A future for fiction in video games

by Matthew Cavnar on

For those of you who aren’t gamers or don’t keep reddit open in a browser tab, Game of Thrones isn’t the only property turning television screens into Scandanvian Renaissance Festivals. Video game company Bethesda Software recently released Skyrim, an incredibly detailed, open world role playing game that shipped 3.4 million copies in 2 days and scored a 96 point overall average on review aggregator Metacritic.

It's a definite blockbuster hit, but is it another reason for fantasy lovers to turn away from literature? Hardly. Skyrim’s littered with books — from romance novels to religious books to spell tomes to journals to straight fiction. You can pick up books, carry them around, deposit them in your house and read them in-game, paging through what’s estimated to be a thousand plus pages of actual text.  It’s that weird, possibly too potent perfect time-suck — a fantasy video game stocked with fantasy books that you read as a fantasy character you created.

Of course, it’s a self-limiting audience—even if we’re living post triumph of the nerds, most people are still adopting to digital books instead of actually fantastical digital books. But it’s interesting that Skyrim's developers saw the potential to populate their world with books — a real life case of transmedia storytelling that doesn’t feel tacked on, but natural, even necessary.

Just a few days ago, I was discussing at Vook how video game companies – like Bethesda – could use Vook to produce eBook versions of their in-game lore. Sure, the audience is niche, but it’s an audience that’s committed. And when you make it as easy to create an eBook as Vook does, why would you skip the opportunity?

That’s the future of publishing. Or at least one path of the future. Companies who have rich, deep, intricate stories that don’t exist in “real-world” book form will start producing books independently. And if they have an audience they can reach digitally — they have a bookstore too.

We’re not the only ones with the idea. Metafilter today alerted me that the blogger behind capane.us had turned all of Skyrim’s in-game books into actual eBooks for the Mobi and ePub format.

It should send a message to video game and media companies everywhere: If your own users are hacking your content into book format, shouldn’t you put them together yourself? Email us at Vook today at Matthew@vook.com. Or just hang tight — we'll be knocking on your door soon.

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