RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on May 4th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Books, game books, reading, World Book Day

Pic taken from Nowloading.co

If there's anything I enjoy as much as video games, it's reading. With parents that started reading to me from the day I was born, I took a love to books quite early, and have been an avid reader since before I can remember. Much like games, they can be a source of profound learning, provide a fun, pulpy break from reality, or tell fantastic stories of magical realms. I can think of few better ways to spend one's non-gaming time than curled up with a book in a nice, comfy chair.

Sunday, April 23rd was World Book Day. A celebration of books, book stores, authors, and all things literature, I thought it would be an appropriate time to promote a melding of my two favorite hobbies. So, much like I did with my summer movies post last year, I've compiled a list of interesting books about video games. The selections below are presented in no particular order, and run the gamut from informative non-fiction, to biographical, to riveting science fiction. I haven't read them all, but I've finished most of them, and you can bet the rest are on my seemingly-endless to-read list. I'm also always open to good book recommendations, so if anyone's read any they want to share, or has some thoughts on the titles below, leave a comment and let us know.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)

Many in this community might already be familiar with Ready Player One, but for those who aren't, it's a futuristic dystopian story like many you may have read before. The Earth is over-crowded, those with money live luxurious lives, and those without live in poverty. An online world called OASIS is where the majority of people's time is spent. What makes this scifi story stand out is the fact that when OASIS' creator dies, he puts a message out that he's hidden keys throughout his online utopia, and the one who finds them will inherit not only control of OASIS itself, but his entire fortune. The other thing those of a certain age will enjoy about this book is the references. It's packed to the brim with references to nearly every 80's pop culture phenomenon you can think of. It would be very easy for something like that to become a crutch, and to some, it will definitely come off as pandering. However, in the context of the contest and the online world it takes place in, all the video game, movie, and TV lines make sense, and instead make for great world building.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)

Neal Stephenson wasn't the first person to write a cyberpunk novel about a virtual online world, but with Snow Crash, he popularized the idea like no one had before, and did so long before MMOs were a reality. The main character is literally called Hiro Protagonist, and when he's not delivering pizzas for the family business, he's in the Metaverse as a samurai sword-brandishing avatar trying to stop a new virus from destroying it all. Stephenson is highly regarded in the scifi community, and this is one of his most beloved tales. I don't think I fully appreciated it when I first read it some years ago, as I hadn't yet read much hard scifi at the time, but I've been meaning to give it another chance. My reading tastes have matured a bit in the years since and I think I'd be more open to it now. The problem is squeezing it into my already packed book pile.

 The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (2016)

Cixin Liu is one of China's most popular science fiction authors, and the final book in his Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy was published in the west just this past year. This is the first in that series, and it's an intriguing read both for its abstract plot and story-telling, and its cultural perspective. So many alien invasion stories are told from a US point of view, but what if first contact was instead made by a lone Chinese scientist with heavy emotional scars and bitterness left over from China's Cultural Revolution? Not being at all familiar with Chinese history, there was a bit of a learning curve for me in the first few chapters, but the excellent translation and generous footnotes went a long way toward making things easier. I quickly got invested, and the idea of what someone with that kind of background would think and do when given the choice of how to respond to an alien communication was something I'd never considered before, and found to be a fascinating thought experiment. Especially once it's revealed that a group has been planning for such contact and has constructed a virtual reality game to recruit new members. The Three-Body Problem is a book that seems arbitrary and confusing, but is very much worth the time, and once you wrap your mind around it, will leave you excited to read the next in the series.

 Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)

Ender was born into a world where he wasn't supposed to exist, an outcast by the very nature of his birth and raised expressly for the purpose of saving the human race. When he lives up to expectations by showing incredible aptitude for strategy and tactics, he gets recruited by the military to be trained as a commander in the war against the aliens who devastated Earth many years prior. His youth is spent playing war game simulations and leading a team in the battle school's anti-gravity sports ball league. His older classmates resent him, but he learns quickly to return their hostility in kind, ensuring that no one messes with him for long. As he climbs the ranks though, the morality of his situation becomes plainly obvious. When all you know is war, what kind of a childhood does that leave you, and what kind of person do you grow into? Ender's Game is a bittersweet story that only gets heavier when the true nature of his training and the irreversible consequences it brings about are revealed.

 Press Start to Play by various authors (2015)

It can be hard for some of us to find the time for a full-length novel these days, between adult life, social, family, and career obligations, not to mention the time we dedicate to playing and building our game collections. But that's okay. Much like Crabby's advice for breaking down collecting into smaller chunks, there are some great short story anthologies out there that can be consumed in an easier way. This is a collection of stories that are all inspired by our favorite digital passion. I've heard great things about it and the range of perspectives it takes on the theme. One of the great things about anthologies is that with so many different tales, there's bound to be several that pique your interest. And even if one isn't your bag, it's easy to skip to the next one without feeling like you've wasted your time or not gotten enough value for your literary dollars.

