at E3.” Yahoo! News 7 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2012.
[141] Suellentrop, Chris. “Military Expedition Into the Heart of Darkness.” The New York Times 26 Jun. 2012: C1+. Print.
[142] Baker, Nicholson. “Painkiller Deathstreak.” The New Yorker 9 Aug. 2010: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
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[146] Bosman, Julie. “A Children’s Story Series: Will a Game Help Books?” The New York Times 20 Dec. 2011: C1+. Print.
[147] Ibid.
[148] Ibid.
[149] Newman, Jared. “Sony Wonderbooks: Combining Games and Reading, With Hints of Harry Potter.” Time 6 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[150] Schmidt, Gregory. “Hasbro, Intent on Expanding Its Toy Brands, Is Playing All the Angles.” The New York Times 13 Feb. 2012: B3. Print.
[151] Picard, Martin. “Video Games and Their Relationship With Other Media.” The Video Game Explosion: A History From PONG to PlayStation and Beyond. Ed. Mark J.P. Wolf. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[152] McClintock, Pamela. “Studios bring auds into the game.” Variety 12 Jul. 2010: 8+. Print.
[153] Ibid.
[154] Ibid.
[155] Allison, Deborah. “Film/Print: Novelisations and Capricorn One.” M/C Journal 10.2 (May 2007). Web. 22 Aug. 2012.
[156] Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 264-265. Print.
[157] Hendrix, Grady. “Hacked to Death.” Slate 28 Jun. 2006: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[158] Allison, Deborah. “Film/Print: Novelisations and Capricorn One.” M/C Journal 10.2 (May 2007). Web. 22 Aug. 2012.
[159] Mikkelson, Barbara. “Runs of Luck.” Snopes.com. Barbara and David P. Mikkelson, 2007. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[160] Allison, Deborah. “Film/Print: Novelisations and Capricorn One.” M/C Journal 10.2 (May 2007). Web. 22 Aug. 2012.
[161] Ibid.
[162] Bethke, Bruce. “Wild Wild West: The Interview.” Home page. Web. 26 Aug. 2012
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[163] “Rainbow Six.” Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Wiki Encyclopedia. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[164] Benson, Raymond. Home page. Web. 3 Sep. 2012 .
[165] Benson, Raymond. “Books—At a Glance.” Home page. Web. 3 Sep. 2012 raymondbenson.com/books/>.
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[167] Thompson, Clive. “The Video-Game Novel Also Rises.” Wired 12 Sep. 2005: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[168] Lipsyte, Robert. “The Lost Boys.” The New York Times Book Review 21 Aug. 2011: 35. Print.
[169] Thompson, Clive. “The Video-Game Novel Also Rises.” Wired 12 Sep. 2005: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[170] Allison, Deborah. “Film/Print: Novelisations and Capricorn One.” M/C Journal 10.2 (May 2007). Web. 22 Aug. 2012.
[171] Bethke, Bruce. “Wild Wild West: The Interview.” Home page. Web. 26 Aug. 2012
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[172] Nylund, Eric. “REACH Folder.” Home page. Web. 30 Aug. 2012 ?tag=fall-of-reach>.
[173] Dietz, William C. “How to Novelize a Game.” IAMTW. The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[174] Ibid.
[175] Ibid.
[176] Jolley, Kristie. “Video Games to Reading: Reaching Out to Reluctant Readers.” The English Journal 97.4 (Mar. 2008): 85. Web. 15 Aug. 2012.
[177] “Are video game novels any good?” PSM3 Magazine 2 May 2011: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[178] Vincent, Brittany. “Top Video Game Novels: Our Picks for Best Game Books.” G4 28 Nov. 2011: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[179] Drucker, Michael. “Top 10 Terrible Videogame Novelizations.” GameSpy 3 Nov. 2009: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[180] Wischik, Lucian. “Planescape: Torment Novelization.” Home page. Web. 29 Aug. 2012 .
[181] “Games.” FanFiction.Net. Web. 31 Aug. 2012 .
[182] Rigney, Ryan. “Disgruntled Fans Win: Mass Effect’s New Ending Arrives Next Week.” Wired 22 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 2 Sep. 2012.
[183] “Splinter Cell: Extinction [Fan Series].” START channel, 2012. YouTube.com. Web. 2 Sep. 2012.
[184] Clark, Daniel. “Prose Before Blows: The Rise of Narrative in Gaming.” IGN 8 Apr. 2012: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[185] Holland, Norman N. “Unity Identity Text Self.” PMLA 90.5 (Oct. 1975): 816. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
[186] Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 152. Print.
[187] Peckham, Matt. “‘Assassin’s Creed III’: On Slavery, Native Americans and Death-Dealing Gameplay.” Time 27 Mar. 2012: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[188] “Definition of Reader-Response Criticism.” VirtuaLit Interactive Poetry Tutorial. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[189] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 39. Print.
