Type Talk: Gamified Reads

In honour of VPL’s ongoing Reading Challenge and this year’s Summer Reading ClubType Talk is a series of blog posts on non-traditional or uncommon storytelling formats, genres or structures, which both challenge our idea of what storytelling is and will perhaps inspire us to try a new kind of media we might not have before.

Today’s post will be on Gamified Reads!

You may be wondering what on earth gamification is, but have no fear, Dr. Zachary Fitz Walter has a neat definition for you:

“Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements.

Games and game-like elements have been used to Educate, Entertain and Engage for thousands of years. Some classic game elements are; Points, Badges, and Leaderboards.”


This concept is neatly reflected in VPL’s Summer Reading Club and the Teen Summer Challenge, where participants can take part in various reading related challenges and activities. The goal here is to encourage reading in those who are struggling with it or simply find reading a chore, while also engaging those who just want a bit of fun to go along with their summer reading. As Mary Poppins put it, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and SNAP! the job’s a game.

Gamifying doesn’t just work on the youth though; having fun as an integral part of the human experience and may actually help you live longer, and the little serotonin boost from a reward, no matter how digital or minor, can be addictive but effective incentives. As such, there are a lot of elements of our lives that have been gamified! (Consider the health app you may have on your phone, which encourages you to reach certain milestones or rewards you with badges for various achievements).

For more on the theory of gamification and motivation, as well as its application, check out the audiobooks Gamify by Brian Burke, For the Win by Kevin Werbach, or the following:

Cover of Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

In Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, game designer Jane McGonigal reveals how alternate reality games are already improving the quality of our daily lives, fighting social problems such as depression and obesity, and addressing vital twenty-first-century challenges—and she forecasts the thrilling possibilities that lie ahead.

Cover of Drive by Daniel H. Pink

In Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

Cover of Pirate Treasure of the Onyx Dragon by Alison Gilligan
Pirate Treasure of the Onyx Dragon by Allison Gilligan, a CYOA book

Now that all the theory is out of the way, let’s take a dive into the types of gamified reads there are out there for you to explore, if you haven’t already!

One type you may be familiar with are Choose Your Own Adventure Books* (CYOA) where readers are encouraged to choose the path the story will take by, say, skipping to page 39 for option 1, and page 47 for option 2. CYOA books are almost always told in the second person, making you a character in the story.

*Fun fact: the company behind the original CYOA books sued Netflix for violating trademark rights with the show Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Another type of gamified read is the interactive novel, which is a (usually digital) story that players/readers must click through to explore, making choices for the character they are playing as. The now-defunct Pottermore is an example of this, where players explored the world of the Harry Potter series by clicking on and collecting various objects and items, and undertaking certain tasks like casting a spell or creating a potion.

Cover of My Lady's Choosing by Kitty Curran
My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran, an interactive novel

Interactive novels were almost solely available online (due to the necessary links, which has caused it to be referred to as ‘hypertext fiction‘) but with the development of e-readers and mobile platforms, there’s been a resurgence in the genre.

A subgenre of interactive novels are visual novels. The difference between the two is that for the latter, the visual element is key; they are heavily illustrated while interactive novels can be entirely text based. Both often make use of branching plots with multiple possible endings and function on a choice-and-consequence system. If you choose, for example, for your character to react rudely to someone…well, that may have come back to bite you later on in the story.

Cover of of The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles videogame
Ace Attorney Chronicles, a visual novel as well as a video game

Some gamified reads do not have an interactive element at all (besides the fact that you’re picking it up and reading it), but the game element is nevertheless the main feature. Take gamelit; in these stories, characters have either entered the world of a game, or are in a world that has game-like rules. (The Games portion of The Hunger Games could, technically, be considered gamelit).

Another gamified read that isn’t necessarily interactive is litRPG. If you know anything about RPGs (role playing games), you probably know it as Dungeons and Dragons. LitRPG is a subgenre of gamelit, heavily featuring typical elements of RPGs such as games, challenges, and statistics (strength, intelligence, damage etc. that affects the character’s wellbeing or ability).

Cover of He Who Fights With Monsters by Shirtaloon aka Travis Deverell
image via amazon.ca

He Who Fights With Monsters by Travis Deverell (aka Shirtaloon) is one example of a litRPG work. It’s a seven book series available on ebooks that follows an Australian office worker who wakes up in a world of magic and monsters and must acquire the skills and abilities he needs to survive and prosper, even if those skills seem strangely….evil. (Dun dun dun!) It has incredibly polarized reviews on Goodreads; people seem to either love it or hate it, which is always fun. Check it out and make your own verdict!

Though VPL doesn’t have this book on hand, we do have quite a lot of gamelit and LitRPG works available in our catalogue as audiobooks via Hoopla (way more than I expected to find, honestly). I’m excited to make my way through the lists, especially to occupy my long and boring commutes.

Have you read any gamified works before or recently? (Or should I say…played any?) If so, drop a comment and let me know which one and how you liked it! Better yet, if you’re thinking of trying out a gamified read, let me know!

About Sumayyah

Sumayyah is an Information Assistant at the Vaughan Public Libraries. She's also a bookworm and author, constantly dreaming up a multitude of different stories and wrestling with finishing them.  |  Meet the team