“The ultimate love triangle: a guy, a girl — and a game.”
So sayeth the back cover of Matt Vancil’s PWNED, a novel that takes place in the same world as the Gamers movies. Reading this book is a lot like playing the kind of MMORPG (massive multiplayer online roleplaying game) that it centers around – almost overwhelmingly immersive until you read the last page.
However, I have to suspect that not everyone reading this blog is familiar with the Gamers movies, or any of the works created by Dead Gentlemen and syndicated by Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. Their motto is “fan supported, creator distributed,” meaning that they will make their content easily available to us, and thus if we like what we see, we’ll be inclined to give them the necessary money to make more, whether it’s through buying merchandise, donations, kickstarter, patreon, or other means. If you play tabletop games of any kind, you should definitely check out their creations, most of which are available on youtube for free. Here’s a link to the playlist for The Gamers: Dorkness Rising and The Gamers: Hands of Fate, movies 2 and 3. You don’t strictly need to see the first one to appreciate these, and I think they’re a bit better. But if you want to be stubborn, here’s the link for the first.
PWNED was created through a kickstarter, for the record, so I do have two copies of the book (hardcover and softcover) as well as an alternate jacket for the hardcover, an English-Orcish dictionary, and a bookmark. At some point I’ll probably ditch one of the two books, but I’ve been able to make do on space thus far, though as I keep saying, it’s becoming an issue.
Our hero for the novel is Reid Underwood, someone who has not appeared in any of the filmography. It’s worth noting that he works with Lodge, and a few of the other movie characters make cameos. Reid’s girlfriend Astrid is obsessed with her computer game, World of Fartherall Online. (Yes, think World of Warcraft.) She barely works, and spends all of her time online, so much so that Reid can barely have any kind of conversation with her. Until one day he does something drastic and she abruptly vanishes. Stricken, Reid tries in vain to find her…but then he has a realization.
Wherever she’s gone in real life, Astrid is still in Fartherall. He just has to find her.
So begins his epic quest to find the love of his life…
This is the second time I’ve read PWNED and my impression of it is like certain movies. It’s a great ride, and when you finish it the first time, you’re filled with the adrenaline high of the totally new experience. But, after a second time you begin to realize that, well, maybe it’s not quite that great – though still good! Just maybe not as worth the hype you remember giving it. The story is a bit simplistic, a bit predictable, but that doesn’t make it bad at all. The writing is good and the book itself is immersive, even when some of the players complain that some n00b is breaking their immersion. (A n00b, for the potential nongamers reading this, is a “newbie” player, someone who doesn’t know or understand anything about the world they’ve entered.)
I can better appreciate the foreshadowing that’s dropped here and there, now that I know where it leads. And Vancil helps us see that while everyone’s the hero of their own story, not everyone else will view them that way. This is unsurprising, considering that Matt Vancil helped write and direct all three Gamers movies, among other projects. He brings a reality to his characters that helps them come alive for the audience, while also showing that even the biggest dick can be redeemed if he wants to be.
I have to thank my college gaming friends for introducing me to the Gamers series, because it’s always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. It’s great to share with my other friends who, even if they don’t understand all the humor, can still find plenty to laugh at. They may not understand why Luster gets a -2 and then a -4 on his Seduction check, but they can certainly understand that Daphne is having none of it.