& occasionally about other things, too...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reading & Gaming

Anyone with a child who is a young adult (11-17 age groups) knows that reading is not a priority. Not for the parent and definitely not for the child. Reading is something that s/he does occasionally, and almost always on the computer.

Reading a book is such a rarity. Recently, when my son finished the Island trilogy by the Canadian author Gordon Korman it was a cause of a minor celebration for us. 

Looking at the reading habits of the younger generation I'm completely convinced that books may not survive for long. Of course, reading will last longer. Books won't. They don't need to.

Books were a technological innovation that emerged from Johann Gutenberg's printing press of 1439. As a technological innovation, books have outlasted almost all technological innovation of that era. 

Books changed lives, and were a precursor to mass popularity of the written word. In a sense, books democratized knowledge, and enabled common people to access ideas hitherto reserved only for the privileged sections of the society. 

That popularity eventually led to mass media of the 20th century. The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man by Marshall McLuhan is a brilliant exposition on the printing press's enormous overall impact. It is the book that first spoke of the global village. 

The globalization process and the advancement of technology (at a pace that outstrips advancement in science) brought about more democratization of the media. 

The internet has provided access to information and knowledge from across the world and blogs have made it possible for common people to express their views inexpensively through blogs. 

Undoubtedly, we are in the middle of a revolution that will change the way we consume and produce media. 

And books will die. Unlamented, perhaps.

It is in this context that I read the report published by Toronto Star's Ideas section last Saturday (December 20, 2008) that a California-based gaming company -- Electronic Arts -- is developing Dante Alighieri's epic Italian poem The Divine Comedy as a video game for kids called Dante's Inferno. The report Abandon hope, all ye who game here makes for interesting reading. But more than anything else, it sort of reconfirms my belief that books will have to mutate into other (more accessible) variants to survive. 

Video games are perhaps the best mutation for books. Books as video games will make them accessible to kids. The purists will disagree...nobody really cares for them. 

We’ll revisit the subject soon. 

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