Boys And Their Books: Simon Scarrow's Cato & Macro

Image: Amuzo Games' Cato & Macro
Image: Amuzo Games’ Cato & Macro

‘It’s a way of getting them into reading, hopefully.’

And you thought it would be tough when Cato and Macro took on “the tribes of Britannia.” That’s what’s going on in Brothers in Blood, the 13th in the Eagle Series of historical and military fiction, just out last month from Headline. In it, the Roman prefect Cato and the centurion Macro have to find a traitor and thwart a plot against their lives.

But no, actually, this is author Simon Scarrow, suiting up to take on the boys of Britannia — the boys who aren’t yet bookish in Britannia, that is, those reading-reluctants who look a lot like his son’s mates.

Simon Scarrow
Simon Scarrow

“I’ve got two boys, myself,” he tells me, “and it’s not a problem getting them to read. But what intrigues me is their friends, who keep saying, ‘Oh, reading is boring, books are expensive,” you know, all the usual excuses they make.”

Scarrow and the game developer Amuzo are meeting “the usual excuses” with an unusual response: a mobile game-app designed to let you “storm your way across the battlefields of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East,” the blurb tells us, “with Cato and Macro in their fight to defend the Roman Empire’s rule over Britannia.”

By making the game available as a free download from both the iTunes AVaIApp Store and Google Play, Scarrow and Amuzo m.d. Mike Hawkyard hope to outflank the guys, in SPQR-glorious style, catapulting them into reading by sharing with them the special joys of the Flaming Pig. Actually that’s The Flaming Pig! — “an explosion of pure bacon” that seems never to appear in promotional copy without its exclamation point. One can only assume that the punctuation would make good sense if you were confronted with one of these projectile porkers.

Brothers in Blood - Cato & Macro 13What’s especially clever here relies on the author’s willingness to play along, if you will, and allow the game itself to be developed as a genuine leading event for the target reader, not as a cereal-box prize.

“The key,” Scarrow says, “is to make the game the thing, make it fun, and the books become secondary…the reward is an excellent book that will flesh out the story of the game.”

That’s probably exactly the kind of generous thinking required to generate a true bridge from one boyhood pastime to what we’d like to see become a  man’s lifetime of reading here.

“And you know, there’s another side to this, too,” Scarrow says. “I have a lot of adult readers who are really enthusiastic about books and want to get their offspring into reading, as well. And it’s all very well for an adult to put a book in front of a kid and say, ‘Here, read this.’ But it’s something else to say, ‘Well, look, we’ll play the game and if you’re interesting in finding out more about the series, then here, what about these books I’ve been trying to get you to read all the time?”

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By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

The FutureBook: Gaming the System: Simon Scarrow’s Cato, Macro, and the boys

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