To be Harry and live in his world

As further proof that interactive gaming is breaking through to the mainstream, consider the new Harry Potter-themed games. Owen O'Brien says the four new games based on the popular J.K. Rowling franchise deliver the ultimate experience. "You get to be Harry and live in his world as him," says the Irish native who said he moved into game development specifically to work on the Potter games.

While gamers will not be able to control other characters in the series, they will be able to play Quidditch, as Harry the seeker. In the first games, they will be able to do only what Harry is able to do during his first year. "They won't be able to perform the more advanced spells of the later books," O'Brien says.

But, as Harry grows in his ongoing seven book saga, the gaming opportunities will expand. The author, J.K. Rowling, worked closely with the developer to expand and clarify the world inhabited by the young wizard in training. O'Brien says the games have much more depth and complexity than the film, or, in some cases, even the book. The games have to recreate an entire world. Accordingly, he says, "J.K. Rowling gave us new things like additional spells for the next generation of games."

Mindful that the books are an international phenomenon, O'Brien says he was as worried, as many parents and Potter fans are, about reducing the books to one set of visual images. But, he says, at least the close collaboration between his team and the author assure that the vision in the games is in harmony with the author's. "If it has to be anybody's vision, at least it should be hers," he adds.

The target market "is mass, mainstream," says O'Brien - another sign of the expanding reach of the interactive gaming industry. With some 70 million videogame consoles already in US homes alone, it's safe to say that Harry Potter's world will be more accessible to a broader range of people than even author J.K. Rowling could have dreamed.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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