Lately I have been writing lots about books and reading. This week I decided to mix things up and write about the other great love of my life, gaming. Then I found this article by Blake J. Harris on “10 Video Games that Book Lovers Will Enjoy”. I thought this was a great idea for an article. I have been banging on to anyone who will listen about how video games are not the linear, and perhaps gore filled, activities of a childhood. They are interactive tales with dynamic stories and interesting characters. You have an opportunity to get your teeth into worlds that you can explore and experience in a pretty “hands-on” way. I started gaming because of an obsession with Choose Your Own Adventure books so it seems natural that I fell into RPGs. For me they have always felt as if they complimented each other. So for this week I will give what Harris did a go, and recommend some video games for book lovers, but you can also take that as book recommendations for gamers too! No one should be excluded from a good story.
1. If Oliver Twist is your thing, try Stacking
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a very well known tale, but just in case you have missed it, and have not seen the musical, movie, TV show etc. etc. the story focuses on an orphan who has to make his way in the cruel world of Victorian London. The book shows us just how miserable the lives of some children were, due to poverty, homelessness and of course, child labour. The city is grubby, harsh, indifferent and sometimes downright cruel to the children who inhabited that world.
Stacking is a puzzle-game with Matryoshka Doll characters created by Double Fine and published by THQ. You play Charlie Blackmore, the youngest child in a family of chimney sweeps. When your father goes missing to pay off a debt, Charlie is forced out into the harsh industrial world to rescue him and bring his family together. You do this through solving puzzles by stacking into other dolls and using their unique talents. The game has a distinct Victorian feel through the dialogue, types of quests and environments. There are rich industrialists, poor child labourers who have to do some very dirty jobs and all sorts of loveable characters in-between. If that wasn’t enough the music used in the game is magnificent, Chopin, Paganini, Vivaldi, Brahms and Mozart are featured among many others. It is a really charming game and finally you get the chance to right some of the wrongs caused by a world obsessed with industry and profit.
Stacking is available through your console.
2. A Song of Ice and Fire get your heart pumping? Visit Skyrim.
A Song of Ice and Fire is the epic series of fantasy novels written by George R.R. (gonna kill them all) Martin. Based in on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, Martin weaves an intricate plot full of murder, betrayal, war, love, magic and just about every other affliction that people have experienced. There is a huge cast of characters, landscapes, cultures and practices to get to grips with in the books, and I just love them. Recently it has been turned into a successful TV series by HBO, but really to experience the full force of this commanding world, the books are where it is at. Oh and there are dragons, did I mention that?
When it comes to epicness in the video game world, look no further than Bethesda and their Elder Scroll series. The latest volume, Skyrim, is no exception to this rule, it is so big that George R.R. could have dreamed it up himself. This game is firmly cemented in the fantasy genre, so you can expect, knights, armour, hand-to-hand combat, magic, monarchs and assassins. Each game is set in a different country in the fictional continent of Tamriel but Skyrim, land of the Nords, is a diverse country with different landscapes and cultures. You can create your own epic, and be as naughty, evil or nice as you like, shaping the world with your shenanigans. Oh and there are dragons, which you can fight or fly on, did I mention that?
A Song of Ice and Fire Series are available in paperback and on e-book.
3. If you think A Series of Unfortunate Events was a good thing, The Cave will meet your dark humoured needs.
A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of the orphaned Baudelaire children. Through the thirteen books, the author Lemony Snicket, writes of the woes suffered by the children while lamenting the loss of his love Beatrice. This gothic novel has numerous memorable characters including the Baudelaire children themselves (all my love to Sunny please) Count Olaf and the two triplets. While many terrible things do happen, the misery of the book is broken with wicked wit, criminally clever children and a wonderfully imaginative world with sprinklings of numerous eras and scientific developments.
I was about five minutes into The Cave, a game by Double Fine and published by Sega before I was recalling all the fun I had reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Cave has a similar feel to the books, dark, gothic and incredibly funny with a dry sense of humour that I love. The Cave is a puzzle game where you select three characters to work through a series of obstacles to learn the truth that they have been seeking. The truth of course, is full of murder, mayhem and naughtiness. While you are guiding the Monk, the Twins, the Hillbilly, the Knight, the Adventurer, the Scientist or the Time Traveller, The Cave itself narrates, giving insight into your sins in the most entertaining way. The best thing about this game is that you don’t have to play alone, it has up to three people local co-op. So what are you waiting for? Go visit The Cave, the cave, the cave *fades out into echo*.
The Cave is available to download through your console.
4. Wondered how you would have survived World War Z? Try your luck in the Walking Dead.
Ok so you might be wondering why I didn’t pick The Walking Dead graphic novel here. Simply, it is because I have not read it and will not recommend something I have not read. I have read World War Z by Max Brooks and think it will do the job nicely! World War Z is the tale of a zombie uprising and the following global conflict. Told through the short stories of survivors it gives the reader insight into what it would be like to live through such an event in different circumstances. Telling their stories are soldiers, doctors, and ordinary people who are just trying to survive. Due to the way the book is written it feels eerily real; it took a long time for the disease to spread, lulling people into a sense of safety. Also some of the scenes describing zombie attacks and infections are really, really scary. I listened to World War Z on audiobook and each story was told by a different narrator creating the feeling that you were listening to witness testimony. Terrifying.
