Listening to books and playing a TV show – experiencing The Hobbit and The Walking Dead

When Lord of the Rings (LOTR) first hit the big screen in 2001, I was proudly proclaiming to everyone that I had read the entire tome by J.R.R. Tolkein. But my memory had failed me in that instance. I hadn’t read the books; I didn’t even have them. I had played the computer game, and only the second one at that (The Two Towers). The game wasn’t very good. I inadvertently found a bug which allowed me to slip on the Ring and walked unseen all the way to Mordor, unmolested by enemies. It was fun the first 10 minutes, but hours of walking does not make for exciting game play.

More than a decade later, I was proudly proclaiming that I have read The Hobbit. I was closer to the truth this time: I had purchased a hard cover that was specially discounted at a used bookstore in Nottingham during my undergraduate days. It made for a pretty decoration on the bookshelf but unfortunately, I had never gotten around to actually reading it.

To make up for it, I decided to listen to the audio book version of The Hobbit during a recent long drive up North. I found an excellent 1991 recording by Rob Inglis. He used memorably distinctive voices for each of the main characters, and get this, even sang all the songs in the book. You might not know this from the movies, but there were a lot of rhymes and songs in the J.R.R. Tolkein books. Being an unabridged recording, every single word in the book was narrated or sung. The tense exchange of riddles between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum in the cave left an especially deep impression. I was listening to it in bed and Inglis’s interpretation of Gollum gave me shivers and insomnia.

Riddles in the Dark

Riddles in the Dark

So, S is a huge fan of zombie shows, so no surprise that she has been following The Walking Dead TV series with unsuppressed excitement. It could be our never-ending fascination with apocalyptic end-of-the-world stories (hey it’s the end of the world today!), but this TV series has been garnering much critical acclaim since the pilot.

And you know what follows a successful show these days: computer game tie-ins. Given my history with The Two Towers, I thought this was yet another cynical marketing exercise to milk more money from a loyal fan base.

The Walking Dead PC game

The Walking Dead PC game

To my surprise, the rave reviews for The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series kept pouring in. Our local tech blog Techgoondu gushed how it was “easily one of the best storytelling gaming experience” of the year. Metacritic gave it an exceptional score of 91%, which is practically unheard of for an indie game publisher. I missed the recent autumn sale on Steam, but this title is sitting pretty at the top of my wish list. The TV series was in turn based on the award-winning comic book series (don’t they call them graphic novels these days?) by Robert Kirkman.

At the end of the day, how the story is told does not matter. It’s no longer about the format, but all about the experience.

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About Hun Boon

A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
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