Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #12: Currently Playing (January 2016)

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I wanted to share the games I am currently playing!

Grand Theft Auto V

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Grand Theft Auto V was a game I was quite hesitant about for a while. I never really got on with the previous game in the series, but I’d seen so many Let’s Plays of GTA V that made it look so, so fun. I’m glad I took a risk and bought it when it went on sale (still not that cheap though), because it’s exactly the kind of game I was looking for. Open world, in a modern setting, and it lets me drive around an absolutely HUGE map to my heart’s content. There’s one bit of the story that I really haven’t liked, but the rest has been pretty fun so far.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex

I bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution a couple of years ago in a Steam sale, and it’s sat unplayed until now. I started playing it during Sci-Fi Month, as part of my challenge to consume as much science fiction as possible during the month of November. It’s a solid game, and I enjoy trying to sneak around, although I’m not very good at it… I have mostly gotten around places by using the air vents, but I love being able to explore and work out different routes. It’s a dark game, but it raises some really interesting questions about cybernetics and bio-augmentation – and how far humankind will go to preserve themselves.

Life is Strange

Life is Strange

I may have finished this by the time this post goes live, because I can’t stop playing. Life is Strange is an episodic game, told in five parts, about a young photography student who moves back to her old hometown to study. She reconnects with her best friend, who she hasn’t seen for five years – and discovers she can go back in time. It’s gorgeous, haunting and has a wonderful soundtrack. So atmospheric.

Do you enjoy playing video games? What are you currently playing?

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Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #5: Beginner’s Guide to Video Games & Novelisations, Part 2

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Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to introduce some video game series, and their novelisations.

This is Part 2 of a post I did in July, and I’ll probably post on this topic several more times as there are so many novelisations! This post is mostly aimed at people who are new to video games, or those who are interested in playing but don’t know where to start. I’m listing some well-known series, as well as their novelisations, in case you want to try the books out too!

The Dragon Age series

Dragon Age Origins

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

A sprawling epic fantasy series, currently with two main games and tonnes of DLC plus the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquistion, where every choice you make counts. In the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, you play a Grey Warden, part of an elite force who protect the word from evil known as ‘the Blight’. You can choose from a variety of origin stories which also have an impact on the conclusion of the game, combined with the choices you make throughout. You also have the option of pursuing a love interest – ALISTAIR EVERY TIME. In Dragon Age II, you play as a character called Hawke (either male or female, but always human), who begins as a refugee in the city of Kirkwall, but gradually works their way up to become a champion. Like the first game, you have choices to make which affect your playthrough, and you can have a love interest (Anders every time!). And finally the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition promises to be bigger and better, where the player takes on the role of the Inquisitor and can explore a huge, ever expanding world. I can’t wait!

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Rather like Mass Effect, which I discussed last time, Dragon Age is a game where your every choice matters. Plus the cast of characters is just adorable and you really, really don’t want to lose any of them. Bioware are especially talented at creating something with a great narrative (you won’t skip a single cutscene) as well as a wonderful mode of play.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There are both novelisations and graphic novels for Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, The Calling and Asunder by David Gaider, The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes and Last Flight by Liane Merciel (novelisations), The Silent Grove, Those Who Speak and Until We Sleep by David Gaider (graphic novels).

Deus Ex

Deus Ex

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

The original game was released in 2000, with a sequel entitled Deus Ex: Invisible War in 2003, and a prequel (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) in 2011. I’ll just talk about the most recent game here as that’s the only one with a novelisation. Set in 2027, mechanical augmentation has just been introduced and many people have replaced or improved parts of their body with cybernetics. The player takes on the role of Adam Jensen, an augmented security consultant. The game focuses around the idea of cybernetics and control over humans through them, as well as cyber-terrorism, technology and conspiracy theories.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Okay I have to admit, I haven’t yet played this one myself. But it’s in my Steam library and I’ve heard SUCH good things about it. I remember that we had the original on PC, and I did try it one time – but at ten years old, I didn’t really know what I was doing! It’s one of those games that isn’t afraid to explore loads of different themes, no matter how controversial, and it really makes you think. And like many amazing games, it has a gorgeous soundtrack.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

There is one novelisation, based on the most recent game: Deus Ex: Icarus Effect by James Swallow.

