August 30, 2016

Appealing to gamers

Matching patrons with books isn’t as easy as it sounds. Half the battle is finding a way to start a conversation. Some people who walk into your library might never call themselves readers, but they find they need to read a book. When we’ve talked about using pop culture to help people find books, we’ve mostly talked about fandom, movies, and television. We’ve also used appeals to recommend books based on tattoos, but there’s a big pop culture world we haven’t explored: gaming.

To be honest, I am not a gamer. But as I watch my partner and his son play games and listen to their conversations, I am often struck by the similarity between books and video games. Like books, video games have genres (e.g. action, adventure, and strategy). And video game synopses and reviews are full of appeal language. All of which you can use to recommend a book to a gamer. Most importantly, like readers, gamers live a thousand lives as they explore new worlds and characters.

Examples! (You know you want them)

Let’s start with one of the most anticipated (and most ranted about) games of the fall. No Man’s Sky is derived from classic science fiction. Players explore galaxies in an infinitely generated universe and have to be mindful of their resources or be stranded.

Sound like a recent bestseller to you? When I heard the description, I immediately thought of The Martian by Andy Weir. Hard-science fiction updated for the modern reader. Planet exploration. Resource management. And Mark Watney’s continual fear that he will die on Mars because he didn’t manage his stores well.

Sound easy? That’s the idea! How about more examples?

Max Payne is a third-person shooter game with a noir feel about a cop framed for murder. Hard-boiled is a genre in NoveList and the game’s bleak and gritty, with an intricate plot -- all appeal factors we can use. Dennis Lehane is an immediate hit. His series are vivid, with graphic violence, fast-moving, suspenseful plots and a menacing feel. Searching read-alikes for Lehane pulls up James Lee Burke, another author who writes complex, action-packed stories full courageous heroes battling evil, as well as their own flaws. For tips on searching NoveList, check out our short, captioned tutorials, including one on genre and one on appeal.

Don’t just think fiction. Offworld Trading Company is an economic strategy game where your goal is to dominate the Martian market. Almost any Michael Lewis book could hold appeal here, as well as Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. Search GN “business and economics” and narrow down using the limiters on the left. Appeal factors like thought-provoking, funny, and fast-paced can help you find engaging stories of money, power, greed, and corruption.

Are these books perfect solutions for every gamer? No. Just as not every romance reader likes Jane Austen remakes, not every gamer will be interested in books with appeal factors like the games they enjoy playing. But asking about video games is a place to start a conversation.

And all good readers’ advisory starts with a conversation.

(Thanks to Durham County Library librarian Patrick Holt for talking about video games with me!)

Jennifer Lohmann is a Sales and Marketing Specialist at NoveList.

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