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Young Bond computer game aims to get boys reading

28-Aug-2008 • Young Bond

Charlie Higson, author of the popular Young Bond series, has launched a computer game set in the world of 007 to help address declining literacy standards in young boys. The initiative comes only a matter of days after time spent at the computer was blamed for a fall in Sats results for English, with one in five 14-year-old boys found to be reading below the level expected for an 11-year-old, reports The Guardian.

Higson's new alternate reality game, The Shadow War, combines gaming with reading both on and offline, a recipe which he hopes will encourage reluctant readers. "We think reading is sitting down and reading a novel but there are all sorts of reading," he explained. "Kids can get as engrossed in a football magazine as they can in a history book or novel. We shouldn't be dismissive of other forms of literature - I used to read tons of comic books when I was a kid."

By playing the game, Higson continued, readers will be introduced to the Young Bond books, which were recently included in a government list of recommended titles to encourage schoolboys to read. "We're always looking for new ways to get people interested, especially the sort of person who wouldn't be hanging around in a children's bookshop, or reading a worthy magazine in a school library … this is a way of getting other kids interested who might not know about the books," he said.

Higson launched the free online game at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where he set the first mission for players; future missions will include uncovering a secret code in a bookshop where a murder has taken place, and finding out who escaped from a fire at Hellebore's Castle. Players can choose to be either a British agent or a Soviet spy.

The game will run online at www.youngbond.com until October 8, when Higson will take part in a live event during which players will be able to influence the end of the game.

Higson, whose fifth Young Bond novel By Royal Command is published on September 3, said there had also been "a lot of film interest" in the books. "It's just finding the time to get it right – it's very difficult to find a kid with the charisma to pull off the character of Bond at that age."

The Shadow War was developed by game creator Six to Start.

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