Category Archives: Blog

The 5 Funniest Moments in Graphic Adventure Games

One of the areas in which graphic adventure games have most other games beat is that they’re actually funny. Reliant on plot, character, and writing in general, graphic adventure games have provided some of the most solid laughs in video game history. These moments have stuck with me through the years, and are as funny and enjoyable as any oft-quoted line from any famously comedic movie or teevee show.

5. Inspector Hector Wakes Up Pantsless

Hector Badge of Carnage Episode 1: We Negotiate with Terrorists

Humour is very subjective, and while fat foul-mouthed Inspector Hector might not be everyone’s cuppa, i found him hilarious. Here, Hector intercepts a shady deal in the park, and tries to claim the cash with no idea what he’s supposed to be exchanging. The fun begins at 4:40 (remember to cue it up):

4. Ben Gets Some Answers

Full Throttle

After a decade of playing Mr. Nice Guy in adventure games and finding non-violent solutions to problems wherever possible, along comes tough biker Ben. After kicking down the door, Ben shows the bartender who’s boss in no uncertain terms (gag ends at 0:15):

With head-ripping fare like God of War to taint a modern-day gamer’s viewpoint, it’s easy to miss what was so surprising and funny about this moment. But if you had spent your gaming life playing characters like King Graham, who would lose game points for violently resolving problems (like stabbing the goat in the first King’s Quest),
the first two interactions in Full Throttle definitely put a smile on your face.

3. The Freelance Police Save the Day … Sort Of

Sam and Max Hit the Road

The original outing of the freelance police strikes a tone that the subsequent teevee series and later 3D Telltale installments failed to regain. Half of it is in Bill Farmer’s sarcastic, lackadaisical Bogart voice for Sam (the character has been voiced by two different actors since, and neither of them quite nail it), and the other half is in the writing. The Telltale games boast Sam and Max-esque writing, but they never quite reach the bar that the comic’s creator Steve Purcell sets with the original.

Max: Mind if i drive?
Sam: Not if you don’t mind me clawing at the dash and shrieking like a cheerleader.

This intro cutscene sets up the utterly original cheerily psychotic pair of thugs, letting us know for damn sure that we’re not in Daventry any more.

2. Larry Wins a Cruise

Leisure Suit Larry Goes Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places)

Larry Laffer bluffs his way into a teevee studio with a forged lottery ticket, and accidentally winds up on the set of The Dating Connection. And his luck doesn’t stop there. (the gag ends at 4:08)

1. Guybrush gets a Job

The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge

After being mugged for all his riches, mighty (and now bearded) pirate Guybrush Threepwood needs money to charter a ship. The only paying job in town is already held by a talented sous-chef who shows no sign of quitting. After some crafty inventory work with the local vermin, Guybrush arranges a staffing change. The whole puzzle culminates in one of those hilarious off-screen conversations that LucasArts games are famous for, and ends in a killer punchline delivered by the restaurant owner. (the gag ends at 2:30)

What are some of your favourite funny moments from graphic adventure games?

i Left My Slides in San Francisco

San Francisky? Well how did you get there? Did you walk n’ did you flew?

i’m very, very excited for all the shenanigans i’m about to get up to in the big windy apple that never sleeps – San Francisco – in less than two weeks’ time. Here’s what’s on my plate:

Flash Gaming Summit 2012

This will be my third time at the Flash Gaming Summit, a great niche mini-con that precedes GDC by a day (Sunday March 4th 2012) . Last year, i moderated a panel on game monetization. This year, i have a talk all to myself:

Ponycorns and the Price of Popularity (4PM in the Fisher Room)

For many indie game developers, having a hit viral game sounds like a dream come true. The reality is that, especially in the ad-supported free-to-play Flash marketplace, rampant fame comes at a price. The overnight success of Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure brought with it temporal, financial and emotional costs that were difficult to predict. Ryan Henson Creighton from Untold Entertainment talks about what success actually looks like, and what it’ll cost you. Learn how to prepare for tomorrow’s success today!

Fabulous Prizes

Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure is a finalist for a Mochi Award! This is a great honour. Past winners have included Machinarium, Canabalt, and some web game about stickmen shooting zombies, most likely.

i’m pretty sure this is what a Mochi award looks like.

