Books To Lure The Gamer's Gaze

Gamers are people, too. That's right, whether a child at heart or a real live one stuck in the gaze of flashing starships, cars or rock stars, they're able to do more than just click on and tune out. Yes, there's hope for game boys and girls, found in the ancient pleasures of books.

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Someone close to you right now may be in a galaxy far, far away or rocking with musical dinosaurs from a past Stone Age. Sure, gamers plug in, turn on and zone out, but essayist David Kushner says despite their obsessions, there's still hope for them - in the pages of books.

DAVID KUSHNER: Do gamers read? To me it's always been a silly thing to ask, like wondering if gamers sleep or wash. It's as if by picking up an Xbox controller, a person ceases to be human, that ordinary values and interests get unplugged, that after a few rounds of Grand Theft Auto, all that's left in front of the TV is a twitching Neanderthal with big thumbs and a tiny brain.

Players don't have to defend themselves against this charge anymore. Video game culture hit an important milestone with this year's release of the 100 Classic Books Collection for the Nintendo DS handheld game system. Plug the cartridge into your DS and you get a choice of electronic books to read - from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" to William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night."

The experience is ideally suited for the DS, which has two screens. Hold the DS upright and you'll see a page of text on each small menu. To turn pages, you tap the screen with your stylus. To keep your place, you press a button and a brightly-colored bookmark awaits your return.

There are gamey features, too. If you're not sure what you feel like reading, the DS will suggest a book based on how you answer a quick quiz about your mood. What did you dream about last night? Something scary? If so, then the pages of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson might materialize on your screen.

Gamers who crave more atmosphere for their reads can select from ambient background audio like a soothing beach or bustling airport. And not to worry - if you burn through the 100 available books, with a wireless Internet connection, you can download more.

While a Nintendo DS won't replace Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, it marks a significant advance, just as Guitar Hero and Rock Band turned a new generation onto classic rock artists, like Rush and The Who, publishers and authors can now rethink how they reach this audience, too. Grand Theft Dickens may be coming your way soon.

HANSEN: David Kushner is a writer who covers digital culture. He's also the author of the book "Masters of Doom: The Story Behind the Video Games 'Quake' and 'Doom'."

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