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Librarians prefer video games to books

There's a lot of tosh written about how video games are killing books and, indeed, killing people - or certainly brainwashing people to kill others. Now, the New York Times reports that libraries are using video games to encourage kids to read.

And academics are rushing to sing the praises of computer games.

"I wouldn't be surprised if, in 10 or 20 years, video games are creating fictional universes which are every bit as complex as the world of fiction of Dickens or Dostoevsky," said Jay Parini, a writer who teaches English at Middlebury College - a clearly liberal arts college in Vermont.

Apparently, publishers are creating games that link with books - although, unsurprisingly, these appear to be almost entirely in the science fiction and fantasy genres. There isn't yet a Grand Theft Auto version of Oliver Twist or a "Lara Croft of the D'Urbervilles".

"Super Mario Brothers Karamazov" could spin Dostoyevsky sales - although "The Idiot" might be a closer link to the world of gaming. "The Second Life of Pi" might be fun.

"The Monkey Island of Dr. Moreau" would be a sure-fire bestseller. "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pac Man" anyone..? "The World of Warfare According to Garp"... "Lucky Sim"...

According to the NYT, "spurred by arguments that video games also may teach a kind of digital literacy that is becoming as important as proficiency in print, libraries are hosting gaming tournaments, while schools are exploring how to incorporate video games in the classroom."

Teachers are less keen, suggesting that "while a handful of players might be motivated to pick up a book, many more will skip the text and go straight to the game".

US librarians stage tournaments for teenagers with games like Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Dance Dance Revolution.

It's great that kids are being lured into libraries, but is a 10-year-old girl who skipped along to take part in Dance Dance Revolution really going to drift away afterwards towards the Modern Classics section?

As an epitaph to the novel and books in general I will leave the last words to Mr Jack Martin, no less than assistant director for young adult programs at the New York Public Library:

"I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What exactly is reading?' Reading is no longer just in the traditional sense of reading words in English or another language on a paper."

For once it should be us telling the librarians to shush...

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