If Wonderbook is anything to go by Sony is all for getting kids to read, and that’s cool. I’m not going to be harsh on a partnership that encourages the imagination of the next generation of authors, artists, mathematicians, astronauts and economists, because at face value I absolutely agree, kids definitely don’t read enough. Actually neither do adults. Blanket statement – everyone should read more, including me.
Getting kids into reading isn’t about making them read 900 page russian tragedies where everyone dies of starvation or disease, or the latest post-modernist novel in which the author shows off their unconventional yet interesting grasp on the english language. It is about letting them decide what they’re interested in, where they can let their imaginations run wild and they can engage with not just the characters but the world more broadly. And any book can do that, even those that are based on other media – even video games.
I can remember as a kid being instantly drawn to the novels based on DOOM and honestly in hindsight there is no worse source material. All the novel took from the games was a general premise, hell invading earth and dudes shooting demon-spawn en masse. But as a kid I was drawn into the world because it did more than just recount the ‘story’ of the game – it took me into a fantastical world where humans were on the back foot against the most hideous of monsters. Most importantly there were guns and a hell of a lot of killing. I was a young boy, after all.
What would I do if my future children came home and asked to spend their pocket money on one of these pulp novels? Probably what any parent would do, encourage them to save that money for something bigger. But if my children were actively engaged and excited about reading, providing the book wasn’t American Psycho, I’d do whatever I could do to harbour that enthusiasm because what starts with DOOM the novel could end with a degree in english literature and a love of the english language.
Now I’ve been positive about the whole thing I’ll get to the whole reason I’m writing this and that is the existence of a novel based on Driver: San Francisco. It isn’t uncommon to find novelisations of the latest and greatest video game blockbusters while browsing through book stores. I was okay with Assassins Creed novels. I could learn to live with the existence of a Dead Island novel. And I barely scraped by noticing a Battlefield 3 novel without a psychotic episode. But Driver: Nemesis the official novel of the bestselling game? Firstly, I’m disturbed that the book has a trailer. An actual video trailer. That is just weird. But secondly and more importantly, why does this book even exist? At the best of times video games, broadly speaking, aren’t known for their excellence in storytelling. But taking a game thats main mechanic is based on driving and thats plot is borderline absurd and making it into an actual novel with story and characters and chapters makes me want to cry. It made me cry so much that now I want to storm back into that store and buy it. And read it.
And knowing my luck I’ll probably love it. But that doesn’t make it okay.