#SciFiMonth Sci-5 Tuesday: Gaming and Virtual Worlds
To celebrate science fiction during the month of November, I’ve put together a series of posts I’ll be doing on Tuesdays to highlight the sci-fi tropes or themes that I find simply irresistible! I’ve also been fortunate to read some great books in the genre over the last few years, and to give them some extra attention, each week I will also be featuring five titles that I recently enjoyed or thought were pretty special.
Today for the final Tuesday of Sci-Fi November, I’m highlighting one of my absolute favorite tropes that I can never resist: GAMING AND VIRTUAL WORLDS! If you enjoy books like Ready Player One or Ender’s Game, these are some others you might want to check out:
Described as a spiritual successor to The Man in the High Castle, even if you have not read the Philip K. Dick classic, one can immediately surmise a certain set of expectations from United States of Japan. It is an alternate history novel, and it takes place approximately forty years after World War II in a world where Japan won the conflict and conquered America. History has been rewritten, and resistance has been reduced to a small group of rebels called the “George Washingtons”, freedom fighters who are continuing to find new ways to subvert the Japanese rule. Their latest tactic is a video game called “USA” that depicts what the world might be like if the Allied forces had won the war instead. Eventually, the illegal game reaches the attention of Captain Beniko Ishimura, whose role to censor video games ultimately leads him on a journey to investigate USA’s origins, putting him on a path of secrets, dangers and lies. (Read the full review…)
Warcross follows eighteen-year-old Emika Chen, a penniless hacker whose only form of escape is her neural link that allows her to immerse herself in a virtual reality world where she can forget all her troubles. These days, everyone is talking about Warcross, a competitive game which has taken the world by storm, spawning professional e-sports teams and even an annual competition followed by hundreds of millions. On the eve of the championships, Emika links in along with the rest of the world, but secretly, she’s hatching up a plan to swipe a power-up from right under the players’ noses, and the money she could get from selling a prize like that would be the end of all her financial troubles. However, something goes terribly wrong during her hack, and suddenly, Emika’s identity is revealed to the world. Strangely though, instead of being arrested immediately, Emika becomes a celebrity overnight and even receives a call from the billionaire developer of Warcross himself, making her an offer she can’t refuse. Someone is trying to ruin his company by targeting this year’s Warcross Championships, and now he needs a spy with Emika’s talents to infiltrate the games and live among the players to find out who the culprit is. (Read the full review…)
Since Ready Player One is pretty much a given on a list like this, I’ve decided to go with Ernest Cline’s second novel instead. Armada takes place in present day with a shift in focus to all things sci-fi and gaming, following Zack Lightman who spies a flying saucer in the sky one day. Oddly enough, the spaceship looks exactly like an enemy Glaive fighter in Armada, his favorite first-person space combat flight sim MMO. In the game, players take the role of drone pilots, controlling Earth Defense Alliance ships to do battle with alien invaders. Zack’s been playing the game so much, he’s starting to think he’s hallucinating it in his real life as well. Turns out though, Zack’s not crazy. The enemy fighter he glimpsed was as real as it could be. The bad news is, so is the Earth Defense Alliance and the war against the aliens. Governments around the world have known about this imminent attack for decades, and online games like Armada have been training potential recruits for the coming battle. As one of the highest ranked players in Armada, Zack is enlisted with other skilled gamers into the EDA’s forces. (Read the full review…)
Daemon is a unique fictional take on MMORPGs and video game AI, taking us to a near-future reality where technology controls everything in our lives via thousands of autonomous computer programs. Legendary computer game designer Matthew Sobol was an expert in creating such programs until his death which made headlines across the globe, but strangely, his obituary posted online triggered more than just grief among his fans and gamers. All of a sudden, a mysterious, previously dormant program called a daemon is awakened, activating a protocol designed to set off a chain of events to cause maximum damage to our interconnected systems. Turns out that Sobol was actually a psychopath who masterminded this entire attack by using his games to recruit a secret army, and then used the news of his demise to create a computer virus that would bring about the end of the world.
The God Game follows the Vindicators, a group of misfit kids who bonded over a love of video games and coding. But as the teens entered their senior year, Charlie saw his life and grades spiral out of control after he lost his mother to cancer. His close friend Vanhi had her sights set on Harvard, but a bad grade in AP History may have just ended to those dreams. Then there’s Kenny, an aspiring journalist who is caught up in a rivalry at the school newspaper. Next is Alex, whose strict upbringing means every time he brings home a failing test his father beats him black and blue. And finally, there’s Peter, the popular rich kid who can flit from group to group. One day, he introduces the Vindicators to the G.O.D. game, an old-school style text-based program he claims is run by an A.I. chat bot that believes it is God. Good actions in game will earn players “Goldz” currency to buy perks, while disobedience will result in “Blaxx” demerit points that would lead to punishment. Believing it to be just a harmless game, the Vindicators decide to play. However, what started as a handful of innocent instructions from G.O.D. rapidly begins escalating into more dangerous, malicious, and underhanded attacks on others, including their fellow Vindicators. (Read the full review…)