Book and Game: 3 Great Books With 3 Great Games

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Books and games aren't paired together nearly enough. They are perfect pairings, especially considering how many games are directly based on or inspired by books. So why don't we see them together more often? Like a good cheese and wine, it seems only fitting that each would come with a recommended pairing list. A game's story can be seriously enhanced with a good companion book and vice versa.

A recent conversation with a co-worker led me to start compiling a list of good book/game combinations. I've been sifting that list for a while now an plucked out a few that I think are worth passing on. 

1) Thomas Was Alone and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. The combination that kicked this whole thing off. They don't seem too obviously related at first glance. Thomas Was Alone is a 2d platformer starring a bunch of quadrilaterals, while Hitchhiker's Guide is a five book work of brilliant humor in a sweeping sci-fi setting. Hitchhiker's Guide will make you laugh, Thomas Was Alone will make you laugh then cry, then cry some more. 

What really brings these two together is the writing. The narrative voice in Thomas Was Alone carries almost the same tone. It is a very specific note, a sort of removed, observational humor. It is similar to the narration of a nature program. The edifice of expectation is removed as the narrator speaks as though they are removed from human experience. It works incredibly well for both the book and the game. Taken together, you might have some trouble distinguishing the two. 

2) FTL and Redshirts, by John Scalzi. This one is easier to guess at. FTL is the really awesome but maddeningly difficult space sim with shades of Theme Hospital. You are the captain of a starship tasked with outrunning a hostile armada. On the way, your ship and crew navigate through numerous systems and tackle everything from pirate attacks to electrical storms. It was difficult enough before it's most recent update. Now there's an alien race out there that doesn't require oxygen. So much for my primary strategy of venting my enemies into space. Often it's your crew that pays for your mistakes, and they aren't exactly easy to replace.

Redshirts takes the perspective of those unlucky crew members. John Scalzi has penned a masterpiece of satirical sci-fi. A ship much like the Enterprise in a universe much like Star Trek. The new recruits are regularly killed off in ludicrous ways and almost always on away missions. The book follows a small band of these unlucky sods as they come to realize the reality of their situation. It is an uproariously funny book, especially for anyone familiar with classic sci-fi tropes. It makes a perfect addition to a few playthroughs of FTL, as it can easily soften the blow of your inevitable failures.

3) Deus Ex: Human Revolution (or really any in the series) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick. Human Revolution is just the latest game in the Deus Ex franchise. Headed up by Square Enix this time around, it paints a dark picture of our future. While the player takes the role of Adam Jensen, a security agent recently kept alive through augmentation, the story focuses on broader strokes. Human revolution is wrought with conspiracy and power mad corporations. Shadow government agendas and amoral groups out for nothing more than personal gain. It's a tale of woe and a declaration against our ever increasing reliance on technology and the companies that produce it.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a much more personal story best known as the basis for Blade Runner. The tale follows Rick Deckard, a mercenary that specializes in "deactivating" androids. The book takes place in a somewhat similar dystopian future/ However, the primary themes of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep examine what exactly makes us human. How distinct is the line between human and inhuman intelligence? I recommend reading this one after playing the game. It is certainly a masterpiece but it requires a lot of attention.

This was just a sample of the many titles buzzing about in my head. If you are at all interested in reading any of the suggested books or playing the suggested games, I have provided links to each in the text above. Enjoy!