What do books have that films and games don’t?

British Library: Book on a chainRecently, some people have said to me that they’re concerned about their children’s lack of reading. I’m usually not so bothered. It’s fine, I’d say. Probably a phase. I stopped reading as a teenager. There was enough of it going on at school.

It’s an interesting argument: how important is it for children to read (beside their language development)? It seems like there are so many mediums now for telling stories through games and films etc, that I wonder what can books offer that they don’t?

It’s something that has been tossing around in my mind like a unknown habit; I wasn’t quite aware it was there. Then I watched a few films recently that had started out as books – and it hit me – what was missing.

Through books, we experience every step and thought the main character has, so much so, that we can see and understand every action and motive they do. (That’s good writing!) We gain insight. How they find themselves doing the things that they do. Why they choose one thing over another. The bad choices and the good ones, well, they all make sense. We understand a character like we do ourselves. And I’m not sure we get that from films and games as much. Sometimes, but it’s rare.

Like George RR Martin said: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only once.’

Can we say the same for games and films? Yes. But I think that books go deeper. They allow us into a mind that is not our own. They foster empathy and understanding in us. So much so, that we feel like we have lived that life. That we have learnt from it. And that, is a beautiful thing. I think games and films will get there one day. Some already do. But books are where it’s at for learning emotional intelligence. For wisdom.

Do you think books have anymore USPs? Or are games and films making books redundant? Should we worry if it’s all storytelling?

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2 thoughts on “What do books have that films and games don’t?

  1. Books definitely have USPs. Not everyone will care enough about that to read them, but I agree with you – books foster all sorts of things films/games don’t (yet). In particular it allows us to use our imagination rather than be spoon-fed images to go with the story. I always try to hold off watching book adaptation if I think there’s any chance I might read the book at some point. Sometimes I get too impatient though!

    1. Ah so true about the imagination element too! I’m the same with adaptations – although often they can never live up to the book because they cannot contain all the inner-workings and explanations.

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