Stories in games encourage young people to read more

Writers Ronald Giphart and Margje Woodrow contributed stories via an app to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla from game publisher Ubisoft. They were first introduced by gamers to the world of the game, which revolves around a Viking who invades England in the ninth century. Then Giphart and Woodrow wrote stories in ‘young adult’ style within this historical context. Provided with videos and images, they were offered in the Ubisoft Special app. The writers link new characters to acquaintances from the game and have them, for example, fight together with an enemy of the Vikings.

The success of such reading promotion experiments is rarely investigated. Initiator Eveline Aendekerk, director of the CPNB, the foundation that promotes the Dutch-language book, wanted to get started with games in a more substantiated way. “We don’t think we’ve discovered the holy grail,” she says. But the results of the trial, which started in May this year, are more positive than many other initiatives, she says. “Young people appreciate the stories and recommend them to friends.”

Of the two hundred young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who took part in the survey, about 40 percent had already read and seen the stories from the app. While the stories were fairly rated (around 6.8), some complained that they were too one-sided or didn’t fit their genre preference. Young people also indicated that they often did not read the stories. Others found reading stories in a game app inappropriate.

That seems logical: games have developed into a full-fledged story form over the past twenty years. But it is primarily an active medium that does not lend itself well to large chunks of text. In games, however, much shorter texts occur, such as fictional diaries. Ubisoft has been publishing book versions of their games for years.

The Reading Coalition is now exploring various possibilities for more reading projects within games, such as shorter stories. The organization also wants to investigate whether rewards within the game can be linked to reading, because gaming young people are particularly focused on this.

It took some effort to get the ‘book trade’ on board, says Aendekerk. “Games are somehow ‘the enemy’.” Research shows that young people prefer to play games than read books. According to the Trimbos Institute, about 75 percent of all young people up to the age of 16 sometimes game. 27 percent of all Dutch gamers are under 20.

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