Nathan's Laserium: Books, Video Games, and Books About Video Games

I don't really like video games, but I sure like books about video games! Said no one ever. Except, it's kinda true for me. Maybe it's more accurate to say, "I'm not very good at video games, and certainly don't have the time to get good at them, but I'm good at reading so." The book I just read is the perfect prescription for the legions of people who are undoubtedly just like me. Or perhaps even moreso, the billiegions of people who actually are good at video games. Book is called 'Ready Player One', by Ernest Cline.

It's been out for a while, maybe you've heard about it or read it already. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's set in the future, when the internet has been transformed into a completely immersive and interactive environment called the OASIS. The inventor of the OASIS passed away and left his huge fortune laying around as an easter egg within the OASIS for anyone to find, so long as anyone is completely obsessed with the same 80s pop culture that the inventor was. Without said knowledge, your chances of finding the 3 keys and gates that lead to the easter egg are nil. I grew up in the 80s, so I figured I would be able to solve the puzzles much quicker than the characters. But all I really did in the 80s was play with my Star Wars figures and listen to Gowan, Peter Schilling, and Def Leppard, so it's just as well this isn't an actual contest. I would not have won. I never even saw Pretty in Pink!

But reading the book makes winners of us all. If this was a book review for the New York Times Review of Books I would say done and done and then go off to watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But this is vampirenomad dot com so I'ma give you some more book recs along the same vein. Not all necessarily about video games, but occupying the same pop cultural real estate.

Neal Stephenson is one of my favorite authors. In fact, I'll go so far as to say he's my very favorite. Any time I make a list of books to read, his stuff is always on it. 'Snow Crash'. 'The Diamond Age'. 'Anathem'. But in this case, his latest- 'Reamde'. It's about a World of Warcraft-like MMORPG and its inventor, and terrorists and all sorts of stuff. It's fun, though a different kind of fun than 'Ready Player One', even if it sounds very similar. They're actually quite different. 'Reamde' takes place more in the real world. while RP1 is mostly (but not all) in the virtual.

My other favorite all-time writer is Dan Simmons. He doesn’t really do pop culture, his arena is more high culture. But he makes this list because his duology, 'Ilium' and 'Olympos', are set in a sort of video game world, if that world is Mars and the video game is the Trojan War as told by Homer. There’s Shakespeare- and Proust-spouting robots and deadly stabby cutting guys called voynix and it’s just fantastic. Odysseus takes down a terror bird! you know, those giant flightless velociraptor-like chickens that roamed the world 18 million years ago? It’s awesome.

No such list would be complete without Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Both the movie and the series of graphic novels/comics/manga- written by Canadian Bryan Lee O'Malley! Yay Canada!

Turning the corner slightly, away from video games, I suggest John Scalzi's 'Redshirts'. A synopsis might make it seem like GalaxyQuest, and while perhaps they both dove from the same springboard, the pools they wound up in are fairly different. What if a startrekian redshirt began to suspect he was actually in a TV show? A poorly made TV show? And that he was a sacrificial lamb in this TV show? Maybe he would try to change his fate. That's what 'Redshirts' is about.  

Also, 'Heart Shaped Box', by Joe Hill. It's not about video games, it’s about a ghost. But it has a Nirvana song for a title so it wins!

There you go! Enjoy these books! Or go play some video games. I have a cheat code for you if you choose to read though- to see how a book ends, simply flip to the last page and read it.


- Nathan Waddell