HungerGamesGame
Kids Got Game

A Game for Books about Games

I'm an avid reader, especially of young adult novels. And as a game designer, I enjoy seeing what gaming elements were created for the books. It's a common need - create extensions of a brand in other media. We often see it in the form of television shows and companion websites.
March 26, 2012

I’m an avid reader, especially of young adult novels. And as a game designer, I enjoy seeing what gaming elements were created for the books. It’s a common need - create extensions of a brand in other media. We often see it in the form of television shows and companion websites.

So when I look at the gaming extensions of books, it’s often not the awesomeness that I was hoping for, but it’s always interesting. And it makes me think, what would I do if that property landed on my desk? Now, I know there’s all sorts of issues to work through, like budgets, timelines, and lots of sticky rights issues, but it still doesn’t stop me from dreaming!

So here are three books and a few thoughts on their corresponding games, starting, of course, with a little Hunger Games. I have to join in the fray too! 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In case you don’t know the story: Girl lives in post-apocalyptic word. Girl volunteers for crazy post-apocalyptic battle-to-death Olympic Survivor tournament to save sister. Girl kicks ass. (I’m skipping a few points.)

Yes, Hunger Games could make an epic first person shooter, alongside Gears of War or BioShock. But until that day (if ever), there is an iPhone game. Hunger Games: Girl on Fire (free) is a movie tie-in. It’s very casual. A runner where you shoot at things. The music adds a nice level of tension. I actually had a few minutes of fun, so I can’t complain too loudly. And thanks to the in-game advertising, I also learned about the upcoming facebook game…

Scholastic also has a few games on their site, including a kind-of branching story where you can answer questions to see how you would do in the Hunger Games. I clearly wasn’t meant for it. One round of play ended with, “You make a break for it, but trip over the bear and fall flat on your face.”

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I have a hard time explain this book. It’s about a very different circus, one with mystical depths of amazing, and the performers. There’s multiple stories and scads of expository text. But once I got into it, I found it beautiful. 

Not surprisingly, the online game for this one is also a strange one. It’s made by Failbetter Games, who specialize in digital fiction. I honestly couldn’t stand to play this game before reading the book. After reading the book, I was totally fascinated by it. I’ve never encountered a game in which the book is such a, eh, game changer. The pacing and added details of the game is just what I wanted – someone to slowly share more about the Night Circus, as I couldn’t get enough in the book.

Maze Runner by James Dashner
Dystopian young adult novel about a boy who wakes up in a strange place full of other boys. They’re surrounded by a maze of walls that are populated by griefers, creepy robot-ish creatures with poisonous stingers.

The online game is a maze game, where you have to map the maze and escape the griefers. It actually has a fairly tense quality to it that makes you a little more emotionally invested.

But how cool would the Alternate Reality Maze Runner App be? Using this app on your GPS enabled smartphone creates an alternate reality maze running game, in which you move around your backyard (or park or otherwise wide open area, free of traffic and unprotected cliffs) to navigate the maze. So in my ideal game extension of the Maze Runner, the smartphone becomes your lens into the world, including showing you the current configuration of the maze and the location of the griefers.

So that’s three that I’ve looked at lately. Try it out sometime. What would the games be for your favorite fiction? What would you do with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? A Game of Thrones? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? The Red Pyramid?

And if you have any book recommendations, am always happy to hear ’em! Give us a yell at kidsGotGame@noCrusts.com

Meanwhile, you can next catch Anne and me live at Sandbox Summit in April! Give a yell if you’ll be around and want to meet up.

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