There are few celebrities with as much nerd cred as Chris Hardwick. You've probably seen him on any number of projects, including his @Midnight comedy game show, Talking Dead, or maybe just listened to his Nerdist podcast, where he interviews an endless string of interesting pop culture celebrities. He's come a long way from the days when he was an awkward youth hosting Singled Out on MTV and wasting his life away as an alcoholic. The Nerdist Way is Hardwick sharing the tips and advice he learned in the process of climbing out of the cesspool that was his life and instead deciding to focus his energy into bettering himself - creating a huge empire of wonderfully geeky endeavors. More than just a self-help book, he provides tons of great ways to gamify your life, creating a D&D-style avatar of yourself, evaluating your "character" honestly, and using your personal spec sheet as a tool to tackle whatever you'd like to improve in your life, be it advancing your career, getting in shape, overcoming social anxiety, and many other obstacles he himself experiences. Even if you're not in the market for life advice, it's a great insight into someone who's overcome adversity to become a shining example of success and all-around niceness. And who knows, you may find something you'd like to implement after all.

 Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown (2016)

Ah Tetris. If there were ever a perfect game, this would be it. Endlessly addicting and ported to pretty much every device one could ever play a game on, it's one of the best and most popular games in the history of the medium. You've heard the story before. Alexey Pajitnov creating it in his native Russia, the unofficial ports, the battles to secure the rights to produce and distribute it, and the shady shenanigans involved. But even though the story is familiar, you've never seen it presented in this way before. Presented in graphic novel format, this book got me interested in reading about it all over again. It's definitely one that's worth owning in physical format rather than as an ebook.

This is basically the official Zelda encyclopedia. It's a beautiful reference for concept art, information on the creators, and the first officially documented Zelda timeline. Whatever your thoughts are about the crazy split/alternate timeline theories, this is the canon Nintendo went with and they're sticking to it. Hyrule Historia makes an awesome coffee table book, and anyone who visits will take an interest if they have any fondness for the series or Nintendo in general. Plus, it has a comic inside it that, if memory serves, is the same one that was printed over a series of installments in Nintendo Power back in the 90's.

 Boss Fight Books by various authors (2014-current)

This is a series of reference books funded on Kickstarter. They've been going strong for 3 "seasons" now, and the different authors all bring their own individual takes and perspectives to the game they write about. With games ranging from the popular to the obscure, they're easy reads at only about 200 or so pages, and they sport whimsical, abstract cover art that reflects certain defining elements of each title. I've read a couple of these and want to read more. The crowd funded model is still working well for them and it's exciting to see what new titles are announced. While they can be purchased as ebooks for only about $5 a piece, you can also get them in physical form for about $15, or a ebook/physical package for a small discount. It's an easy financial commitment if you're into the content, and they have a clean minimalist aesthetic that looks great as a set sitting on a bookshelf. As a collector of books, I'd love to have the full run of them on display.

*All book cover pics taken from Goodreads.com

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I think you'd be remiss not to mention books based on gaming material, such as the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance  books based on D&D, which have been made into multiple games.

I'll have to add Snow Crash to my novel list. Besides the fact that my cat is named Hiro, I love reading that type of setup and seeing a source from that early without technology influence would be interesting.
Great article.  I second what Shadow said (especially the "core" Dragonlance novels by Hickman and Weiss).  A few more suggestions would be William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy (if you would like to see where Shadowrun got its tech from), as well as the Ring trilogy by Koji Suzuki (which is...  different than the movies).
The Weis/Hickman books, from Chronicles (the core books) to Legends to even the Death Gate Cycle (which doesn't take place in the same universe), were all made into games.

Thanks for mentioning Gibson. I was trying to make the connection on that one in my head earlier. Yet another one I still need to pick up.
Good suggestions. I didn't think about including game novelizations or supplemental books, but those would be worthy additions. I thought about putting some Gibson in there, but I haven't read any of his stuff (been meaning to) and didn't feel knowledgeable enough about his work to give it its proper due.
A friend bought me the audio book for Ready Player One when I got eye surgery last year. It was awesome and my whole family got into it. Can't wait to see how badly they adapt it into a movie!!

Gonna add that Chris Hardwick book to my list. Sounds really interesting
@Crabmaster2000: Yeah, Wil Wheaton is a pretty great narrator for that one. I'm cautiously optimistic about the movie since it's got Stephen Spielberg behind it, but we'll have to see. On a side note, if you liked Wil's reading of Ready Player One, you may want to check out the audio book narrations he did for John Scalzi's books. They're not game related, but they're very good as well.
I recently read Embed With Games, which is a great collection of gonzo journalism articles by Cara Ellison on the indie game scene and its developers all around the world. It was very interesting to read about people that are now much more well known thanks to the projects they were working on at the time the author visited them.
@shane: I've been wondering about that collection. I downloaded it a couple months ago and just haven't gotten to it yet. Glad to hear it's a good read.
I highly recommend this video game novel called "Gamer Girl" By Mari Mancusi
Video games based on books is a good idea to look at as well.

There are also novelizations of video games that came out afterwards, and some are entire series based on video games like the Mass Effect, Halo, and Warcraft novels.

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