I was inspired to write the Legends of Orkney™ series when my young son asked me to write him something he could read. It was a request I couldn’t refuse! He was a huge fan of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, so I knew I would have to create a story world full of magic and mythological creatures.
I chose Norse mythology because there are just so many great characters and mythological objects that have continued to entertain for thousands of years. Getting my son to read the book was easy, but the question I asked myself was, how to get other kids excited about reading a book they hadn’t heard about?
Kids today are huge consumers of digital content and are used to accessing media through multiple devices. Authors have had to adapt and go far beyond a dynamic cover to attract readers. Today it is common to have cinematic book trailers and professional websites that host caches of information about the author and the books.
Creating a mobile game experience based on the Legends of Orkney series seemed like another exciting way to engage kids in an immersive experience and allow them to get to know the characters, creatures and magical objects in the story before they ever picked up the book. Before long I had connected with a firm in Seattle called Artifact Technology and together, we created the mobile-game called Battlekasters.
Battlekasters is a location-based game not unlike Pokemon Go. Bluetooth enabled beacons are placed in an area during a live event, turning a school or library into a living game board. Once the beacons are set, players use their smart devices to navigate the game by casting spells, collecting cards, and finding new locations as they run around on their digital scavenger hunt. The game doesn’t retell the same story from the series, but rather it tells a side-story that allows players to get to know the magical world of Orkney. During our first year of development we took it to a dozen fancons across the country. Thousands of players ran around conventions halls casting spells and having a blast!
This year we are taking it to schools and libraries. Over the 2016 summer, the game was set up throughout the city of Lexington, Kentucky as part of the library’s summer reading program. Kids could play it at the library, or go across town to the game arcade and find more beacons. The game recently won four silver medals from the Seattle American Advertising Association for innovation in digital technology.
One of the biggest challenges facing parents today is all the distractions our children have: the “head-down” syndrome. So why make another app? Another distraction? For me, Battlekasters was a way to bridge the gap between how kids engage with the world around them in media and their reading experience. The introduction of a new word, transmedia has begun to circulate allowing for creative marriages of technology, art, literature, and engagement.
I created Battlekasters as a way to get kids excited about reading. A way to engage with the characters and creatures in the book, have a fun short experience that hooks them and makes them want to know more, makes their imagination fill up with characters that only have a partial story. That’s a way of turning the “head down syndrome” on its head, literally! And you’re left with a book filled with rich characters and action and adventure just waiting to take its place. As an author who loves books, my ultimate goal is to deliver a fun engaging experience that gets kids to sit down and read a book cover to cover.