The Halo series

Halo

[icon name=”fa-question-circle”] What is it?

I haven’t really played much Halo, I have to admit, so I’ve grabbed a synopsis from IMDB: Mankind is being destroyed by a conglomerate of alien races all under the flag of the Covenant. A human spaceship is under attack and has no chance to survive, and now the only hope for mankind is for the Spartan-II forged Master Chief to make sure the Covenant do not get a hold of the ship’s AI, and thus discovering the location of Earth. But the survivors of the ship are stranded on a strange alien planet called Halo, and everything is stacked against them. It becomes a desperate battle as the brave crew, lead by the Master Chief and the AI Cortana, try to survive the Covenant’s assault.

[icon name=”fa-thumbs-up”] Why should I play it?

Even if you don’t play video games very often, I’m sure you’ve heard of Halo. It’s a HUGE franchise: video games, TV shows, films, action figures and more. If you want to try out a FPS (First Person Shooter), this is the place to start. I’ve only ever played Halo with some friends, and the co-op mode was hilarious – particularly as me and one friend had never played before.

[icon name=”fa-book”] Novelisations

Novelisations include: Cryptum and Primordium by Greg Bear, Glasslands by Karen Traviss, First Strike, The Fall of Reach and Ghosts of Onyx by Eric S. Nylund, The Flood by William C. Dietz, Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten, and far too many more to list!

Are you new to video games, or have you played any of these? Have you read any of the novelisations?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Sci-Fi Sounds

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In the past I’ve posted a couple of themed playlists on the blog, and shared my reading soundtrack. I thought it would be fun to do a similar thing for Sci-Fi Month, and share my favourite science fiction sounds.

The playlist is available to follow on Spotify, and the tracks are listed below.

Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

  • Life by Harry Gregson-Williams, from Prometheus– this is the song that plays when Shaw realises what she and the team have found, something every space explorer dreams of – extra-terrestrial life.
  • Pulstar by Vangelis – a lot of his music has a sci-fi vibe but I really love this one.
  • Icarus by Michael McCann, from Deus Ex: Human Revolution – a haunting theme song from a game based around a rather eerie prospect
  • I Am The Doctor by Murray Gold, from Doctor Who: Series 5 – apart from the main theme, this song really rounds up the series for me. It reminds me of all those moments where the Doctor and his companions seem truly stuck – and then the Doctor does something brilliant and saves the day.
  • Suicide Mission by Jack Wall, from Mass Effect 2 – with some definite sci-fi elements, this song brings back memories from a very emotional and tense part of the game.
  • Das Malefitz by Faunts, from Mass Effect 3 – the ending credits song for Mass Effect 3, this song encaptures the final moments of my favourite game series ever.
  • StarWaves by M83, from Oblivion – I have Sarah J. Maas to thank for this! When I met her I told her that my reading playlist is basically the same as her writing playlist (soundtracks), and she recommended this one.
  • End Theme by Vangelis, from Blade Runner – sadly this one is a cover, because the original isn’t on Spotify.
  • Prologue by John Williams, from War of the Worlds– wonderfully creepy and foreboding, and complete with Morgan Freeman reading that amazing quotation from the original H.G. Wells novel (albeit slightly updated for the modern age).
  • Across the Stars (Love Theme) by John Williams, from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – even though it’s from my least favourite Star Wars movie, the love theme of Anakin and Amidala/Padme is just wonderful.
  • Duel of the Fates by John Williams, from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – because that is one EPIC duel.
  • The Bioluminescence of the Night by James Horner, from Avatar – because I wish I lived on Pandora.
  • Derezzed by Daft Punk, from Tron: Legacy – I don’t care what people say, I kind of loved Tron: Legacy. But you know what I loved more than the film? Daft Punk’s soundtrack for it.
  • Main Title by James Horner, from Aliens – you know what’s coming… I scream at the people in that film when they decide to leave the spaceship. NO!
  • I Am Legend – Epilogue by James Newton Howard, from I Am Legend – a post-traumatic events song that gives you hope.
  • Adagio in D Minor by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, from Sunshine – this is from a rather underrated sci-fi film, and the soundtrack has just the right mix of creepy and beautiful.
  • Sector 6 by Steve Jablonsky, from The Island – if you haven’t seen The Island, then watch it. It’s about cloning, and stars Sean Bean, Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johanssen.
  • Science is Fun by Mike Morasky, from Portal 2 – this whole soundtrack is insane, just like the game, but this song definitely has a frantic feel to it.

