Monday, May 10, 2010

Fiction and Gaming

A few days ago I bought a video game based on a paranormal romance novel by Marjorie M. Liu. Marjorie did many signings at our store so I have read most of her earlier novels – I always read the novels of people who were doing signings so I could hand sell them. She is a talented writer and her series about the Dirk and Steel paranormal detective agency is really great if you can handle the romancey part of it. She also writes comic books and has written an X-Men novel. She is nice, and beautiful, and has a law degree of all things. So, she’s pretty much the perfect woman but is nice enough to make me want to support her endeavors and support the idea of fiction in gaming in general.

Great stories can make great games. I am a gamer. I love playing games with friends or alone. I also love fiction, especially great fiction. When great fiction and great games come together wonderful things happen. In this age of constantly evolving technology the fiction world needs to grab on to the idea that readers being able to interact in a conscious way with their world can make their world better, and make their readers love it all the more. I think librarians, who stereotypically shun video games, need to take a hard look at emerging trends in interactive fiction and be on the forefront of what’s going to come out of it.

Games like Dungeons and Dragons, though blamed for everything from suicides to murder and devil worship, encourage collaborative storytelling and require critical thinking. More recent online versions of these tabletop role-playing games still ensure that people are working collaboratively but often take the more interesting narrative aspect either out of play or out of the player’s hands. I think as librarians we should encourage the creation of games that reward creative thought and storytelling as much or more as they reward figuring out the rules and how to apply them. Fiction in games is a great gateway drug to reading, and with librarians becoming more and more tech savvy, we can be at the forefront of helping to create the next generation of interactive fiction.

Jane McGonigal, of the Institute for the Future, gave a great lecture at last year’s TED conference on how gaming can save the world. I think her premise is awesome and she is brilliant – and she just might be able to do it. As a future librarian my ambition is maybe more mundane: I think we can learn a new way to tell some really good stories.

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