Hooking Non-Readers with Interactive Fiction

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It’s National Library Week, so I have decided to write about the thing that we librarians love the most. READING.

I love to read. I make time to read. (I imagine you do too.)

I also know that people who read regularly have much larger vocabularies. This makes learning easier. There is also evidence that reading regularly can improve your memory, and reading fiction might even improve your empathetic skills.

So how do we get students to read more? Many students will tell you they don’t have time – too many classes, too much homework. This is likely just an excuse, as a number of studies have shown that college has actually become a part-time job for most students. They’re not studying as much as they used to (they spend far more time socializing). Read Academically Adrift for an eye-opening look into this phenomenon.

So HOW do we get students to read more? Certainly, a popular reading collection should have some priority in the budget. But, that will most likely only attract the students who are already avid readers.

There’s another way. And it’s (mostly) free. Have you heard of interactive fiction? It’s been around for a looong time. Interactive fiction is a game genre that is narrative based, but requires the reader to solve puzzles or mysteries. Back in the DOS-only days, these games were called text adventures. In fact, the first text adventure game was Colossal Cave Adventure, and it’s still available to play online (along with some of the other early text adventure games). They’re fun.

Today, you have more sophisticated interactive fiction, or transmedia fiction as it is now called. Inanimate Alice (love!) and Collapsus (also love!) are just two examples of this. There are also commercial games, like Myst, that fit into this genre.

I see interactive fiction as a fantastic avenue for hooking non-readers. Why not start an interactive fiction reading program or club? You might even get faculty interested in it. This is good because interactive fiction is a genre that promotes all the new literacies (digital, new media, information, visual, etc…). And there is a lot of potential for integrating it into curriculum and instruction.

If you are interested in “collecting” interactive fiction, check out the following web sites:

The best way to become a transmedia/interactive fiction enthusiast is to play the games yourself!

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