09 February 2009

Manila Times column for 08 Feb 2009 "Books as the original interactive ‘game’"

original post here.

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Books as the original interactive ‘game’

No matter how advanced technology could develop, we still return to good “old-fashioned” books which supply us with the most imaginative and interactive form of entertainment, especially if it entails readers going into the world on the written page—literally.

Such is the plot of the film Inkheart I recently saw in theaters. I wanted to see how the filmmakers would translate this Cornelia Funke young adult fiction novel (the first of a trilogy), and it wasn’t disappointing. This first book is about a man who has a unique talent: whatever book he reads aloud, its elements come to life. As with all powers, this good thing is coupled with a bad thing—whenever elements come out of the book, something from the “real world” should go in, as replacement. Imagine that power. I wouldn’t want that man reading aloud the Lord of the Rings trilogy or anything like that.

As imaginative as this novel—and now film—could get, I couldn’t divorce myself from thinking of an earlier work similar in nature—The Neverending Story. This is a 1984 film based on another German writer’s (Funke is German, too) fantasy novel, Michael Ende. It’s about a bullied kid named Sebastian who went inside the book of the same title, and he is tasked to save the dying Empress of the book by simply giving her a new name. The land she inhabits is also being “eaten up” by this thing called Nothing. In the film, the way to fight this Nothing is to make many wishes. Simple enough, yes, but in 1984, I was an 11-year-old bookworm who wanted to trade places with Sebastian anytime.

Another childhood favorite is an animated series called The Superbook where two kids discover a big Bible with the ability to transport them to the stories inside it. Thus, each afternoon, I watch them hang out with Old Testament characters as those stories are narrated, and they, of course, learn a few lessons along the way.

This is the reason why I sometimes pity children these days whose imaginations seemed to be so “programmed and supplied” by the latest gadgets and technology at their disposal. Where’s the good old-fashioned firing up of the imagination by a good book? Sure, I also play these video games, computer games, and other games that supply me with ready visuals, but at the end of the day, I’d still rather curl up in a comfy nook with a good book and “travel away” within the worlds it presents to me, using my imagination. Nothing beats that kind of entertainment, still.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com.

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