In the reading world, Patterson is best known for his Women's Murder Club series and his detective novels starring forensic psychologist Alex Cross, even though these represent just a portion of his repertoire. Patterson is also no stranger to the gaming world. Over the years, he has released a handful of Women's Murder Club games (for PC and Nintendo DS) and is doing a publicity tour to promote his new Facebook mystery game, Catch a Killer.
Patterson talks to us about the challenges of writing compelling narrative for a game and why shooting games, such Call of Duty and Halo, are not his "cup of blood."
Is Catch a Killer on Facebook similar to your Women's Murder Club games -- part adventure/part hidden object game?
It's a lot more involved then that. I think to some extent it's a whole new way to experience the mystery-suspense story. It's very different from reading a James Patterson novel. It's different from watching CSI on television. You are the detective and catch a killer. You have to solve the crime yourself. You do have help, because Alex Cross is at your side. He will offer suggestions. But ultimately it's -- Are you good enough a detective to catch a serial killer or a kidnapper or a husband who murdered his wife, etc.?
I am attracted to partners [like Sony Online Entertainment] who want to do things that are as good as you can do it in that theater, whatever it is. So what appeals to me here is this notion of expanding the universe of games. At one point, we're just for fanboys. It's one of those games that let's women in, it lets non-shooters in. I'm not a shooter, so it appeals to me.
Have you played many shooters? What don't you like about them?
I've played about half dozen of them. I just found it too repetitive. It wasn't my cup of blood.
So, back to Catch a Killer -- does the Facebook game follow the story line from any of your books?
To date all of the stories are new on the game. So the only place you can deal with these stories is playing the game. We haven't really talked about whether we would use any of the book stories. I'm not opposed to it. I think initially it felt to us cooler and fresher to do new things.
At this point, there are eleven murder mysteries and I think it's going to go up. What's nice about this kind of thing is if you're done with a book, you hand it in and that's the end of it. This thing keeps living and growing and changing and getting better. That's another thing that appeals to me about [Facebook games].
Why did you decide to launch an Alex Cross game on Facebook instead of a Women's Murder Club game? Are you still targeting mostly women with this game?
I would say Alex has an even larger female audience than Women's Murder Club, believe it or not. I guess they're pretty close proportionately. Alex Cross' audience is much bigger.
You are known for being very involved with every step of getting your books to the public. Did you have the same amount of involvement with Catch a Killer?
Sony was great. They really were very cooperative unlike sometimes in Hollywood where it's very difficult to get heard. They have involved me very nicely right up to the point where we rewrote all the dialogue last week. We thought it could be better, we thought it was a little flat, stale, so we went over it one more time.
We've gone over the graphics a few times and tried to make them as contemporary as we could. We talked about a lot of things that could happen where the game can go, things that are going to make it more innovative and unusual and involving. To date, there's a lot of listening, and I have to listen too because they know this arena, a whole lot better than I do.
What are some of the challenges of turning your fiction into games?
What we're trying to do is not take as much of a backseat as it did in Women's Murder Club; we're trying to inch it forward a bit. You can only go so far, but there's more story here.
I think that's the main thing in terms of narrative. We've tried to, as much as you can, put twists and surprises in, which I think is what drives most mysteries. Something hooks you in the beginning, you're like, alright how can this be. Then you're surprised along the way. The surprise part of it, I think, is necessary in the mystery genre and it's not as important certainly in shooter games.
There's a lot of room in the game area for better narrative. I love stories, so the less there's story in things, the less that there's surprises, the less that that I'm pulled forward by a narrative, I don't like it as well. I still am somewhat hooked to melody in music, so that limits to some extent, my enjoyment of certain kinds of music.
Facebook is a hot place to launch games right now. What's your take on Facebook as a place to play games?
It's just so massive right now. At my site we're up over 800,000 fans. As my 12-year-old tells me, "They're not your friends Dad, they're your fans." So it's incredible to be able to reach this many people. This whole notion of democratization of whatever is: mysteries, games, that's kind of exciting and interesting to me.
Read our review of James Patterson's Catch a Killer >