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?

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!