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Shall We Play A Game?

Photo by Ranil
Photo by Ranil

Some readers may recognize the title of this post as a reference to the classic ‘80s movie War Games, but even if you don’t, you likely relate to the sentiment of gathering with friends to play a game. This summer, researchers uncovered game pieces from over 5,000 years ago and there were probably simple games in existence far before then. Earlier this month, the movie version of Ender’s Game came out and this weekend will see the release of Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie, both of which take place in worlds where games and competitions are central. With games being such a universal theme across time, it is no surprise that they are also a recurring theme in literature. If you enjoy games and think it would be fun to read books that center around them, check out one of these great options.ready-player-one

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – This 2012 Alex Award winner takes place largely inside a virtual world known as OASIS. Within this virtual world, a heated competition has begun to solve the puzzles that the game’s creator has hidden within it to win the ultimate prize for the person who manages to unlock all of his secrets. The book combines futuristic virtual reality with tons and tons of references to 1980s pop culture and, in particular, early video games. It is the perfect novel for fans of retro games or dystopian futures.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – This classic, which won the 1979 Newbery Award, follows sixteen of Samuel W. Westing’s heirs as they try to complete the challenge that he leaves for them in his will. As a wintery storm traps most of the game participants in the apartment building on Westing’s property and explosions rock the building, the mysteries compound. The characters must compete against each other for a chance to uncover the person who ended Westing’s life in order to win his fortune.

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini – Perry Eckert (full name: Peregrine) is a big fan of Creatures & Caverns, a fantastical role playing game. There is only one problem: he doesn’t really have any friends to play the game with him. But, just as he strikes up a tentative friendship with another Creatures & Caverns fan, his parents decide to ship him off to summer camp so that he can become more social. While wandering in the woods surrounding the camp after a disastrous first meeting with some other campers, Perry discovers Mortin Enaw, who looks exactly like one of the creatures from Creatures & Caverns. This chance meeting leads him to discover a whole other universe, the World of the Other Normals. This book will appeal to fans of fantasy and roleplaying games alike.

This is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams – Set in the near future, this book is the first in a series of books about Dagmar Shaw, a designer of alternate reality games that mixes the stories and challenges that she creates with the real world to create a unique experience for players. As Dagmar gets caught up in real-life unrest while abroad for one of her games, she must rely on the network of players that she has met over the year to plot an escape. But, as the line between reality and the game becomes a bit unclear to even Dagmar, she will struggle with everything that she sees. While not marketed as a young adult book, This is Not a Game will appeal to older teens who are game fans.

LevelUpLevel Up by Gene Luen Yang with art by Thien Pham – This Great Graphic Novels 2012 pick is a fun story about the conflicts between parental expectations and a person’s own desires. Dennis has always loved video games, but his father thinks that they are frivolous. He wants Dennis to become a gastroenterologist instead. When Dennis flunks out of college, four angels pop into his life to make sure that he fulfills his destiny to become a doctor. A story of finding what you should do with your life, living up to your family’s wishes and, perhaps most of all, video games, this is a great read for anyone whose fondest memories involve playing games.

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner – This latest release from James Dashner, the author of The Maze Runner, is the latest game-related book to cross my path. It takes place in a world where gamers immerse themselves entirely in the VirtNet, a virtual reality technology that allows players to experience anything and rewards hackers with the ability to take their experience even further. But, everything may not be as harmless as it appears when one player learns how to manipulate the system to dark ends. I haven’t finished the book, but so far it offers a suspenseful take on a virtual world that threatens to kill players in real life.

Which of the games mentioned in these books would you most (or least) want to try? Let us know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

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Carli Spina

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  1. Laura Leib Laura Leib

    I think that you should add Epic by Conor Kostick, where an entire planet is playing a game every day, a fascinating concept.

  2. Jennifer Cottrill Jennifer Cottrill

    I would add For the Win by Cory Doctorow. In this near-futuristic world, third-world teens work in sweatshops playing online RPGs to earn game currency, which earns their real life bosses real life fortunes. This is the story of what happens when they try to unionize.

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