There’s a new genre in town and it needs writers to grow. It’s had some success with hits like Ready Player One and my own Soda Pop Soldier,but others are going to have to come along and do some of the heavy lifting.Tell some great stories set inside the world of gaming. So what is Game Noir? Simply put, its a story set inside a game. A mystery to be more precise. A mystery set inside a video game in modern terms. Before you check out and say: “Not my thing”… consider the audience. When the latest Call of Duty launches it buries the competition usually doing close to a Billion Dollars on launch day. The Avengers: Age of Ultron… wont even come close. Gamers are big time. In fact, more and more people are gaming. So here’s a little food for thought about gamers, the industry and why it’s ripe for some good story-tellers – indie writers- to come along and stake a claim and get in on the ground floor of a new genre movement. There’s gold in them thar’ hills. Check it out and then I’ll point you in the right direction on how you might, if you’re not a gamer, become one and have fun doing it.
Remember all those really cool movies from the 90’s and some from the 80’s that told us VR was coming and we’d basically be living out our fantasies inside a computer? Cool kids hacking their grades, and the local bank, in some alternate low-speed Mission Impossible setting. Or a big giant corporation that wasn’t just greedy, they were power mad. All the SFX promised us was that we needed to be either suited up or digitally trapped inside these crazy worlds. Well, I think they got it wrong. Virtual Reality is here now and you don’t have to wear a full body suit and dorky helmet to participate. Those movies kept trying to tell us that the VR experience would be total, immersive, better than life, and oftentimes quite dangerous. Even the breakout hit novel Ready Player One contemplated that people would be laying around in their own filth getting fatter and fatter while their online lives got wookie wielding a double bling light saber phat.
In books and the movies, I’ve always found the VR experience to be a bit of a rip off. Seriously, a guy is going to get downloaded from a computer into an immensely cool world for the old fish out of water “you can teach us what it means to be human” scenario? It felt like a too-easy plot device to tell that type of story. The one in which a radical shift from the mundane to the fantastic takes place almost immediately.
But that’s not the kind of Virtual Reality I wanted to write about in my novel Soda Pop Soldier. But let me back up a sec… First off, Virtual Reality is here now. That Ranger in WarCraft you’ve been levelling alongside your guild buddies, that JRPG you’re spending all your free time collecting power jewels in, even that smartphone game you’re tapping at furiously or competing with someone named NikkeiCutie on Words with Friends, that, all that is Virtual Reality, or gaming. Out there, in the datasphere, the interwebz, call it what you like, you’re living a whole life based on competence and reputation. You’re having shared experiences that are meaningful and affecting. You even have friends. That my friends, is a type of reality and it’s not just virtual. It’s a very real reality and it can make for some great storytelling for us writers looking to do something cool and new.
So I didn’t want to cop out easily and make the main character in my novel Soda Pop Soldier, PerfectQuestion, slink into a VR suit so he could dominate the digital version of a land war in South East Asia that I had set up for him in my book. No, I wanted him to play games and compete the way I play games: Hunched over a computer, eyeballs screaming blue murder, and fighting for his life because in this future world where video gaming is a job, it means money and rent and a relationship, and some people might just want to kill you if you mess up their game. Soda Pop Soldier is a noir ride through a future where games are more than just fun. Games are a way to control the power to tell people what to buy next. That is a very powerful power to wield.
PerfectQuestion fights by day in a Modern Warfare style digital battleground, and by night he’s logging into an illegal open source tournament called The Black. Think Diablo meets the seedier parts of Vegas. The superheated battlefield Question fights in by day, along with the gothic gloom of the fantasy World of Wastehavens at night, are as real as it gets for our hero. There’s love, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship, and all of it’s attached to some pretty big motivations. For PerfectQuestion, gaming is as real as it gets.
So, its just like any fantasy, or real world setting. Except there’s a game component to it. And, on the other side of the equation is a massive global audience that’s accepting gaming as becoming more and more a part of their lives. Enough to read about it? I think so. I think novels about gaming are natural extensions of the gaming experience. So, maybe you’re not a gamer. But you think this is interesting enough to check out. Cool. It’s pretty easy to become a gamer. And its fun. A really easy step is to get yourself a console system like the XBOX One. There are some great games that feature gripping storylines and stunning, jaw-dropping graphics. And, when you’re playing a game well, you can call it research. I suggest First Person Shooters for these who want to write thrillers. There are some excellent horror titles and some really cool MMO’s from fantasy to SciFi. Spending a little time in these arenas might give you some ideas. Some ideas might lead to a story. And with a little marketing savvy, you’ve got yourself a targeted audience. I marketed Soda Pop Soldier to gamers who like Call of Duty and World of WarCraft. A huge audience and an active one on the social media sites.