Getting kids to read is no easy task, what with the way movies and video games have gone (when I was a kid, Pong was still impressive). Yet a few books have broken through the ol’ liquid crystal trance and brought kids back to that once-great world drawn by imagination and woven together with words.
The Miller brothers, Chris and Allan, managed this task with their Codebearers book series, and parents and kids often wrote to tell them this. One parent told them her kid was glued to video games day in and day out. She offered him $100 once to read a book and he wouldn’t do it. But he read Codebearers, and from there learned why people care to read a book.
Stories like this had the Miller brothers wondering how they could bring books to more kids. Then inspiration came: they decided to make a video game.
“Once we gave the project the green light it wasn’t long before we realized we had the opportunity to make more than just a game based on a book. With the Millers’ creativity at our disposal, it made sense to be working alongside them to weave the game & book’s plot in & out of each other,” said game developer Jon Collins via e-mail.
What they wanted was for the book and the game to tell the story from two different viewpoints, so the two compliment each other. And through the blurring of mediums, they can show that telling a story through a book is broad and uninhibited by budgets or technology.
“It also means that the book fans can see how the authors imagine the world they’ve created in narrative,” Collins said, adding “Really what we’re trying to say is that although games & movies don’t cripple a child’s imagination, they don’t allow it to have the freedom & scope to explore that books & reading do. They can depict a story but only in the relatively short window that the consumer is engaged.”
“Reading a good story makes a longer lasting impact to a person’s memories and imagination, as well as being able to tell more of the story than you can in either a game or a film,” Collins said.
He used “The Lord of the Rings” as an example, which he referred to as “one of the best book-movie transitions ever.” Yet anyone who read the book, as he noted, will know how much of the story was left out (even in the incredibly long extended version).
Yet he also cited games that have moved closer to storytelling—games like the Uncharted Series that play like films, or games like the Halo series that have inspired troves of books that build stories behind the characters and worlds. “With those examples (and most others) aimed at mature audiences, we saw this as an opportunity to open up the world of reading to a younger audience so that they can develop their literary capacity earlier,” Collins said.
Approaching a book from a game can be an easy task, yet building a game from a book can be a different story—particularly when dealing with a book series already popular among youth.
Yet, according to Collins, they have a broad space to work with. “We feel that these stories provide a broad canvas for a variety of characters to shine and win over the reader,” he said. “Chris & Allan, the authors, have really applied their screenwriting background to produce a fast paced visual tapestry leading the reader into the vivid world they’ve written. They’re able to combine this with a healthy dose of puzzle solving and cryptic allegory ensuring the books engage the reader’s intellect as much as their imagination.”
The team is putting their all into making the game as close to the book series as possible, and Collins said having the Miller brothers close to the development has allowed them to “step inside the authors’ visions of their world and recreate it surprisingly fast and surprisingly accurately.”
Codebearers Continuum is expected to release Spring of 2012. The team is currently raising funds for development through Kickstarter.
[box_light]Image courtesy of the Miller brothers[/box_light]