I knew as soon as I saw how P.J. Hoover was promoting her latest book that she would be a great addition to the Games & Books & Q&A series of interviews with gaming professionals about books and with children’s and YA authors about video games. She discusses her neato approach below (yes, I just said “neato”), but first let me get you caught up on P.J.’s career so far.
Central Texas is fertile ground both for technology companies and for books for young readers, and P.J. has been part of both of those worlds. She made the switch from electrical engineer to author, debuting with the Forgotten Worlds trilogy. Last year saw the publication of her dystopian YA novel, Solstice (Tor Teen), and this year she’s followed up with her middle-grade adventure novel Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life (Starscape).
On a personal note, having gotten an early glimpse at the manuscript for this book six years ago, let me just say how satisfying it is to see Tut arrive on bookstore shelves — and how glad I am that P.J. took the time to talk with me about gaming.
CB: What do you remember about the first video game you ever played?
PJH: You mean besides how quickly I could go through a roll of quarters? The thing I remember most about those early games was what a fantastic job they did transporting me to another place, even with their limited graphics. Maybe it was the way the arcade machine blocked out the sides, but when I played Jungle Hunt at the skating rink, I was there, swinging on the vines, swimming underwater. I also remember how much better some kids were than me. I’m pretty sure their parents gave them more quarters than mine gave me. :-)
CB: What games did you play the most when you were a kid? What did you love about them?
PJH: Games I played the absolute most were the ones I had at home (because there was no roll of quarters required). On the Commodore 64, I had Jumpman, M.U.L.E., Q*bert, and Wolfenstein. Q*bert I adored because I was actually better than anyone I knew at it. I loved how, if I executed certain patterns, I would evade all the obstacles. And Wolfenstein I loved because it had a whole story behind the game. I was trapped in a castle full of bad guys and I had to escape! Also, I was good at it, too. I escaped the castle almost every time. Achtung!
CB: What role do games play in your life today?
PJH: With two kids at home (ages 10 and 13), one of our favorite things to do together is to play games. Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U is a great family time activity (actually the whole Wii mentality is very family based). One of my kids still plays Wizard101 with me (imagine World of Warcraft meets Harry Potter). I’m proud to admit that I am a Level 71 Fire Wizard in the game (which translates to many hours played). I’m also trying to improve my Portal 2 skills on the Xbox (the cake is a lie). So to say video games play a role in my life today is an understatement. I encourage parents to take time out of their lives and play games with their kids. They’re actually a ton of fun.
I see how much time kids want to be on the computer, and given my love of gaming, I’ve developed some fun gaming tie-ins for Tut. There’s a Minecraft server developed for the book where kids can explore both ancient Egypt and modern-day Washington, D.C, unlocking hidden clues as they go. There’s also an old-school 10-level video game, written using Scratch (a fun programming platform created by MIT). The game requires basic evasion, puzzle solving, and decoding. (Cheats are available on my website.)
I had to delete Candy Crush from my phone because I was playing far too much. :-)
I expect to continue this series through the October publication of my book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet. If there’s anyone in the gamer or kidlit camp that you’d love to see me feature in upcoming posts in this series, please drop me a line or tweet at me or just leave a message in the comments.