One of our favourite pub topics of conversation is how will we act in the Zombie apocalypse. I like to think that thanks to this episodic video game created by Telltale, I have a fairly good idea of how I will function. This game is the closest I think to those old fashioned Choose Your Own Adventure books that I loved so much. Here you follow a story and at certain points have to make snap decisions or take quick actions to stay alive, or to save a life. You also get to choose dialogue options, helping you to become attached to your character and to those in your group of survivors. Telltale are master-crafts people of storytelling, the writing is engaging and so compelling that I have been reduced to tears or burst out laughing on many occasions. This is a great game for anyone who is worried about actually controlling a character but wants to engage with a story.
5. If choosing factions like the Divergent Trilogy excites you, try Fallout: New Vegas
Divergent is a young-adult novel written by Veronica Roth. It focuses on a teenager, Tris, and the world she lives in. That world is a post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are divided up into five different factions. These factions all have a particular culture, identity, talents and traits. There are also people who have no group and are “factionless”. This is an exciting and easy to read tale which keeps the reader going in order to find out if Tris will succeed. As you progress through the novel more mysteries unfold which involve science, government, and control. That is all I will say for now in case of spoilers.
Why Fallout New Vegas you say? It isn’t based in Chicago, that is correct, but it is full of factions! Like Divergent, which factions you associate and work with impacts how the game unfolds, and how others react to you. You pick the factions based on how you see your character; their personality and values. Will you join with Ceasar’s Legion and be evil or will you join the Boomers and encourage a policy of isolationism? So many groups to either join or become vilified! Another thing that Divergent and FNV have in common is electricity and technology. There are TV, computers, weapons and headquarters to visit . FNV also has evidence of the same type of meddling and control as Divergent, and as you explore the vaults, the stories of government corruption unfold…
6. Solving puzzles and taking names like Sherlock Holmes? Professor Layton is the detective for you.
It seems hard to believe that the character of Sherlock Holmes was not in fact invented for Benedict Cumberbatch, but in fact existed long before his cheekbones, in print. We got to know Mr. Holmes through four novels and fifty-six short stories, through the eyes of his buddy Dr. John Watson. Written by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, I adored these stories. They were exciting, puzzling and fun. There were some wonderful characters including Irene Adler at her best. I always tried to figure out the mystery first and did succeed on a few occasions. There is also a very dark side to Holmes which I very much enjoyed.
A detective for whom a dark side does not simply exist is Professor Layton. However he is still entertaining and fans of the detective mystery story will not be disappointed. The Professor does have a series of games but it is best to start at the beginning; Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Solve puzzles around the village of St. Mystere to uncover the secrets of the Golden Apple. You have a plucky young assistant to keep you company as you forage through the village looking for clues. It is great fun and a wonderful game to dip in and out of when you feel like your brain needs a bit of exercise. For interior decorators, you also get to design your own room, if that is what you are into.
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is available on Nintendo DS.
7. Bow and arrow enthusiast? Indulge with the Hunger Games and Tomb Raider.
The Hunger Games trilogy is a young-adult series written by Suzanne Collins. It is another post-distopian, science fiction tale where we follow the fortunes of a teenager called Katniss. This world is split into districts and every year there is a competition where two teens from each district must fight to the death until there is only one survivor. Unsurprisingly people are not happy with this arrangement and stuff goes down. But I will say no more in case of spoilers. The biggest winner of the Hunger Games, I think, was archery. A bow is Katniss’ weapon of choice and she makes it look really cool. I think all of us who read the book toyed with the idea of taking it up as a hobby, even NPR did a story about it.
But for those of us who cannot take up archery (turns out I have some odd double jointed elbows which makes it really hard) we have Tomb Raider. Lara Croft is one of the most iconic video game characters ever invented. She was smart, tough and resourceful, tackling challenges and bad guys with aplomb. However Lara went through an awkward phase of murdering endangered animals and having body parts that defied the laws of gravity. The 2013 reboot took the power back and gave Lara a story, an image make-over and most importantly a bow. Now you can run around a forest shooting bad guys, animals (if you are so inclined) and collectables. It is so much fun and really easy to use, in fact if it wasn’t for the challenges I wouldn’t have switched weapons at all. Just to note there was controversy over an attempted rape scene. It can be skipped and is not like how it was shown in the trailer for the game, but just be aware that it may be triggering for some players.
So there you go. I hope there is plenty of inspiration above for readers and gamers alike. I am always on the lookout for more books and games, so would be very interested in hearing from you. Anything that should be included or that you recommend? If so please leave a comment below. If not, happy reading and gaming!