Game Developers Conference 2012

i’m thrilled to be speaking at GDC 2012 during the Independent Games Summit.

Ponycorns: Catching Lightning in a Jar (1:45 PM on Monday)

The ponycorns fanfare could easily have died off within a week, but Untold was determined to make as much noise as possible, given that initial spark. Attendees will learn about launching alternate revenue streams like the ponycorns merchandise store, preparing press kits, attracting mainstream media attention, entering contests, marketing with a non-existent budget, and following up with franchises or brand extensions, all in the name of amplifying initial interest in a project. When many speakers tell their success stories, they essentially talk about how they were struck by lightning. The take-away for the audience is to go out and somehow get struck by lightning too. Indie game developer Untold Entertainment Inc. was struck by lightning when their game Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure went viral, receiving worldwide attention and acclaim – most notably because it was co-developed by a five-year-old girl. In this exciting and surprising session, Ryan Henson Creighton reveals how to turn your game project into a lightning rod to attract success, and how to bottle that surge of success without letting even a single spark escape.

Note that (as per my speaking contract :), this talk is completely different from the one i’m giving at FGS. The GDC talk is about attracting and amplifying attention, while the FGS talk is about what to do with that attention once you’ve got it (and, specifically, how much it’s gonna cost you).

Spellirium Will Be Playable at the GDC 2012 Expo

(Esplanade Ballroom, South Hall – GDC Play Kiosk #K13 – Wednesday from 12pm-3pm)

My final piece of great news is that Spellirium, the little graphic adventure/word puzzle game mash-up that could, will be exhibited during a very brief window Wednesday afternoon on the GDC show floor.

Since the event hasn’t happened yet, i travelled into the future to take this photo for you.

If you haven’t Liked Spellirium on Facebook or followed @Spellirium on Twitter, please help us out by doing so! We have a meeting with Steam during GDC 2012, and we’d love to show them how many people are interested in the game. Here’s all you need to know about the game.

Ryan Henson Creighton to be Awarded San Francisco’s Key to the City

… no. i’m making that part up.

But one day, San Francisco. One day.

Monster Mondays – Spellirium Stone Creature

It’s Monster Monday! Well, technically, the monsters in Spellirium are called “creatures”, but Monster Mondays has a nice alliterative ring to it.

Spellirium stone creature

This is an inked creature design by Darren Ward. We’re considering giving this guy a pair of legs to replace his spectral booty, and maybe reducing him to only two eyes. In combat, he’ll probably petrify your letter tiles. Stone tiles can’t be swapped – you have to either build a word around them to eliminate them, or use a “thaw” power-up.


Help Put Spellirium on Steam!

Listen up!

We’re making a really cool graphic adventure / word puzzle mash-up called Spellirium. It totally kicks ass, and it has an amazing post-apocalyptic “trashpunk” aesthetic that looks like this:

Spellirium New Mound Saloon

Do you want to play this game? Do you want to play this game on Steam?

Untold Entertainment has its first-ever meeting with Steam two weeks from now at GDC (the Game Developers’ conference) and to be honest, we don’t want to blow it. We’re nervous that Steam is going to take one look at our 31 Facebook Likes and 18 Twitter followers and think “hmm … this game that looks like it’s made from garbage is also going to sell like garbage.”

i’d love to get these follower numbers up to a level where the nice folks at Steam are gonna say “Hey! People are actually interested in this game! We’d like to distribute it on our platform.”

Are you interested in Spellirium? Do you realize it’s going to be the greatest graphic adventure/word puzzle hybrid game you’ve ever played? Please help us out:

  1. Like Spellirium on Facebook!
  2. Follow Spellirium on Twitter!

In return, we’ll roll out a whole development plan to keep you updated on how we’re doing, including special glimpses at character artwork, concepts, background designs, scripts, storyboards, and secrets about Spellirium.

If you want to know more about the game, ask me about it! i’ll answer all of your questions in the comments section, and have posted more detail below. Thanks SO MUCH for your support! We’re working very, very hard to make Spellirium a great game that you’ll enjoy.

- Ryan Henson Creighton
President and Founder of Untold Entertainment Inc.
(and the guy who’s going to delete this post before Steam sees it ;)

More About Spellirium – Read Ahead Only if You Care!

