Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm, by Christie Golden

This is one of a series of books that elaborates the narrative behind the MMORPG, World of WarCraft.  I was delightfully surprised by the quality of writing in the book.  Golden is a talented author, worthy of the awards and recognitions she has received.  In the past when I've read books associated with TV series, movies, and  now computer/video games  (although this is the first book of that sort I've attempted) I have been disappointed.  Often they are just commercial products to profit from the popularity of media phenomenon.  I'm delighted this is different!  It reads very well and is an engaging story.  I think that even if you were not a player in WoW you could read and enjoy the story.  It is about leadership, power, corruption, and good intentions; all universal themes in literature!

As a WoW play I found this affecting me in two ways--first, I have begun to observe and understand more as I am "in game."  Now much of the landscape and "decor" have significance that I was overlooking.  As a reader I was able to read the book with much greater depth--understanding the gaming experience upon which the story is built.  I found myself flying around Orgrimmar looking for the skull and armor of Mannoroth. 

As a teacher/reader I am convinced about the value of knowing about this body of literature and seeing out similar titles for other games.  The young people in our schools are passionate about their games.  We need to use this passion in helping them to develop advanced reading skills.  It is also likely that we can help them move into other literature, perhaps some more aligned with the accepted canon, if we prove ourselves trustworthy.  Having familiarity with these sorts of titles will provide those sorts of credentials.

I must note the experience I had in real life while reading this book.  I was in Pagosa Springs, Colorado relaxing in the hot springs (strongly recommend you plan some time here if you are in the area!) and had this book with me.  Multiple individuals and families initiated conversations with me because of the World of Warcraft logo on the front of the book.  Two teen-aged boys and their parents were the first to initiate a conversation.  They boys were elbowing their parents in the pool--I'm assuming because they saw me as an example of an adult sanctioning WoW.  We talked about their game play.  Both boys had fallen away from WoW and were now more interested in Minecraft and other games.  (I could only think that probably the problem here was related to not having a spectacular guild like mine!  Inevitable Betrayers--you're the best!)  In every pool I ran into others who wanted to talk about the WoW phenomenon.  This included a woman of my age (nearing retirement) who talked about her friend who played almost every moment outside of work.  The power of books!!!  It never occurred to me that simply carrying a book with a WoW logo would open the way to multiple conversations and entry into a rich community of human citizens as I moved casually through the world.

I recommend this as a good choice for anyone who has contact with gamers.  Grandparents--it will open the doors into understanding the virtual lives of your grandkids, teachers--it will help you in multiple ways as you try to encourage your charges in their literacy development, parents--it will help initiate lively conversations with otherwise reticent children, citizens--you'll develop casual conversations and be granted entry into a community that is astonishingly large!  At it's height there were approximately 12 million players.  Currently there are approximately 6.8 million (  It still remains the most popular PC game in the world (also from statista).  There is real power here that all of us need to understand and appreciate.  This novel will help the non-players do so.

No comments: