Today I’m sharing a brilliant debut novel by Helen Harvey: Emmy Levels Up. It’s a fantastic story about gaming, friendship and standing up for yourself. I also have Helen’s top three gaming recommendations for children AND for adults.
‘Emmy is brilliant at the computer game, Illusory Isles. Her avatar is a powerful fire elemental with magma claws and flaming breath. When Emmy’s gaming video gets a front-page feature, thousands of devoted fans flock to watch her battle the ultimate online baddie, the Mulch Queen herself.
Life at school is the exact opposite. Emmy is friendless and bullied by Vanessa AKA the Queen of Mean. To Vanessa and her gang, Emmy is a weirdo with bad handwriting, horrible fashion sense and no dad.
But if Emmy can take on the Mulch Queen online, perhaps she can also find a way to take on Vanessa too? Emmy decides to level up and solve this challenge alone. But then Emmy discovers that Mulch Queens and Mean Queens are much easier to face when you have a little help from new friends . . .’
There were several things which made this novel really stand out for me. One was the depiction of gaming as a rich fantasy world, a wonderful, bonding experience rather than a negative influence in a child’s life. For me, it highlighted what a positive influence gaming can be and how rich a young person’s online life is.
The way Emmy’s bullying was portrayed – sneaky, isolating and devastating – rang true with what I have witnessed myself as a teacher. Psychological bullying is every bit as damaging as physical bullying and much harder to spot. Bullies are often very clever and victims often too broken down to say anything. Luckily, Emmy finds her voice and is able to speak out, but many victims don’t. This book would be a great tool for opening up some interesting classroom discussions and provide an opportunity for children to develop their skills of empathy.
An authentic, relevant, uplifting read which had be cheering along with the cast of characters are various points. It also made me reconsider whether or not I should start playing The Sims again! If you’ve also been inspired to pick up the controller again, author Helen Harvey has some top gaming recommendations to share with you:
Helen Harvey’s top three videogame recommendations for children and adults
So you think games are nothing but running around an arena shooting guns and lasers? Think again!
Often we assume that screen time is “bad for you” and time spent outdoors is “good for you”. In Emmy Levels Up I wanted to flip that assumption and show all the good things that children – and grown-ups! – can get from games. Emmy learns new skills, creates engaging videos and becomes part of a community, all because of her favourite videogame, Illusory Isles.
Unfortunately Illusory Isles isn’t real, but here are my top game recommendations for children and adults to try instead.
Games for young people
Stardew Valley – Farm, fish and forage as you make a new countryside home, meeting villagers and helping to rebuild the community centre. This is a lovely gentle game with lots to discover and a positive message about community at it’sheart – but it’s also super compelling.
Cities: Skylines – Construct a city from scratch, planning roads and building all the things a city needs to thrive: schools, hospitals and fire stations. But watch out for traffic jams!
Portal – Welcome to the Portal testing centre. Here you must solve complex puzzles using portals and mind-bending physics. If you do, you get cake! What do you mean, you think there’s something fishy going on?
Games for adults
I see you, sitting there. Yes, you! You’re a real grown-up. You’re not a gamer. You’re too old to start now and you have no interest in games anyway.
Well, I’ll tell you a secret. My favourite games are narrative games. They’re basically stories told in game form, but they can do they cool thing that books can’t – they can make you part of the story. If you’re a grown-up who loves to read but has never tried playing games, I’ve got some suggestions for you.
[WARNING: These games are for grown-ups only. They contain content that is not suitable and frankly not that interesting for children.]
Her Story – You have a keyboard and an old-fashioned search engine. With only a few clues, you must search a police database to solve a decades-old murder mystery by watching police interview tapes of the victim’s girlfriend.
Heaven’s Vault – Sail between breath-takingly beautiful moons, to uncover archaeological finds and translate ancient texts. This game has everything: a timeline, a map, rivers of wind, ghost robots, and linguistic puzzles to crack.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – The Archers meets the apocalypse. Explore a deserted Shropshire village to uncoverthe stories of the people who lived there and find out why it’s empty. Warning, the soundtrack will make you cry.
Helen Harvey is the author of Emmy Levels Up, a novel for 8+ readers. Online, Emmy is a superstar gamer but at school she is bullied. She must use her gaming skills to beat her bullies once and for all. Emmy Levels Up will be released April 1st2021 from Oxford University Press.
Well ‘Portal’ caught my attention so I did some investigating and it looks brilliant! I shall definitely be encouraging my son to apply his problem-solving skills in the Portal Testing Centre. Thank you, Helen, for your recommendations.
If you love the sound of Emmy Levels Up and are on the hunt for more gaming titles, take a look at my blog post HERE.
*Many thanks to OUP for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*