Ahhh: all of those hours I’ve wasted staring open-mouthed at my TV screen and frantically mashing buttons are finally paying off! This list of books practically wrote itself. In fact, I am shocked that none of these books have been adapted into video games. In a world with games like Skyrim, Witcher and Fallout, the sky really is the limit. And the introduction of interactive mobile games redefines what a simple algorithm can achieve. The future is now. Let’s play it!
Hyperion is a mind-bending and Hugo award-winning science fiction novel published in 1989 by Dan Simmons. It’s the first of the Hyperion Cantos series and, honestly, it’s so complex a masterwork that it is very difficult to summarize (especially without spoilers). Let’s just say this: there are seven pilgrims traveling to the world of Hyperion on the eve of the destruction of the known universe. Like Canterbury Tales, each pilgrim is given a chapter in which to relate his or her story and motivation for the pilgrimage. Each main character has a unique history, set of abilities and secret. Each fears the Shrike, the horrible god(?) covered in thorns who adorns the cover (read: an epic, epic final boss battle).
There are many reasons why this book would make a good video game. First, there are seven very different main characters to choose from, including a colonel with all the latest body armor and weapons, a hard-bitten female private detective and an immortal Catholic priest. A video game based on the book might allow the player to choose their character or switch protagonists between chapters, but I think I would most enjoy a tactical turn-based RPG that allows the player to control each of the main characters in the party. Even while reading this book for the first time, I was struck by the obvious tank, cleric and spy in the narrative.
But the main reasons I would want to play this game are the hauntingly beautiful worlds that each character inhabits and must travel through in order to reach the final stage of their journey. With today’s technology, the sea of grass featured on the cover, in which giant monsters prowl and chitter, would be stunning and horrifying. The various worlds of the protagonists could be huge, widely varied, full of sidequests and enthralling.
For the record, the SyFy channel is currently in the process of producing a miniseries based on Hyperion and its sequel, Return to Hyperion, but a huge, open-world video game would, in my opinion, be even better.
This trilogy by Isaac Asimov is a classic of the science fiction genre (there are also sequels and prequels, but I haven’t read those, so I can’t speak to them). Epic in scale and heroic in imagination, these books chart hundreds of thousands of years of human civilization, leaping gracefully over decades and millennia to tell the story of Hari Seldon and the branch of mathematics that he created (psychohistory). By applying mathematics to the cosmos, Seldon finds that he can predict the future, though only on the largest of scales. He foresees the unavoidable fall of the Galactic Empire and a resulting 30,000 year dark age in which human beings all over the Milky Way suffer horribly and all our progress is undone. But he also foresees a way to minimize that dark age to just 1000 years. He creates The Foundation (a collection of artists and scientists) to preserve human history and knowledge. There’s a lot more to it, of course, but I don’t want to spoil any of the twists and turns (of which there are many).
I think that this series would make great inspiration material for an educational game (a la The Oregon Trail) that teaches math to middle school or early high school students. The themes of the work are complex (societal evolution and adaptation, historical hypothesis, individualism) and the plot is innovative enough to keep students interested. The game could function by doling out juicy plot twists only when students have successfully shown mastery of successive mathematical theorems and skills.
Hm. Maybe if this game had existed when I was younger I would not be so horribly, embarrassingly bad at math today.
This series (The Gentlemen Bastards), of which three are currently available, is planned to be seven novels long before it’s finished. Scott Lynch is also planning a sequel series of another seven books. So: flavors of Edding’s Belgariad/Malorean series and Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Fantasy on the epic scale.
It’s strange, though, that Lies of Locke Lamora didn’t feel like the beginning of a series when I read it. It felt intimate. The story of Locke, an orphan turned master(?) thief in the island city of Camorr, is rich with personal detail but relatively limited in scope of characters and influence. That net is widened in books two and three, but there’s no large company of characters yet and Locke is still by far the most realized and fleshed-out character in the series. But the writing is witty and Locke is a seductive, interesting protagonist who fails almost as often as he succeeds (no Mary Sues here!).
Anyway, this would make a great Civilization-esque exploration game for mobile with lots of sea warfare and violence as well as a good dose of sex and plenty of snooty nobles. Would make my morning commute and search for booty (!) significantly more fun.
I’m think most people read this in high school, if not more recently. The story of Winston Smith, a sad and downtrodden man hiding from his totalitarian government and attempting to find love and freedom in a world in which those concepts (and even the words) are being aggressively snuffed feels just as prescient today as it did when George Orwell first published the novel in 1949.
However, this classic could be given new and horrifying life by adapting the main ideas into an interactive mobile game in the same family as Pokemon Go (I would call it Big Brother). The player is a rebel who must reach certain landmarks in his or her city in order to catalog (photograph) them before the government destroys them. Along the way, he or she must avoid TVs, computers and traffic cams (telescreens through which Big Brother watches you), any government buildings (renamed Ministries of Peace, Love, Plenty and Truth) and randomly chosen other players who are suspected of being Thought Police. If you get too close to any of these obstacles, the game declares you caught and brainwashed and the landmark is “destroyed”.
In addition to the basic game mechanics, Big Brother might include literary and trivia mini-games, real-time news updates translated into Newspeak and a chat function so you can meet up with other rebels. It’s actually pretty horrifying how easily our world, with just a few cosmetic changes through our phones, overlaps with the dystopia in 1984.
They should make this game in five or six years, once virtual reality has improved. I cannot imagine a more horrifying book in be inside of. In fact, I’m now so deeply upset by my own idea that I am going to quickly publish this blog and then go take a bath and attempt to wash away some of my fear sweat. For more info on why I think House of Leaves would make such a terrifying virtual reality game, please check out the blog I published on 4/1/17 (“Top 5 Future Classics in Literature“).
Did I miss one or two or twenty books that would make fantastic video games? Which of these would you most like to play? Please don’t hesitate to comment below and let me know!