Gateway Lit

I have long been of the opinion that anyone who dislikes reading has not found the right book.  While the subject rarely comes up among gamers, I think the books that come out along proper intellectual properties (IPs) are great ways to introduce gamers into literature.  While rarely challenging, these books are great ways to get us away from the computer, while still keeping us engrossed in our favorite characters and franchises.

The first book based on a video game franchise I can recall reading was Mortal Kombat by Jeff Rovin.  This book took many liberties with the MK storyline, and sampled heavily from various mythologies, but I remember loving this book and reading it through two or three times.  Later, I picked up the first two Doom books written by Dafydd ab Hugh and Brad Linaweaver and devoured them.  For years, I was constantly looking for the final two books in the series, which had gone out of print, and was ecstatic to find that Pocket Star had released them in time for the upcoming movie.  That these latter two books were about as exciting as that horrible mess is beside the point.

For some games, these books gave greater context.  I was not just some grumpy space marine tooling around Diemos, I was Flynn “Fly” Taggart, hunting for my comrade Arlene Sanders.  Other books simply developed major characters better.  He may be Master Chief to you, but to me, Halo’s protagonist will always be John-117, kidnapped as a child and forged into a fearless weapon by Dr. Catherine Halsey and SCPO Franklin Mendez, and a beloved brother and leader to Kelly-087, Fred-104, Linda-058, and Will-043.  I know that when he looks at Cortana, he does not just see the feisty AI, but also the face of Dr. Halsey, the closest person he had to a mother, and the neural basis for Cortana’s personality.

I picked up Gears of War: Aspho Fields by Karen Traviss today, and, according to the blurb, can look forward to an after-the-fact account of the final battle of the Pendulum Wars, which preceded the Locust invasion.  I’ll get to learn about Dom’s older brother, Carlos, and what happened to Delta Squad between the two games.  I will let you know how it goes, but not until after I devour my other purchase, American Gods by an author recently added to my long list of favorites, Neil Gaiman.

I love games, and I love gamer culture, but some things we are rarely accused of are maturity and culture.  Sure, we may watch movies, and some of us even follow current events, but how many of us can quote Dostoyevsky or Locke?  Gamers who get into these books whole-hog as I have can take their time, but eventually S.D. Perry (Resident Evil adaptations)  turns into Brian Lumley (the Necroscope series) turns into Bram Stoker (Dracula), and now I suddenly can talk about the repressed sexuality and xenophobia of Victorian Era England.

These books are a great way to start gamers on a journey toward self-reflection and edification, and eventually, pull us out of our shells and make us functioning members of society.  Friends and family of gamers:  I am not telling you that buying Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn is going to turn your greasy Cheetoh-inhaling gamer into a suave gentlemen ready for tomorrow’s soirée, but it might just distract him long enough to check your email or switch the TV over to cable and catch the news.  And an $8 paperback beats the hell out of a $60 game when it comes time for Christmas shopping.

In addition to the novels mentioned in this post, I highly recommend the following books for anyone looking to pick up a page-turner based on your favorite series:

  • Diablo #1:  Legacy of Blood by Richard A. Knaak
  • Diablo #2:  The Black Road by Mel Odom
  • Halo:  Fall of Reach by Erik Nylund
  • Halo:  The Flood by William C. Deitz
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell by David Michaels
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell:  Operation Barracuda by David Michaels
  • Wing Commander:  End Run by Christopher Stasheff and William R. Forstchen

For those of you who need no prodding to pick up the pages, I heartily recommend the authors listed above, as well as Terry Pratchett for Fantasy and Satire fans, Matt Reilly for Action and Adventure, Michael Crichton for anyone who wants to love science again, but can read a novel and not believe every word in it, and Kathy Reichs for your mystery and suspense needs.

Wow.  I just used the phrase “whole-hog”…

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