The lights are on
Unless you’ve intentionally avoided libraries for the bulk of your life, chances are you’ve heard of James Patterson. Most everyone has come across at least one of the American novelist’s bestselling works, several of which have been made into major motion pictures (Along Came a Spider) throughout the years. Want a staggering fact? In 2007, one of every 15 hardcover books sold was a Patterson piece, contributing to an estimated 170 million copies of lifetime works sold worldwide. Patterson’s net is cast wide, being the first author to have his work simultaneously take the top spot on the New York Times adult and children’s list, resulting in several large properties that have attracted the attention of video game publishers. Not long ago it was announced that the young adult series The Dangerous Days of Daniel X will be made into a Nintendo DS title – but this isn’t Patterson’s first foray into the gaming space. Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series, the books that spawned the ABC television drama, already has several PC-only games on the market. But as highlighted at E3 this past year, the franchise recently made its way onto Nintendo's handheld platform. Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion released this past October, developed by Griptonite and published by THQ. Told through a classic hidden object/adventure interface, the game unfolds as a string of women go missing, eventually turning up dead. Lindsay, Cindy and Claire all bring different skills to the table and help solve the mystery, presenting the case to the District Attorney (and fellow WMC member) Yuki in order to convict a suspect. We had a brief chance to chat with Patterson about his role in the project, and asked some sweeping questions about video games from an accredited author’s point of view. Check out the interview below. Game Informer: How did the Women’s Murder Club opportunity come about? Did it take some convincing or were you on board with the project immediately? James Patterson: What really gets me excited as a writer is using interesting, fun characters to tell great stories that are accessible and interesting to a broad audience. What I love about this project is the chance to tell a great story in a whole new way while we widen the boundaries of how people think of entertainment. GI: Did you have any concerns about translating the property to a game? Patterson: I have had great success with my WMC novels and I wanted to bring the storyline that my fans know and love to an interactive format. I can’t say that I had any fears because the game delivers the pacing, characters, and plot twists on par with my WMC novels. GI: Since you can’t translate your books word for word, there is an obvious give and take in the development process. What do you think the property lost in translation, and what did it gain as a result?Patterson: From the beginning, I never wanted to translate my books word for word. I wanted to use this opportunity to create a whole new experience and storyline for my fans and gamers. As a writer, I’m always trying to find new ways to tell a story. For me the games allow me to do two main things: connect with my fans in a new way by offering an original new story in an interactive format, and two, reach those who may not be a fan of my books through an easily accessible, and fun video game. GI: How involved were you in the development process of Games of Passion?Patterson: I served as the creative consultant for the story and the game. It is very important that the game stays true to the WMC style: smart, fast-paced, a bit irreverent and a bit gritty. I wanted to be sure the game had a great story and looked really good, but also has a bit of “bite” much like the novels. THQ has really done a great job of capturing the WMC characters and experience in a very new and exciting way. GI: So the game isn’t grounded in a particular book – it’s a new mystery entirely?Patterson: The game is based on my WMC book series and includes the main characters. However an all-new storyline was designed just for the game and, in addition to that, it allows players to become one of three WMC characters featured in the game, utilizing their respective skills throughout the mystery. GI: Prior to your work with the Women’s Murder Club games, had you been approached by publishers interested in giving one of your properties the interactive treatment?Patterson: There has been a lot of interest in expanding my book properties into the video game space. However, THQ presented a compelling understanding of my book series and how to turn it into a fun, interactive experience that augments the traditional book experience. GI: Are there any other properties in particular that you think would lend well to a video game? Patterson: Yes. The pacing and style of my books translate well into video games and we are always in discussions of what other type of property would work best.GI: As an accredited novelist and expert in your field, what is your opinion of games as a medium for entertainment or education? Do you have any praise or criticism?Patterson: Bringing the WMC novels to a game, will hopefully open up a whole new arena to a lot of people who do not think of themselves as gamers, but love a great story. It’s a game that’s designed to be accessible and very easy to pick-up-and-play. Much like my books, video games are an entertainment experience. In my novels, readers are drawn to the characters, engaged in the story and feel a part of the universe I have created. It seems that the game industry is now coming around to that approach and creating games with more in-depth storylines. The main difference is that the player can actually impact the outcome of the story. GI: Video games have become the poster boy for criticism and critique, just as comics, music, film and all other forms of media once have. Do you feel that these are simple growing pains or are they deserved?Patterson: Anytime someone creates something for the world to see, it becomes subject for criticism – that is a risk we all take as writers, filmmakers, developers etc. It’s all about creating something that you are proud of and believe in. GI: Can you see yourself lending your talents to the gaming industry again in the future?Patterson: The way I see it, everybody likes a good, fun, story. I’m interested in entertaining people and as long as there are new and exciting ways to do that, I’ll keep working at it.