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Readers versus Gamers

Every once in a while I hear someone decry the state of literacy in the modern world, and they point to TV and movies, of course, as villains. But lately, the scapegoat seems more and more to be computer/internet games. Everyone says those games are mindless, etc, etc.

Well, I think that misses the point.

What does every real reader want? And by real reader, I mean the voracious reader who always has a book or two that they’re actively reading, a couple more waiting in the wings, maybe a stack from the library – that person. This reader has discovered the paradox – when you find a book you really love, you (a) can’t put it down, yet (b) you never want it to end. You keep reading and reading, faster and faster, and the end keeps approaching, faster and faster – Einstein probably had a theory for it, right?

Anyway, a real reader wants the never-ending story. Right?

Well, guess who found it? Yep, those gamers did. Specifically, those strategy-game players. I’m so jealous! Their stories go on and on practically forever.

The story doesn’t end, it just moves to a higher level, then a higher one, and so forth. The more you get to know it, the more sophisticated your relationship becomes with it – just like a really good book.

The plots are wild, the characters quite real, at least to the gamer. And the variety within that beloved story is amazing.

Do I play them? Nope. But I see the enthusiasm, the actively-engaged mind, and I recognize the symptoms. It’s all very cool.

Obviously, I’m not talking about all games. I don’t admire all books, and I think some games are awful. The ones I’m talking about are the sci-fi games, the strategy games, etc. The ones that are played across the internet, across the world, by very intelligent people who never want their favorite story to end. And if they’re lucky, they can keep playing version 2 until 3 comes out (sort of like certain series books, I guess).

The whole pseudo-controversy reminds me of the rap against comic books. I always heard my children’s teachers try to discourage them. I was shocked, because let’s face it – anything that tricks, I mean, encourages, a kid to read is a good thing. Superman or Green Lantern or whatever. The sports page or a fashion magazine. Something to get that little mind hooked. The rest is simple.

I think those endless strategy games are doing the same thing for gamers – getting them hooked on a story. A lot of them are probably readers already, for the very same reasons they game. And the ones who aren’t quite there yet, well… they’re readers in the making.



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