Read this brilliant blog by Ruth Morgan on why she has written a middle grade fiction about gaming ahead of publication of Ant Clancy Games Detective, out on 11 July.
Ant Clancy is the world’s first Games Detective, and by the end of this story you will know what a Games Detective is and why the world needs one so much. The ‘games’ in this case are virtual reality games and the story is an exciting adventure where Ant has to pitch himself against a deadly adversary, partly within the game and partly in real life. It’s not just Ant, he has a couple of friends working alongside him, as well as his ace dragon Pradahl who he can transport from his favourite game, Kismet Cosmos, to take part in battles.
Kismet Cosmos is where the idea for this story came from. I thought to myself, what if you were the very last player of a really old videogame? I know with the massive interest in retro gaming that would be unlikely but every story, for me, has to begin with a what if…? The ‘what if…?’ in this case got me thinking about Ant’s character and how as the last player of Kismet Cosmos he’d be someone who doesn’t mind standing out and being different and has his own sense of what’s important to him. The story grew out of me getting to know Ant and also, the ideas I had for the amazing directions in which virtual reality might take games in the future, because while Ant is enjoying his old game, there’s a new, trailblazing VR game that the whole rest of the world wants to play, and that’s Ray-Chay.
I should explain, I’ve lived with keen gamers in my family for years and have enjoyed playing along myself, so I understand the appeal completely. My stepson, Steffan is a games designer with amazingly creative ideas. While he was at university, he designed the first ever Minecraft Annual (2014 – published by Egmont), while our son Gethin was one of the official ‘Minecraft testing crew’ who had page proofs sent to him to try out various new constructions suggested and also has his name in the book. I didn’t do anything, but I did enjoy the excitement!
Gaming sometimes has a bad rep amongst generations that don’t play and don’t get the appeal. There are positives. Gaming can be a very social experience and you’re often called upon to work with others to problem solve or attain some common goal. It’s fun and a huge stressbuster. There’s probably an issue if gaming is all you do with your free time, which is why my hero Ant has plenty of other hobbies and pursuits, like belonging to his local table tennis club (because it’s my favourite sport – our ‘World Cup of Ping Pong’ tournaments are legendary, ask our neighbours!) Ant’s dad, Snoz, is someone who’s aware of addiction and how it can ruin a person’s life. Amongst other advice, he guides Ant in balancing his real life and gaming life. Snoz’s favourite saying is “You’ve got to be bigger than the game” and this takes on a deep significance through the twists and turns of the plot.