How awesome is that sign, above? Pretty darn awesome. It’s part of an interactive game the Toronto Public Library has come up with, based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, the gist is a future where books have been abandoned in favor of mass media entertainment. Sound a little scarily familiar? Yeah. Well worth reading, if you haven’t read it yet, and worth re-reading, even if you have.
Starting April 2nd, you can join the Literary Resistance, a revolutionary organization for book lovers. The name of the game is KTR 451. The KTR stands for Keep Toronto Reading, April being the month-long Toronto Reading Festival. The library calls it an alternate reality game. Know what an alternate reality game is? I didn’t either, until I read an interview with the game’s developer, Jim Munroe, on the TPL web site:
For those unfamiliar with alternate reality games, can you briefly explain how they work?
Sure. Also called pervasive or transmedia games, they are an experience that spans different kinds of media and often involves real world actions.
For instance, you might be told via an email to meet your fellow players at Union Station or to watch a video that has clues as to how to solve a mystery.
What makes “Fahrenheit 451” a good source for an alternate reality game?
Science fiction often asks us to question basic assumptions about reality in “what-if” scenarios. 451, in particular, presents a nightmare future where art’s thought-provoking qualities have been stripped away and only the thought-numbing parts are allowed to exist. Library lovers will find it easy to unite to fight that future from happening!
Why should people pick up the phone and join the Literary Resistance?
Captain Beatty from “Fahrenheit 451” would say they really shouldn’t. They’re better off staying in their comfort zone, passively watching something familiar, then falling asleep until their alarm clock gets them up for another day of work. Exposing themselves to new approaches to storytelling is just going to confuse them and make them think differently: that won’t end well.
Traditionally, games have been shunned as having no literacy/literary merit, but attitudes are changing. In your opinion, what literacy/literary value do games have – especially for young reluctant readers?
Games are the new cultural boogeyman, blamed for society’s ills just like rock music and comics were before them. If you look far enough back you can see that even novels were demonized when they were new media – the stories they presented were so immersive that young women were warned away from them.
Interaction is the key difference between games and other media, and many bright minds prefer to learn by doing rather than learn via traditional teaching methods. Even beyond educationally-focused games, games present incredible opportunities for learning persistence, puzzle solving, and collaboration.
Is it just me, or does this sound super cool? I think I’ll be picking up the phone on April 2nd, which is when the game starts.
Vive la résistance!