[190] Hilbert, Ernest. “Flying Off the Screen: Observations From the Golden Age of the American Video Game Arcade.” Gamers: Writers, Artists & Programmers on the Pleasures of Pixels. Ed. Shanna Compton. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2004. 64. Print.
[191] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 37. Print.
[192] Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. 37-38. Print.
[193] Clark, Daniel. “Prose Before Blows: The Rise of Narrative in Gaming.” IGN 8 Apr. 2012: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[194] Eagleman, David. “The Moral of the Story.” The New York Times Book Review 5 Aug. 2012: 17. Print.
[195] Ibid.
[196] Schiesel, Seth. “The Adventure Ends, So Take a Good Look.” The New York Times 10 Mar. 2012: C1+. Print.
[197] Newman, Jared. “The Last of Us E3 Preview: Violence for a Reason.” Time 7 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 2 Sep. 2012.
[198] Suellentrop, Chris. “Hong Kong Incognito: Combat and Cockfights.” The New York Times 14 Aug. 2012: C1+. Print.
[199] Suellentrop, Chris. “Military Expedition Into the Heart of Darkness.” The New York Times 26 Jun. 2012: C1+. Print.
[200] Schiesel, Seth. “For Gamers, a Kind of Christmas Comes Early.” The New York Times 31 May 2012: F4. Print.
[201] Sullivan, Michael. “Disney’s Boy Story.” Variety 21 Jun. 2010: n. pag. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
[202] “The Walking Dead Video Game (Telltale Games).” The Walking Dead Wiki. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[203] Goldfarb, Andrew. “Activision Reveals Walking Dead First-Person Shooter.” IGN 6 Jul. 2012: n. pag. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[204] Suellentrop, Chris. “Putting the Guilt Back in Killing.” The New York Times 9 May 2012: C1+. Print.
[205] Henry, Jim. “19 February 2004.” Home page. Web. 3 Sep. 2012 org/review/log-0402.htm>.
[206] Vincent, Brittany. “Top Video Game Novels: Our Picks for Best Game Books.” G4 28 Nov. 2011: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[207] Ibid.
[208] Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. 110-111. Print.
[209] Vincent, Brittany. “Top Video Game Novels: Our Picks for Best Game Books.” G4 28 Nov. 2011: n. pag. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
[210] “Are video game novels any good?” PSM3 Magazine 2 May 2011: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[211] “Gears of War: Aspho Fields.” Gearspedia. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[212] “Book Review - Mass Effect: Ascension (Drew Karpyshyn).” Slow Reader 5 Mar. 2010: n. pag. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[213] “Halo.” Halo Nation. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[214] “Are video game novels any good?” PSM3 Magazine 2 May 2011: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[215] Baker, Nicholson. “Painkiller Deathstreak.” The New Yorker 9 Aug. 2010: n. pag. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.
[216] Schiesel, Seth. “Lightsaber Rattling in the Online Galaxy.” The New York Times 19 Dec. 2011: C1+. Print.
[217] “Fable: The Balverine Order by Peter David.” Boys Do Read 13 Oct. 2011: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[218] Haas, Pete. “Fable: The Balverine Order Novel Has Fable III Weapon Code.” GamingBlend 10 Sep. 2010: n. pag. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[219] “Fable II.” Fable Wiki. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[220] “Fable III Storyline.” Fable Wiki. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[221] “Assassin’s Creed III.” Assassin’s Creed Wiki. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[222] Moriarty, Colin. “Presidents, Revolutionaries, and Traitors in Assassin’s Creed III.” IGN 28 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[223] “Connor Kenway.” Assassin’s Creed Wiki. Wikia, Inc. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[224] Figueiredo, Mario. “Crusader Kings II Review.” Techgage 27 Feb. 2012: n. pag. Web. 3 Sep. 2012.
[225] Hollander, Claire Needell. “Some Books Are More Equal Than Others.” The New York Times 23 Jun. 2012: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[226] Ibid.
[227] Suellentrop, Chris. “Military Expedition Into the Heart of Darkness.” The New York Times 26 Jun. 2012: C1+. Print.
[228] Gerber, Hannah P. “From the FPS to the RPG: Using Video Games to Encourage Reading YAL.” The ALAN Review 36.3 (Summer 2009): 87-91. Web. 14 Aug. 2012.
[229] Dzieza, Josh. “Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken and How Videogames Are Changing the World.” The Daily Beast 24 Jan. 2011: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[230] Ross, Catherine Sheldrick, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, eds. Reading Matters: What the Research Reveals About Reading, Libraries, and Community. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 93. Print.
[231] McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: The Penguin Press, 2011. 128. Print.
[232] McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: The Penguin Press, 2011. 130. Print.
[233] Lieberman, Max. “Four Ways to Teach With Video Games.” Currents in Electronic Literacy 14 Nov. 2010: n. pag. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
[234] Eagleman, David. “The Moral of the Story.” The New York Times Book Review 5 Aug. 2012: 17. Print.