April 17, 2011

Novels about games

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rhiannon Lassiter @ 4:30 pm

A friend is writing a novel and had been considering using the idea of a game. I advised her against because it’s a well-established trope. While there may be some mileage left in the idea I think anyone considering fiction in this area should be aware of the work already done on this subject.

Here’s a list of the ones I immediately thought of but I bet there are more.

YA novels about games

  • Epic by Conor Kostick Everyone on New Earth plays the computer game ‘Epic’ and game currency is used in the real world. In a gesture of protest against the system, Erik creates a female swashbuckler character and spends all his ability points on beauty… with surprising results.
  • The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones When Jamie trespasses in The Old Fort, a group of mysterious robed figures treat him like a game piece and discard him to ‘the bounds’. Pulled from world to world as a pawn of the gamers known only as Them, Jamie eventually makes friends and allies who will help him challenge Them at their own game.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Katniss Everdeen lives in a post-apocalyptic worldwith limited resources. The Hunger Games are an annual televised event where the Capitol chooses one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death.
  • Invitation to the Game by Monica Hughes In the future, machines and robots perform most jobs. Lisse and her friends are unemployable after graduation and, desperate for something to do, compete in The Game – a secret government initiative. As they learn the rules of the game they discover their government has ambitious plans for solving the over-population problem.
  • Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett When Johnny plays space-invader style video game Only You Can Save Mankind, the aliens surrender and he finds himself inside the game, where he has to find common ground with the alien civilisation and work out exactly what they’re all supposed to do now.

Adult novels about games

  • The Broken World by Tim Etchells The Broken World takes the form of a guide to an imaginary computer game, crossed with a slacker love story. As the walkthrough consumes more and more of the narrator’s time, his life is slowly coming apart at the seams
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card Children are recruited to play war games, preparing for an alien invasion. Will the government find their Alexander before the aliens arrive, or do they have another secret objective?
  • Phoenix Cafe by Gwyneth Jones Earth after the arrival of the ‘Aleutian’ aliens is a strange place and Catherine, the human reincarnation of the third captain of the alien ship, a strange person. Through her friendship with human aristocrat Misha Connolly she discovers the Phoenix Cafe with its psychedelic games. But Misha, Catherine and the game itself are not exactly what they seem.
  • The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks Gurgeh is The Culture’s best game player recruited by Special Circumstances to play the game of Azad in the Empire of Azad to impress the foreign civilisation with the Culture’s prowess. In the Empire skill at the game equals success in life and failure can be deadly.
  • The Running Man by Richard Bachman aka Stephen King Ben Richards needs money to buy medicine for his daughter and agrees to appear on The Running Man, the Games Network’s most popular, lucrative, and dangerous program.
  • This Is Not A Game by Walter John Williams Trapped in Jakarta by a series of disasters Dagmar recruits the international Alternative Reality Game (ARG) community to help her escape. Their involvement inspires her to create a new game but then the real world begins to intrude on the game world.


  1. Charles Stross’s “Halting State”?

    Comment by Mel — April 18, 2011 @ 9:27 am

  2. How about Jill Paton Walsh’s Torch. Set year’s in the future, rekindling the spirit of the Olympic Games? Not specifically about the games, but build up to them, and the idea behind them.

    Comment by Thomas — April 18, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  3. That one by Lee Weatherly about the role-playing girl. Is it Missing Abby?
    And of course the B R Collins one – The Traitor Game.

    Comment by Mary Hoffman — April 18, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  4. Great suggestions all, thanks. Halting State is the one where the orcs rob the bank, right? I’ve read Torch and I think it counts. Not as sure about Missing Abby but I guess it counts too because of the description of the games Abby was involved in. I haven’t read The Traitor Game.

    Comment by Rhiannon Lassiter — April 18, 2011 @ 9:32 am

  5. Not books, but Wargames and, of course, Tron. (I’m not sure whether you’d include the peripheral cases of films inspired by games, which would include Pokemon and so forth.)

    Comment by Tommy Wareing — April 18, 2011 @ 9:42 am

  6. A few older ones:
    Fred Saberhagen, Octagon
    Philip K Dick, The Game Players of Titan (and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch)
    Samuel Delany, Triton
    Mary Gentle, Golden Witchbreed / Ancient Light
    Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game
    And I suppose Niven and Barnes, Dream Park?

    Comment by Mo — April 18, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  7. I had no idea there was a sequel to Golden Witchbreed. Off to Amazon to order it now…

    Comment by Rhiannon Lassiter — April 18, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  8. There are lots of novels about chess or poker, Nabokov’s The Luzhin Defence or Jim Dodge’s Stone Junction come immediately to mind.
    And don’t forget Lewis Carroll.

    Comment by kev mcveigh — April 18, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  9. Also “Gameplayers of Zan” (M.A.Foster) and Piers Anthony’s “Blue Adept” stuff (that may not be the series name, but it is one of the novels). Yes, Halting State is the one where the orcs rob the bank.

    Comment by Mel — April 19, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  10. @Rhi It’s a bit grim, tbh I didn’t enjoy it as much as GW… but worth reading.

    Comment by Mo — April 20, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  11. Hi Rhiannon, I’ve got a good one for you: ‘Ultraviolet’ by Lesley Howarth. It always reads to me in a similar way to the Hex trilogy, except that it turns to a complete mindfsck at the end. Very enjoyable YA fiction about a dystopia where everyone plays video games.

    Comment by Gray Simpson — June 11, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

  12. For the record, Mazes and Monsters by Rona Jaffe. And if you’re allowing manga, Battle Royale (of course) and also Kaiji (aka “Ultimate Survivor Kaiji”; also made into a film).

    Comment by Smiorgan — March 28, 2012 @ 8:49 am

  13. There’s also L J Smith’s The Forbidden Game trilogy, another YA novel.

    Comment by Lentil — February 3, 2013 @ 10:54 pm

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