Q: How do the graphic adventure and word puzzle bits interact?

A: Instead of throwing a lot of item-based puzzles at you, Spellirium gives you a Boggle-like grid of letters on the right side of the screen. On the left, you see an enemy or a challenge that you have to solve by spelling words. Every challenge has a different solution.

Sometimes, you might have to make words with certain coloured tiles (GREEN words defeat the green creature). Or in certain directions (spell a word from left to right to move a character from left to right in a maze). Or maybe the words themselves matter (spell FIRE, FLAMES or INFERNO to torch something). Sometimes, you’re not allowed to move the tiles around, and you have to make words based on what the grid gives you. Other times, you may have to make words with double letters (to defeat twin creatures), or spell palindromes (to defeat a two-headed foe), or find rhyming words (to crack the code on riddle etched in a mysterious stone).

Spellirium New Mound Saloon

In this challenge, each brick in the wall corresponds to a letter tile in the grid. Spelling a five-letter word at the top-left eliminates the five top-left bricks in the matching area of the wall. The goal is to knock out all of the bricks to escape the area.

You’ll walk around beautifully-drawn scenes, just like in a graphic adventure game. The game has a great story. You talk to characters, pick up items, and travel around the map … but every significant interaction boils down to a neat puzzle-within-a-puzzle where you spell words to succeed.

Q:So it’s educational, right? It’s a game for kids?

A:Well, kids don’t really enjoy word games very much. And there’s a difference between a game that’s educational because it teaches you something, and a game like Spellirium that requires you to be educated to really enjoy it. If you liked the idea of a mash-up game like Puzzle Quest, but grew tired after your 8000th game of match-3, you’ll like the variety that Spellirium offers. It’s a great game for old-school graphic adventure fans, and for people who enjoy games like Scrabble, Boggle, Words with Friends, Scramble, Text Twist, Wurdle, Spelltower, Scrabulous, Bookworm Adventure, and Puzzlejuice. If you like doing the newspaper crossword, or if you like games that demand more from your brain than from your muscles, you’ll rather enjoy Spellirium.

Sleazin' it up!

If you have a pulse and a pocketbook, you’ll enjoy Spellirium.

Q:You mentioned a great story? i’ve heard that claim before.

A:So have we! In fact, we’re so disillusioned by lacklustre game stories that we set out to write one that doesn’t suck. Here it is:

Spellirium takes place in the future, after a mysterious apocalyptic event that left the world buried. The survivors can have “modern” technology, as long as they can dig it up … but with no gas, electricity, or enriched uranium, they can’t do much with what they find. So they build houses with it. They use cars as walls, and satellite dishes as spittoons. This gives the game its neat-o “trashpunk” aesthetic, and it’s why parts of the world look like they’re medieval. The survivors have been busted back to the Dark Ages.

Spellirium: The Safestate Ruins

“Ruins” in Spellirium are actually buried skyscrapers.

Their biggest problem is that all forms of reading and writing are outlawed. If you dig something up with writing on it, you have to scrape/scratch/burn the letters off, or your findage will be confiscated and you’ll be put to death. You can’t write on anything, or even invent a new form of writing. You can’t even communicate with pictograms, because that’s a form of writing. So the people are technologically poor, and bound to stay that way.

You play a young tailor named Todd who’s holed up in a cloistered community with four men who call themselves the “Runekeepers” – a secret society that curates an underground library filled with junk with writing on it. When the Runekeepers leave on a mysterious mission and one of them turns up dead, Todd discovers a mysterious device that affects reality when he uses it to spell words. Todd teams up with an oddball clan of adventurers including a big blue monster, a hard-edged hunter, and a foppish bard. Together, they set out to find the missing Runekeepers and to save them from danger.

Q: Sounds pretty serious?

A: Humour is a hallmark of everything we do at Untold Entertainment. Spellirium is wry and witty. Just as the Monkey Island series is very dark thematically and graphically but is betrayed by a great sense of humour, Spellirium is similarly a dark fantasy game infused with sly, winking writing.

