Thoughts #6: Video Game Novelisations


I love video games. I’ve always played them, ever since I was a kid. My dad has always worked in IT, so we always had a PC at home. From a young age I was playing Doring Kindersley games, Mia Mouse – and Tomb Raider, Return Fire, Thief or Age of Empires.

It’s a hobby that has continued throughout the years. Some of my favourite games include the Mass Effect series, Tales of Symphonia, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker, The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, Borderlands and most recently, L.A. Noire.


I am, or more aptly was, a big online gamer. I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online on and off for two years, and have played so many different MMOs in the past. That was why I was so excited to read Ready Player One, a truly brilliant and completely geeky novel based in our future, where almost everyone escapes from their miserable real life to the online universe known as OASIS.So really, what could be better than combining two interests of mine, video games and reading?

Well, in all honesty, it hasn’t been quite the successful venture I’d hoped for.

As I wrote in my review of Mass Effect: Ascension, when the Mass Effect series finished I was pretty disappointed. If you’re a fan of the games you will understand, but if you’re not: the premise of the game series is that every choice you make has a consequence. You are essentially in charge of the path the game takes, your actions have a real effect. So when Bioware promised that there would be over sixteen different endings for Mass Effect 3, and your actions throughout the entire trilogy would affect it, fans were excited. But what we actually got was essentially three endings that were exactly the same, apart from being different colours. There was so much backlash that Bioware released a patch to improve the ending and clear up so many unanswered questions.

Genuine reactions to the game ending.

It really wasn’t enough. I was left with this need for more Mass Effect: so what better to turn to than the books?

It would have been better for me to turn to fanfiction.

I’ve read some brilliant Mass Effect fanfiction (Garrus and FemShep. I ship it. Hard.) – and I plan on covering the subject of fanfiction in a future ‘Thoughts’ post. The writing in the four Mass Effect novelisations that I devoured soon after the series ended was clunky, the plots were paper thin and so full of holes, the characters (even those fleshed out in the games themselves) flat.

And honestly, video game books, just like the film adaptations, have a pretty bad reputation. I was surprised by the average rating of a lot of the novels on Goodreads. But despite all this, despite knowing that the quality won’t be great, that the authors are most likely in it for the money and link to an established series more than a love of the series itself, I will probably read more of these. I know that I’ll read any Mass Effect book I can get my hands on – and I’m keeping my eye out for Assassin’s Creed and Skyrim adaptations too (though I’m interested to see how a Skyrim book would work, since the main character is completely your own). It’s probably for the same reason that I’ve stuck with a series like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, even when the quality has gone downhill – I have some great memories and feelings associated with the series, and through reading the books I’m hoping to get them back. Mass Effect is truly one of those games where you get really attached to certain characters – especially as you can be responsible for their deaths if you’re not careful.

However, I’m sure there are plenty of gamers out there who aren’t readers. Seeing a novelisation of their favourite game series might encourage them to pick up the book – and maybe more books after that. If a book gets someone into reading, then who cares what that book is? It doesn’t matter what they’re reading, whether it’s good or not (although that is completely a matter of opinion), what matters is that they are reading. The reverse may be true also: although you’re less likely to pick the books up if you haven’t played the relevant game, as many assume a basic knowledge of the game’s plotlines; a video game novelisation may introduce someone to the game series who would not have played it otherwise.

And now I turn to you, my dear readers: do you read video game novelisations? If so, what have you thought of the ones you have read? Are there any video games you’d love to read a novelisation of? Please leave your thoughts and comments below, I’d love to hear them!

Atlas and P-Body hugs for anyone who comments!

6 thoughts on “Thoughts #6: Video Game Novelisations”

  1. I have yet to find anything I am happy with. I’ve tried books from the Warcraft universe as well as Diablo. None have managed to stick though. The same connection can be made with books that further movie/television universes (like Star Wars, for example). Same problems of lazy writing – though the old Timothy Zahn Star Wars books are good reading.

    1. Hmm, how do the Warcraft ones work? Do they revolve around NPCs from the game?It’s true, I’m trying to read as many of the Doctor Who novelisations I can get my hands on at the moment (the new Who ones, so Doctors Nine, Ten and Eleven) – they’re aimed at teenagers, and the writing isn’t amazing, but I am enjoying the books. They generally get around a 3-star rating from me.Some more ‘prestigious’ authors have written some Classic Who novels though, and I’m sure the quality of those is much better. Alastair Reynolds has one coming out which I’d love to read – I loved House of Suns.

    2. The Warcraft ones tend to focus on the large scale NPC’s (Thrall, Jaina, Stormrage, etc.). The only Dr. Who novel I’ve read was the one (released recently) by Douglas Adams. Well, mostly by Douglas Adams. Apparently he wrote it as an episode, but they never filmed it, so someone else turned it into a novel. But the author is credited as Douglas Adams. I’m bad at my Doctors and which Doctor is which number. It’s the one with the scarf. Was an amusing book.I had sworn off Star Wars books, but found out James SA Corey wrote one that will be released early next year. Suppose I’ll be reading that one (they – it’s two people – wrote the Leviathan Wakes and the other Expanse novels).

    3. Ahh I see. So I guess the reader would be familiar with the characters then, which makes things easier.That would be Tom Baker’s Doctor, number Four. I think I remember hearing about that one – thing is I’ve never really watched much Classic Who so I’m not sure how I’d get along with those books.I spotted a few Star Wars books on Netgalley recently – there was a Kenobi one, from the prequel period, kind of wish I’d requested it.

  2. I have read Infinity Blade by Brandon Sanderson, although I’ve never played the game! I enjoyed it, it was a short story, and a nice quick read. But as I say, I can’t actually make the comparison!

    1. Ooh, didn’t realise he’d written a video game book. Most of the authors of the ones I’ve seen I’ve never heard of – I guess it’s rarer to have a big name doing them.

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