Sunday, November 30, 2014

Does Your Book Come With A Video Game?

When I was a teenager in the 1980s I spent a number of years playing video games in the arcade.  I didn’t have a game system at home, though some friends had Atari and Commodore 64.  I loved playing Asteroids, Pac-Man, Galactica, Donkey Kong, RBI Baseball, a football game (I forget the name) with x’s and o’s controlled by a small bowling ball,  and the very first video game of the 70’s – table tennis.  Nintendo came later, as did Xbox and Play Station.  Now you can download games on your tablet.  I thought I was done playing video games, save for the occasional, random game here and there.  But my nine-year-old son has me hooked back in.  What a rush!

They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle and I would add that you never lose your competitive gaming instincts once you’ve logged thousands of hours of playing.  We are wired to play – and keep playing as long as we see progress and as long as we beat other people and crack personal records.

It’s amazing how quickly you can revert to an aspect of your old self, long dormant and forgotten.  I haven’t played video games with any kind of frequency since the rend of my college days some quarter-century ago, but there I am completely focused and lasered in on a single task, looking to get past my high of 1,610,000 points/level twelve of a game up until a few days ago I’d never heard of or even cared to know existed.  Now I can’t get enough of Torpedo Run.

If video games can be combined with books, we’d have a smarter society and a stronger book industry.

Video games seem like a time-waster but they are really an amazing opportunity for players to express the competitor within them.  Most people compete with the world on different levels – for a job, a parking space, a concert ticket.  But with video games everyone and anyone can play.  It doesn’t matter if you are a genius or an athlete or black or white, man or woman.  In the gaming world, we start out on an equal footing and get to live out a battle without risks, but many rewards.

With video games we get to express many skills, such as:

·         Strategy
·         Speed
·         Resourcefulness
·         Discipline
·         Endurance
·         Overcoming Handicaps
·         Treading Into The Unknown

It doesn’t matter what the game is or how cool the graphics are.  They are all the same in that through a screen we have a playing field rich in opportunity to serve as our proving ground.  We have a forum by which to grow, improve, and win.

Video games also teach us about failure, learning from our mistakes, repeating stages until we get them right, and improving our hand-eye coordination.

The only downer is they suck hours of our life away and theoretically divert brainpower and resources from pursuing real-life solutions to real-life problems.  If we took the billions – no tens of billions of hours spent annually by Americans on video games – imagine what else we could accomplish.  Or would those hours just get transferred to other activities that are no more important, like watching TV, surfing the Internet, or some other passive endeavors?

What of the programming power that uses bright minds to develop these games?  Wouldn’t we want to use their talents in a better way, to develop things that will help change society?  Or maybe video games are truly their best possible contribution?

What if a tenth of the time spent on playing video games was used for reading books?  If tens of millions of people play video games daily, each on average of an hour a day that could be hundreds of millions of hours per day.  Take 10% of that and you have maybe 10, 20, or 50 million hours that could go towards reading books.  Wow!  The book industry would skyrocket.

But that isn’t happening.

Is there a way for the book industry to capitalize on the video game craze?

Books about video games – how to play and win, the impact on society, how to become a programmer, etc. – exist.  Do we need more of them?  Not necessarily, but could there be a way to attach books to video games?

How about books that morph into the video games, where reading is part of the game or strategy to win?  Let’s take the game I play.  It’s a game of war vs. battleships.  I shoot, things explode.  I’m shot at, I defend.  Repeat and rinse.  Faster, harder, faster, harder.  Is your heartbeat racing?  What if there were pauses in the game where one reads passages about military boats and then uses that knowledge to help play the game?  You, in essence, are tested on this information based on how well you play (as a result of reading up).

Or maybe we make book reading an entry fee to play free video games.  Before you play Torpedo Run, you need to log 30 pages of a book.  It’s like not being able to watch TV unless you power it by working out on a stationary bike.  You watch if you exercise.  You play video games if you read.

How about video games themed after books?  In order to play a video version of  The Hunger Games, you need to read the trilogy?  Before you play some kind of baseball video game you read about Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth.  Before you play a game about war, you read a history book on War World II.

I could be way off base here.  Books and video games seem, in some ways, the opposite of each other.  The rush of playing is superior to reading about an adventure – or is it?  Maybe they are more linked than we realize.  Perhaps books and video games don’t just coexist or compete for mindshare and time by rather, they collaborate so we get the best of both.

Well, until you figure this out I’ll be on my mini-iPad trying to improve my score and redefine the limits of my capabilities.  I’ll also be reading books. I can’t choose one over the other.  They each are an important piece of who I am and how I develop as a person.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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