Q: This is your big chance. Anything else i should know about?
A: Spellirium is a feature-rich game with a lot of wild ideas. Here’s a feature list of stuff we haven’t talked much about (but we will on the Facebook/Twitter accounts that you’re about to click on! :)

  • build, collect and track over fifty thousand words in an unlockable Dictionary
  • gather non-biodegradable landfill items and craft them into power-ups
  • buy new items using collected words as your currency
  • battle a variety of creatures, and store their info in your Bestiary
  • scavenge different items from creatures by bribing, scaring, or defeating them
  • learn special spells like ZAP and DELUGE to electrify or drown your enemies
  • share your best words on Twitter, and add your Twitter pals’ words to your Dictionary
  • discover the shocking secret that holds the Land in thrall

Spellirium: Bestiary Concept

An early Bestiary concept.

Q: Where’s the trailer?

A: We’re building out the story as we go – “shooting in sequence”, as the film term goes. That means we don’t have enough footage to make it appear as though the game takes place beyond the same three locations! We’re also trying to get the rights to a certain song to use in the trailer.

In the meantime, we have a few short, soundless video clips. This is probably the most informative one:

Thanks SO MUCH for all your support! We’re looking forward to showing you tons of great new stuff about Spellirium, and we hope you like us enough to make an impression on the folks at Steam!

  1. Like Spellirium on Facebook!
  2. Follow Spellirium on Twitter!


5 Graphic Adventure Game Goofs (and How To Fix Them)

It’s no secret that i love graphic adventure games. They’re the reason why i’m in this industry today. i’ve worked on a number of them (including Jinx 3: Escape from Area Fitty-Two, Heads, Summer in Smallywood, Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure, and the upcoming Spellirium), and have devoted considerable resources to developing UGAGS: the Untold Graphic Adventure Game System (our company’s answer to SCUMM), which has helped me to build that list of games. i’ve also written lots of articles about the genre (check the “Further Reading” section at the bottom of this post!)

The UGAGS oeuvre to date.

Call me a snob, but i like graphic adventure games for the mere fact that their characters have something going through their minds other than “shoot”. i like that their plotlines boil down to more than just “kill mans” or “glorm points”. And i like standing in a room in a graphic adventure game, alone with my thoughts, without having to worry about time limits or pyrotechnics wizzing past my face every few seconds. As Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert put it during his Maniac Mansion postmortem at GDC 2010,

The magic of an adventure game is staring at the screen, wondering what to do next. It’s that quiet contemplation.

With the massive Kickstarter windfall for an unspecified graphic adventure game, Tim Schafer, Ron Gilbert and Double Fine proven that there is still a market and a fondness for the genre. That being said, there are some legitimate and persistent problems with graphic adventures. Here’s a short list of the most common ones, and my thoughts on ways in which we, as graphic adventure game designers, can fix them.

1. Not Knowing What to Do

True, it’s magical for a video game to leave you guessing, instead of ramming a tutorial down your throat at every turn like most modern games do. But if you get stuck enough, long enough, that magic turns to salty poop and you really just want to get unstuck. If the only recourse for the player to get unstuck is to consult GameFAQs, you’ve failed as a designer. i’ve abandoned numerous graphic adventure games because i “cheated”; solving the rest of the game became a lot less enjoyable and i gave up, thoroughly racked with guilt-derived stomach cramps.

Throw the bridle on the snake to turn it into Pegasus. Why oh WHY didn’t i think of that??

But if the game gives you a way to cheat, or to get a hint, it’s somehow legit and i don’t feel as bad. It’s game-sanctioned cheating – a subtle, but powerful, difference. Modern graphic adventure games like Machinarium use an in-game help system.

Machinarium puts you through a twitch-based minigame before giving you a hint.

Another interesting way to handle this is to design your game such that the player can never get stuck. You just plod through the game, missing cues left and right, until you crash into the inevitable, unsatisfactory ending. But if you’re keen and clever and aware, you can strike out off the beaten path, do all the difficult things, and get a much better ending. Games that use this approach include Kult/Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess, The Last Express, and The Colonel’s Bequest.

It’s possible to coast through The Last Express without ever figuring out whodunit, whatsgoingon, or whosthatladywiththegun

One year at GDC, i heard a woman speak who was an advocate for female gamers (if you know her name, speak up!) Her heartfelt conviction, ladies, is that if you buy a game and you can’t access all of the content on the disc because the designer won’t let you, take the game back to the store and ask for your money back. Years ago, this struck me as utter blasphemy … and yet here i am, developing Spellirium so that all of the challenges are no-fail, and you can sail through the game from beginning to end without the game requiring you to be awesome. It’s awesome-optional. But for those players who DO excel, there are treats and rewards.

