In the past, we covered TV shows and movies all MMO gamers should watch, and today it’s time to cover something with exactly that - a cover. Books; I’m talking about books. More specifically, MMO books.
I know reading isn’t everyone’s favorite pastime, and you’re probably doing your fair share of it anyway, with all the battle reports, Unit descriptions and quest logs you read every time you play. However, for those of you who enjoy cuddling up with a good book, or who just wish to expand your love of MMOs into other mediums, I thought we could give this one a go. Here are the books all MMO players should read.
In Ready Player One, the real world is not a place you want to visit too often. Earth’s natural resources are depleted, and pollution is rampant. Instead of facing this bleak existence, most of the populace is jacked into a virtual universe known as OASIS, where they can choose to go on epic adventures MMORPG-style, or live a normal life in cyberspace. But there’s an Easter Egg hidden within OASIS, and the player who can find it will be declared the ruler of this virtual universe and essentially become the most powerful individual in the world. You can guess where this is going - a fight between the Power Rangers and Mega Man, of course (because that’s where it’s actually going).
If you are dead set on not reading, a movie adaptation is currently in the works, helmed by none other than Steven Spielberg himself.
Neuromancer is the book that basically predicted the internet. It tells of a dystopian future where everything and everyone is connected to the Matrix (not that Matrix) - a global computer network with a virtual reality interface. Our hero is a former hacker who, as punishment for his crimes, is blocked from accessing the Matrix and is unable to go online. I’m guessing any MMO player can sympathize with such a cruel and unusual punishment. Fair warning: Neuromancer is a dark book, which delves deep into all the corruption and evil that such a global network can bring, in true cyberpunk fashion.
Like all great books, there’s a movie version of it, which has been in the works for several years now, and there’s even an old video game you can play if you can get your hands on a Commodore 64, Amiga or DOSBox.
Imagine a world where a strange pandemic may cause your consciousness to get stuck in the latest game you played. As long as they’re not playing DOOM or Barbie Horse Adventures, this sounds like a fate some MMO players would gladly accept. This is exactly what protagonist Max, a terminally ill cancer patient, thought. AlterWorld, and the whole Play to Live series, follows Max’s adventures inside a fictional MMORPG with a group of other “perma players” - people who left their physical body behind to live inside the game forever.
AtlerWorld is the first of seven books, though the last book is currently only available in the original Russian version. By the time you work your way through the previous six, I bet Book 7 - The Ultimation - will already be available in English. Or you can use the opportunity to learn a new language...
Unlike all the other books on this list, Reamde doesn’t tell of some fictional fantasy world or a cyber universe. It’s set in the real world, our world, in the 21st century. It tells a globe-spanning story, involving cybercrime, terrorism, hitmen, spies and MMORPG culture. The author has created a fictional online multiplayer game just for the book, called T’Rain. By the time you finish reading, you’ll feel like you have been actually playing T’Rain and know all there is to know about it - it’s really that detailed.
Reamde is not only recommended for longtime MMO players, but also to those who have never even thought about playing. The book offers a unique look into the world of MMORPGs, and might even ignite that MMO spark inside you.
The Discworld series has been around for more than 30 years and spans 41 novels, so it’s hard for me to believe you haven’t encountered it at some point of your life. However, if that’s somehow the case, let’s review. The entire series takes place on a fictional, flat world carried by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle named Great A’Tuin. While the series offers a brilliant satire of our own world, that’s not why it’s on this list. It’s here because it explores an entirely unique place from the perspective of many different characters - a wizard, a guardsman, a thief and even Death itself.
To me, it sounds a lot like what you do in an MMO, where you create a character (or four) and go out into a strange and foreign world. Which each book you’ll see a different aspect of the Discworld, until you find yourself wishing that they would make some sort of an MMO out of it (though there are a few excellent adventure games based on it already).
I bet you always thought that spending hours upon hours commanding vast armies in a post-apocalyptic world has granted you the skills to do so in real life. Well, Ender’s Game is written around this very same idea. It describes a futuristic Earth at war with an insectoid alien race nicknamed the Buggers. In an effort to raise the next generation of elite commanders, the military has started using advanced online strategy games and simulations to train children in the art of warfare. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, naturally the book takes a somewhat darker turn, but I won’t spoil anything.
As is the case with many Sci-Fi books, there’s already a movie version of it, but it’s not very good. To get the full impact of the way MMORTSs simulate real warfare, just read the book.
You knew it was bound to appear on this list somewhere. You can’t have a list of MMO books without mentioning LOTR at least once. The story of the original RPG party is a must-read for all fantasy fans and MMO gamers. I won’t insult you by telling you what this trilogy is about, but I will say that just watching the movies doesn’t do this epic tale justice.
All of the books above really do embody the essence of multiplayer games in the form of literature. I would go as far as saying that without some of the books on the list, we wouldn’t have MMO games, nor many other RPG and Cyberpunk games, movies and TV shows. It’s good to know your roots, so hopefully you will find the time to read at least some of them, between raids and quests.