digitaladaptationsWe’ve carried posts before that posited that e-books had not yet reached the watershed moment where they became more than an attempt to reproduce one medium in another (the way that television was originally “radio with pictures”, for instance). At the moment, they’re just “printed books on digital screens.” And while that’s fine for the people who just want another way to read printed books, video game developer Simon Meek thinks that they’re still not reaching out to modern audiences.

Meek has the idea of doing for the gaming generation what PBS used to do for the television generation: adapting classic works for the screen. But in this case, the adaptations would be for gaming console screens.

But Meek is not talking about just turning books into video games—and indeed, he insists that calling them “games” at all is a misnomer, preferring the term “digital adaptations.” He wants to create a new way that the story can be experienced in a different medium.

"Players enter the stories through the events that take place in that story, and at that point experience the story from the inside out," he explains. "We place them in the world in which the story is set, and are using a combination of original art and games engine to create some truly stunning environments. Add to that audio design and original composition, and the world of the book is brought to life. On this stage, we then let the player progress through an array of media that is directly taken/reinterpreted from the book."

“Readers” will explore the environments seen within the book, and watch events happen, but unlike in a game will not be able to affect the outcome.

The first first digital adaptation will be of the classic spy novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, due out next spring, and Meek’s company is considering tackling Wuthering Heights next.

It is interesting to contrast this adaptation technique with the “Booksurfers” e-books I mentioned earlier today. Both make use of the public domain as a basis on which to build greater creativity. And both are aimed at reaching a younger generation who (as Penelope Lively lamented) are largely uninterested in old, musty books. But they do so in different ways.

Will these digital adaptations lead the way into a more literary future for game platforms? Or is it a matter of building something and hoping people will come? I look forward to finding out.


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