I had the pleasure of trying out Dragon Age II over the summer at San Diego Comic Con 2010. Was I a lucky member of the press whisked away to some dark room to spend hours with the game? No, absolutely not. I waited in a long line with other passionate fans for about an hour to get my hands on an early build of the game. As I told a number of my friends, the game looked and felt amazing. Combat had been sped up, and everything felt more fluid and tactile.
I was quite surprised last week when I heard a journalist on one of my favorite podcasts mention that he’s never read a book based on a video game! Before you slowly raise your hand and say “uhm… I’ve never read a video game book either jerk“, I should clarify that it was his general tone that got under my skin. This professional game journalist, practically laughed when the notion of reading a book based on a video game was mentioned to him. Why do people (even gamers), think books based on video-games are less than equal? What gives?
After some pondering, I realized that the problem started years ago. In the 1980s and 1990s, video game books were geared toward young readers, tweens even, because the majority of gamers were in fact young. Gamers have changed since the golden era of Mario and Sonic; they have effectively “grown up“. In 2011 the average American gamer is about 35 years old, and, hopefully no longer needs to read books with 16 point font. I have to admit the first time I picked up a book based on a video game I felt a bit self concious; sort of like I was reading a trashy romance novel, or a porno magazine. No joke, I remember hiding the front cover of my Dragon Age novel from people on the plane so that they didn’t think I was reading a book based on a video game.. I mean who READS those things? At first it was a bit embarrassing, I mean the cover was decorated with muscle bound warriors and pretty much resembled a piece of fantasy art from Heavy Metal Magazine. The interior however, was a different story. I was surprised to discover that the novel wasn’t childish at all, but a highly entertaining fantasy epic that expanded upon the Dragon Age franchise and made it even better than before… awesome!
Soon I devoured almost every Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Gears of War novel in existence and realized that they’re not only great books, but they also made their respective video game counterparts even better. For instance, did you know that Alastair from Dragon Age was half elf? And that Anya’s mother Helena helped train Dom and Marcus from Gears of War? Hundreds if not thousands of details about your favorite game characters are revealed in these most ancient objects… these “books“.
Game books are changing, they’re becoming canon, and they’re becoming respectable. I understand that I may be in the minority in regard to my love of video game literature, but it’s time to help get rid of the negative social stigma attached to reading video-game-books. If literature extends and expands the overall gaming experience, why not embrace it?
[amazon_link id=”034549945X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Start Here – Karen Traviss’ Gears of War: Anvil Gate[/amazon_link]