2. The Pixel Hunt

When graphic adventure games moved from using text-based parsers to entirely mouse-driven interfaces, they were distinguished from their parser predecessors by the term “point n’ click”. This term was later twisted to the pejorative “hunt n’ peck” because numerous graphic adventure games, in lieu of offering clever and interesting puzzles, would hide important items in a 2-pixel-square hit area so that the player’s only recourse was to slowly scan each and every location by trawling the cursor slowly over the screen in rows, like he was a human dot matrix printer.

Listen: i could be a very rich man today if i had built HOGs (Hidden Object Games). They’re immensely popular. But the entire genre is based on this one terrible flaw of graphic adventure games. HOGs, by definition, are pixel hunts. i can’t do it. i just … no. You know?

Finding the pair of tweezers in the messy bedroom is not my definition of a fun time – it’s my definition of every goddamn day of my life

How do you fix this problem? The obvious answer is to make bigger hit areas. But i’ve seen other games go even farther. Telltale’s Back to the Future on the iPad enables you to multi-finger diddle the screen to make all of the location’s hotspots light up. Like the “every player’s a winner” strategy i mentioned above, this seemed too broad and too giving. i mean, the game might as well be playing itself at this point, right?

The more i thought about it, the more i thought back to adventure games where the only reason i got hopelessly stuck was because i didn’t know that that part of the screen was an exit to another location. The joy of an adventure game should be in being a character, playing through a story, and feeling clever for solving some problems – not in discovering that you can click that plant that looks like it’s part of the background.

3. Cock-Blocking

One of the most despised phrases in the annals of graphic adventure gaming is “you can’t do that — at least not now” which, if you’ve played through the King’s Quest series, you’ve read at least a few hundred times in your miserable existence. Graphic adventure game cock-blocking occurs when the designer has not thought through enough interaction possibilities, and has thrown up a vague, generic message to the player. This is essentially computer programming error code handling, with messaging that’s barely more helpful than actual computer programming error codes.

The reason why cock-blocking is so common is that it takes a lot of effort to account for every possible thing the player might try to do. Indeed, for games with a text parser, it’s nigh-impossible for the designer to anticipate every single combination of words, including gibberish, the player may hurl at the parser. With verb-based adventure interfaces like the one in Maniac Mansion, the permutations shrunk significantly.

Sidenote: this is the exact moment in Maniac Mansion when the majority of players wet their pants.

A corollary to item use cock-blocking is a situation where the player tries to use a long, rigid item to pry something off another something, but he doesn’t use the correct long, rigid item that the designer was thinking of. Stick – no good. Pole – no good. Broom handle – ding ding ding! Here’s how graphic adventure developer and wittily snarky pundit Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw puts it in his Depressingly Common Adventure Game Design Flaws series (the rest of which i’ve avoided reading, for fear of being wittily snarked at for plagiarism):

The best game I have ever played for intuitive puzzles has to be the aforementioned Zak McKracken And The Alien Mindbenders. There’s a whole horde of inventory items in Zak McKrack, and I could give a thousand examples of puzzles with several alternative solutions. How about using a monkey wrench to wake up the bus driver, but also being able to do the same with any other long, hard item in your inventory, AND having the option of waking him with a merry kazoo interlude instead? You can use a butter knife to get a cashcard from under a desk, but you can also use any of the several pieces of paper, all of which can also be used for drawing maps. Then, when you try to lever up floorboards with the butter knife, it’s obviously too flimsy, and you get left with a bent butter knife. Having so many possibilities and so many avenues to explore not only constantly rewarded the player’s intelligence but provided the vital encouragement needed to make them push through to the very end.

Before Spellirium, UGAGS games got right around this problem by not offering any item interaction whatsoever. If you clicked on a hotspot, and you had the inventory item that interacted with it, you automatically used the right item. In Jinx 3, if you were carrying the spork, you could tap on the prison wall with it. If you held the banana, you could flush it down the toilet to create a flood. This covered off any puzzle design blunders that i may have committed. Left to his own devices, would the player really know he should tap on the wall with the spork? With auto-item use, i never had to worry about it.

