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Video Games + Books = ?

The New York Times wrote up a new Scholastic children’s book series today: Infinity Ring. What is interesting to me about this series isn’t that it is written by several different authors, some of which we represent, or that it is (according to the New York Times, anyway) supposed to be the successor to the Harry Potter throne. What I find interesting is that there is a tie-in video game, and that it is being called a multi-media property.

Video games are certainly one of the most interesting story telling mediums today, mostly because it hasn’t quite figured out how to best tell a story. Role Playing Games, like the recently released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, have an expansive history of elaborate backstory and narrative driven gameplay. Action and Shooter games, on the other hand, have put significantly less emphasis on story, but some games, like the Assassin’s Creed series and the Uncharted series, are looking to change that. Meanwhile, there are those games that put story absolutely up front and center, like 2010’s Alan Wake, but those tend to fall flat on gameplay to the point of being totally boring. Of course, being an interactive medium, video games should be focusing more on player interaction than story. The greatest game I’ve ever played, Shadow of the Colossus (please play the ps3 version), has a story so bare bones and minimal it almost isn’t there. I call it the greatest game I’ve ever played because every time I play it, without fail, my palms sweat, my heartbeat triples, and I get this feeling of utter fragility in my limbs. That is what video games excel at – getting the player completely physically and emotionally involved in the game. You would imagine that video games that tie-in to other properties would do this exceptionally well, as the story and characters have already been laid out for the game designers and they need to just focus on the gameplay – like Shadow of the Colossus does.

An example of a truly great tie-in/multi-media project is Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire: the novel was really gripping, the comic was fun as hell, and the video game was absolutely amazing (I still play it). More importantly, each medium offered stories and aspects of the project unique and well-suited to that specific format. To the point where not only did each of the three work well as a standalone entity, but you couldn’t really consider any one of them to be the principal focus of the overall story. All three worked together in concert.

I have high hopes for Infinity Ring. There are really great authors behind it,  Scholastic is an exceptional publisher, and I think the timing is perfect for something new to sweep in and steal the hearts and minds of our youth. I really, really hope to see is a truly multi-media project in which all the different mediums being used are used to their full potential. It could be revolutionary, to the likes of which we haven’t seen before, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

5 Responses to Video Games + Books = ?

  1. Kaitlyne says:

    One of the most interesting games I’ve played recently was Heavy Rain. I’d heard it called very novel-like by numerous people, but I didn’t really understand how true it was until I played it. Story featured very heavily, but it was also the character elements that made it fascinating–in part because the player is able to essentially create the characters. There was a much more personalized stake in playing it, and times when I found myself genuinely not wanting my characters to be harmed and fighting to save them. I can’t recall a game having ever had that level of emotional attachment.

    After playing that, and other games that have seemed to move more of the focus on story, I think the two formats can work well together. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

  2. Tamara says:

    Maybe you could get someone to write a Plants vs. Zombies book? Something quirky and fun. Maybe a graphic novel?

    Or maybe someone already is? :-)

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