Sunday, April 14, 2013

Video Game Developer with Dyslexia Creates Interactive e-Book for Young Readers

It has been a busy week at Brennan Innovators after having participated in two educational conferences here in St. Louis. At these two events, we met with so many adults and children who described their symptoms and challenges with dyslexia.

Also during the past seven days, we have had the great privilege of interviewing an experienced and accomplished video game developer whose company is much in the news right now. Joe Booth is the Executive Producer and Creative Director of Vidya Gamer, LLC, a company that takes concepts used in making video games "to re-imagine learning.” Currently, Joe and his company are working diligently on a project that will incorporate the concepts learned in video game development and apply them to an exciting and uniquely interactive e-book for young readers. Joe Booth also is upfront about the fact that he has dyslexia.

Joe’s 25 years’ experience in traditional video game development includes work with major industry franchises such as FIFA, Need for Speed, Ghost Recon, and Rollercoaster Tycoon. Joe has held senior production and creative roles at Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. While at Microsoft, Joe established Microsoft KODU as the leading game-based learning platform.

More recently, Joe founded Vidya Gamer in order to focus full time on transforming the games and learning space into a meaningful commercial sector. His clients include the Gates Foundation, Achieve3000, the Pearson Foundation and OutThink, Inc.

With all of these impressive achievements, you might be surprised to learn that Joe has dyslexia. As a young student, he struggled significantly with spelling, composing thoughts for writing, and had “bad handwriting.” His teachers attempted to help him with exercises and “remedial” spelling activities that provided no real assistance for Joe. In fact, this contributed to even more confusion about spelling and writing. At about age 11 or 12, Joe began to feel disengaged and started “skipping school.” It didn’t take long for this to become a chronic issue.

At the same time, Joe had always had significant strengths and talents in other areas. Math and science were subjects where he excelled, which is not unusual for individuals with dyslexia. During the summer of that same year, Joe’s parents bought him his first computer, which became the tool that would enable him to fully use his talents and gifts in a very productive way---making computer games. These games were “his thing”, and he began to teach himself how to program in order to create them himself. Amazingly, at age 15, a company offered him a contract to create a computer game for the marketplace.

In his 20s, Joe did not do much reading for leisure. During that time, he re-visited books attempted in his earlier years, such as Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, and experienced some success. Then he read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This novel portrayed a character with dyslexia who used a piece of paper to help him read. Reading Irving's book and identifying with this dyslexic character was a turning point for Joe.

Joe Booth realized after reading this novel that he could use his strengths to solve problems. Even though he had always been challenged with spelling and writing, he could use his problem-solving skills and other talents while cutting and pasting letters and other symbols to write programming code for the creation of exciting video games.

Today, Joe and Vidya Gamer are putting all their efforts into developing an interactive e-book that will help provide more background knowledge for young readers while allowing them to interact with the digital text, creating a story with outcomes they choose. In taking on this project, Joe Booth and his company will be making a major contribution to literacy for young people. This e-book, written in the spirit of Indiana Jones and the Choose Your Own Adventure books, will engage its readers and involve them in the unfolding story.

Currently, they are in the final days of raising funds for this e-book development via To view the video about the e-book efforts or to contribute to this literacy project, just visit If funds manage to exceed the goal amount for the project, the extra funding will be used to reach the company’s “stretch goals”, which are to create additional versions of the book for different reading levels. A pledge of just $5 will allow a donor to receive a digital copy of this very first e-book from Vidya Gamer on the day of release (estimated delivery---May 2013).

Joe Booth has certainly demonstrated that even with the challenges of dyslexia, it is more than possible to use one’s other strengths and talents to manage some of the dyslexic symptoms and solve problems, especially while promoting and contributing to literacy. He believes the mention to others that one is affected with dyslexia "let's the pressure off" and allows one to be more able to function successfully. He also wants others to know that those with dyslexia are not unintelligent. In fact, many have unique gifts that enable them to compensate for the dyslexic symptoms. Joe's unique talents and gifts will certainly help young readers learn to love reading again. We want to wish all the best of success to Joe and Vidya Gamer, LLC with Codename: A FOR ADVENTURE!


National STEM Video Game Challenge

Kickstarter Campaign Page---For more info or to make a contribution to the Vidya Gamer e-book project

Company Website for Vidya Gamer, LLC

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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