Why force the player to say “use keycard on door” when the interaction is obvious?

Since you can use items on hotspots in Spellirium, i’ve developed a new system to minimize cock-blocking. Given a hotspot like a locked door, i can obviously define what happens when you use the iron key on it. But i can also list other items the player might try to use, like the metal pole (to bash the door down?), and i can have Todd respond in kind: “This metal pole is too flimsy to bash the door down.” That makes the player feel good, because i’m acknowledging that he had a good idea, and it’s so much more satisfying than “i don’t understand that” or “i can’t do that.”

The next line of defense is generic item commands. If i haven’t written an item-specific response, the logic falls through to the hotspot’s generic response, like “i can’t use that to get through the door.” This is a little more frustrating than a specifically-written response, but at least it’s something. One game that i noticed did a LOT of work to provide an item-specific response for every imaginable item/hotspot combination is The Whispered World. Very well done.

4. No – Not THAT Paper

A very common and frustrating mistake that adventure games make is to send the player off in search of something that is represented in the background artwork, but the background element is not wired for interaction. While it’s not a graphic adventure game, i was recently playing the abysmal Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and a character asked me to go find a piece of paper – “ANY piece of paper”. The setting for this fetch quest was an academy packed to the teats with books, parchments, scrolls and papers of every imaginable kind … but i couldn’t pick any of them up. i had to go hunt down the exact piece of paper the game wanted me to find.

Don’t surround the player with non-interactive books, and then ask him to find “any” piece of paper.

A related problem is the too-damned-interesting-background-art error. This is where you have something in the background that every player clicks on, but you haven’t written a description for it. And the player figures there MUST be something up with that video camera hidden in the plant. But there’s not.

In an attempt to address this, we’re developing a heatmap system for Spellirium where we can analyze players’ clicks. If we notice enough heat on a particular area of the screen that we haven’t wired up for interactivity, of if there’s a hotspot that gets clicked non-proportionally to its relevance, we know we have some splainin’ to do to the player.

Heatmaps: they’re not just for Halo any more.

5. The Pointless Conversation Option

Again, while it’s not a graphic adventure game, there’s a lot we can learn from the steaming pile that is Skyward Sword. Throughout the game, non-player characters ask you to make a choice. “Link! Will you save my kitten from the tree?” You know that, as the hero, you kind of have to save the kitten. Yet you’re given the option to say “No.” And when you do that, the story does not move forward. You MUST re-engage the NPC. You MUST say “Yes” this time. You MUST save the kitten. What was the point of the interaction, other than providing the illusion of interactivity?

The reason why designers do this is, of course, to save work – a LOT of work. If, whenever you made a binary decision, the ramifications spun off wildly into two alternate timelines, you’d be building an impossibly large game. But i can’t stand it when it’s obvious during a conversation that no matter what i “choose” to say, the conversation is always going to go a certain way.

The solution is a trick of good creative writing. It’s fine for the conversation to always lead into the same funnel. It’s not fine for the player to know that. Through clever writing, you can make the player think he’s affecting the conversation, even when he’s not. If you’re crafty, you can even give the player a binary decision with two seemingly opposite inputs, but steer them both around to the same outcome. Consider this conversation snippet from Spellirium between Todd and Lorms:


  • Uh … okay. You can tag along, I guess. [C1]
  • It’s probably better if I go alone. [C1]

[C1] (Todd walks to the edge of the screen)

Lorms: Where are you going?

Todd: I dunno. That way?

Lorms: Do you have a plan? Do you even know how you’re going to find your friends?

With one option, the player decides that Lorms can come with him. With the other option, the player decides to go it alone. Lorms is one of Spellirium’s main characters. Make no mistake: he’s coming on the journey. But despite what the player chooses, he feels like the game is honouring his choice, and the conversation and actions that flow from that point feel natural – even if the player chooses two completely opposite responses.

The Sins of Our Fathers

The graphic adventure game genre is far from perfect, but there are many things we can do as savvy designers to account for the crimes perpetrate on players past. We have been bad, but we will atone. But will it be enough to resurrect a genre that’s been on life support for the past twenty years?

Further Reading