The Video-Game Novel Also Rises discusses the increasing media cross-pollination of computer game worlds. Nothing all that new, since the Halo novels don’t make the shelves groan nearly so much as the Wizards of the Coast novels (of the D+D sort, for the non-geek). I just wonder – are any of these new novels really any good?

When you’re in the territory of Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, you’re expected to go deeper. You’re supposed to probe the internal lives of your characters. And this is where these books become really fascinating: They’re like the Us Weekly of the gaming universe.

I’m thinking no.

But the article’s writer does point out a conflict that I think is already inherent in the game proper, but that is laid even more bare by the novelization of the character:

If you play a lot of games, these books can provoke a weird sort of first-person identity confusion. After all, when I play Halo, I play as the Master Chief himself. So it’s passingly strange to have an author suddenly grab the emotional joystick and explain what the Chief feels — what I feel? — while wandering around slaughtering enemies.

Posted for the cross-sited media types…


2 Responses to Novel Games, Game Novels

  1. marc says:

    You point out on the real dilemmas in studying these types of narratives– the majority of them just aren’t that good. Usually hastily thrown together to capitalize on pre-release hype, stuff like the Halo books will more than likely not break any new ground in literature although they will, even in modest success, make a profit (the cost to manufacture a book like this is quite small, given that we’re not talking about Don DeLillo-type advances). But still, the phenomenon of these works can’t be ignored either, as you point out in the second passage speaking about POV. In this case, it’s an inherently diegetic issue, and one that works against the already established narrative of the game. Interesting indeed, but if Halo: The Book reads like Us Weekly or In Touch, I think that serious study of this type of narrative will be confined to passing glances while in line at the supermarket.

  2. Jason says:

    I’m not sure if it works against the “already established narrative of the game” so much as it highlights the already-established *tension* between various constituents in the narrative communication of the game, which you usually only see in a novel when you get 2nd person narration, or some other “oddity.”

    When shifting the camera in Prince of Persia or some other 3d adventure game, you’re not playing the Prince, or Mario in 64, but a cameraperson – your role, as player, is multifaceted, complex, and everchanging, constantly navigating between the screen interface, camera manipulations, story, etc.. As cameraperson, you alter the discourse in ways normally allotted to authorial control (no changing cameras in Pride & Prejudice).

    At the same time, you’re constantly pushed back in a game, just as in 2nd person narratives. First-person, in the case of Halo and other shooters, always more aptly describes the camera POV – not the characters’ – most of us, for example, have peripheral vision, and tend to be able to look down at our own bodies. Not to mention speaking at will, etc…

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