Soapbox features allow our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random topics they’ve been working on. TodayMichelle is reading an amazing novel about games, and argues that books and games should be on the same page…
Two children are leaning on it Super Mario Bros. in a hospital playroom. One asks the other, “What’s the secret to landing high on the mast?” This is the beginning of Sam and Sadie’s friendship, the centerpiece of Gabrielle Zevin’s novel, Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
For anyone who’s tried and struggled to hit the top of the mast, jam the buttons, and sigh in frustration, this is a nice nostalgic nod to NES gaming. For all, it is the beginning of a deep friendship that will play out in the pages of this epic tome.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the first book I’ve read that takes gaming seriously while addressing a mainstream audience.
Demain, et Demain, et Demain traces the friendship of these characters, from meeting children, to university students playing amateur games, to world-renowned developers. It offers insightful and entertaining commentary on creativity and maturity. This is not a “gamers’ book”, but a book about games; you don’t have to be a caps gamer to enjoy it.
Zevin proves that a novel can defend characters who play games and can still be read by anyone. But why is it so unique? Where are the books where a character comes home from a long day and relaxes with his Nintendo Switch? (I absolutely do not base this on my own life). Why aren’t there more games books?
Google “books about games” and you’ll see non-fiction books (Blood, sweat and pixels, Console Warsart books, encyclopedias), and novels that occupy the science fiction space (Loan player one, Snowfall).
Novels that weave games into a narrative, like T&T&T, are rare. Ready Player One, the poster child for gaming novels, is loaded with references that are integral to the reader’s understanding. Its sci-fi label is firmly affixed, and it makes no real attempt to make the games accessible or appealing to non-gaming audiences. There’s nothing wrong with that, in theory. But it’s usually the first gaming novel people think of, and that very fact means that when it comes to books, games are always found somewhere “out there”, in an arena uninhabited by non-gamers. .
the way the mainstream media views games and “players” hasn’t changed much since the Game Boy. Zevin pushes against this cliché
I’m sure many aspiring novelists write manuscripts like T&T&T, which reference games in a way anyone can understand. But editors, like readers, might see such a manuscript, think it’s Ready Player One-A, and toss it into the mush. Literature proper still doesn’t reflect how games are played and consumed in real life. Perhaps that’s how filmmakers once viewed games: a good medium, sure, but too supernatural to portray as in real life. Yet even as the filmmakers improve their relationship with the games (more on that later), the writers resist. The “older” media has not yet adopted the “newer”.
This is exactly why Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is such a — um – game changer.
The literary world might hold its strongest shield against the gaming industry, but whatever the reason, its defenses would have to be lowered. Games are more popular than ever. About 3 billion people play mobile games worldwide. Nintendo Switch sales have overtook the Game Boy and PS4. During the pandemic, switches were selland our favorite lockdown island escape Animal Crossing: New Horizons flew off the shelves. Non-gaming news articles might call it a “booming” industry, but it is already booming.
And yet, the way the mainstream media perceives games and “players” hasn’t changed much since the Game Boy. Zevin pushes back against this cliche. It gives gamer characters dimensions beyond their gaming pleasures.
Sam is raised by his grandparents, and we are drawn into this loving relationship as they care for him, guide him, and give him life advice even as he grows up. They run a pizzeria, which is the setting for Sam’s first gaming experience (and “greatest spirituality”), on a donkey kong machine. In Sadie, we see a child who worries about her sick sister/best friend, even as she is ignored by her parents and forced to grow up to the ripe old age of 11. Games become one of the few comforts in her life, even though she can only play for an hour a week. Sam and Sadie are more than players, they’re humans.
In the world of entertainment, things have changed, albeit slightly. The games are more on-screen, and the players aren’t just antisocial teenagers. In 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs the world showed us that video game references could appear in a much-loved movie. Apple TV+ show mythical quest is a workplace comedy first and a gaming show second – it was made to be watched by not-only-gamers. Game adaptations have improved and appeal to people who have never touched a console (think The last of us, the witcher, Esotericand the next Tetris biopic and Super Mario Bros movie.).
Playing and reading also share a kind of intimacy. In T&T&T, Sam says, “There is no more intimate act than play, even sex”
Increasingly, games of all sizes are based on more complex narratives with multi-dimensional characters. I find the plot to be a major plus for the game and the purchase. For me, the emotional investment makes doing that final boss fight, that final quest, that grandfather assessment, that much more enjoyable.
There are even games that mirror books, like Disco Elysee (created by novelist Robert Kurvitz) and Pins Tags. Both are largely text-based, stimulating readers’ imaginations like a novel.
Playing and reading also share a kind of intimacy. In T&T&T, Sam says, “There’s no more intimate act than play, even sex” (!) When you spend so much time getting to know characters and sharing their quests, it’s impossible not to. not care about their lives and their ambitions.
This intimacy gives the consumer an active role in the progression of the story. If you leave the room while a movie is playing, it continues. But books and games need You to advance the story – whether by turning pages or pressing buttons. And player-readers like me do this for both, with the same just a little longer fervor.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow is the first book I’ve read that takes video games seriously while addressing a mainstream audience. It also made me laugh, cry and google everything. The gripping story and wide appeal allow for such a perfect union of old and new media that it could influence the wider conversation about games in the literary space. Now that his notoriety is growing (and it’s being made into a movieof course), we could see a greater presence of games in the literary worlds.
It’s a tomorrow that I look forward to.
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