What do you think of my playlist? I tried to avoid main themes – what would you put in your own Sci-Fi Sounds playlist?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: It Finally Begins!

After months of planning (I came up with the idea in August), Sci-Fi Month has finally begun! If you’ve missed my chatter about the event, it’s pretty much what it says on the tin: a month long event, spread over many, many blogs, to celebrate the wonderful genre that is science fiction! During this event, all my regular features will be suspended.

Today, all participants will be posting an intro post. Leave a comment if you link up, and I’ll be sure to visit your post and comment back. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the list of posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Let Sci-Fi Month officially begin!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.


I’m 22, from the UK and currently working as a medical receptionist. I’m working to save for my Masters degree, so I can go on and become a museum curator – however I really enjoy my current job too, which is a bonus! I studied ancient history and archaeology for my undergraduate degree, and graduated last summer.

Apart from reading (and sci-fi based things) I also love discovering all sorts of things about ancient cultures and archaeology, listening to music 24/7 (you can sample my tastes here), playing video games/talking out loud to video game characters/obsessing over Alistair with Paola, wasting far too much time on the internet and catching up with a million and one TV shows I still need to finish (here’s looking at you, Supernatural). I also volunteer at a local museum, where I record finds (I love finds!) on the database, and create handouts for the exhibits.

2. How long have you been a fan of sci-fi?

Eh, I’m not really sure. Probably since before I was really aware it was a genre… ever since I could read I’ve loved fantastical stories that took me to new worlds. I’ve always been a massive science fiction and fantasy fan (the two tend to go hand in hand). My dad loves sci-fi so I’ve often asked him for recommendations – or more recently recommended things to him! He totally wanted me to get Dan Simmons to join in this event – but I couldn’t find any way to contact him…

3. Why do you like sci-fi, and what is your favourite thing about it?

I guess I can sort of answer this in one sentence: because of all the amazing worlds and possibilities it opens up. It’s really cool to think that one day (not in every case of science fiction, but in many) something like that could happen. It’s not really a feeling you get with fantasy books. So in one word: the possibilities. My favourite aspects are time travel and space exploration.

4. Favourite books/games/films/TV shows in the genre?
  • Books: House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Hyperion by Dan Simmons, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Ughhh there’s so many more but I can’t list them all! I shall go into more detail later on in the month.
  • Games: the Mass Effect trilogy – it breaks my heart in so many places, and stamps on it – but I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Bioware make amazing games with compelling stories and fascinating characters and… well… who knew aliens could be sexy? But you know, I mainly play for the plot. Yes. Plus Borderlands 2 (Borderlands co-op is just the best thing). I have Deus Ex: Human Revolution waiting to be played, and I’m excited for it – I just need to complete several other games first…
  • Films: Alien, Prometheus (even though it’s kind of cheesy and full of plot holes I just love how it looks and the music is amazing) and Avatar (can I live on Pandora please?). I also really love the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds (I just generally love that story) and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (I know, I know – hardcore Star Wars fans probably hate me now. But this one brings back good memories of seeing it in the cinema as a kid and wanting my own podracer!). Looper was also pretty awesome.
  • TV shows: Doctor Who (I bet you never guessed!), Firefly (why was it cancelled??) and Torchwood.

5. What are your plans for Sci-Fi Month?

I will be posting every day, because I’m slightly insane. Here are just some of the things I have in store for you wonderful people: the top five sci-fi objects I wish were real, a publisher profile on Hodderscape plus a giveaway, an interview and giveaway with science fiction author Jaine Fenn, a guest post by Katherine Roberts about whether dragons are science or fantasy, and a tribute post to Mass Effect.

Of course, you can always view the schedule to see what I’m posting everyday, as well as view what other bloggers are posting!

Thoughts

Thoughts #6: Video Game Novelisations

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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!