Top Ten Books for Gamers by Erin Johnson
I can still fondly remember running my little heart out (in place) on the Nintendo Power Pad, desperately trying to beat my neighbor in the 100M Dash. I also remember spending countless evenings throwing ketchup jelly beans to a blob in hopes that he would make it home and I definitely did my best to make sure that all my customers received a newspaper despite runaway tires, bikers and dogs. If this sounds familiar, you probably grew up playing video games in the 80’s and 90’s.
Check out enough educational Twitter feeds now-a-days and sources will confirm that video games are finally getting the recognition they deserve as far as creating problem-solving masterminds and helping kids learn necessary cooperative skills–among many other essential skills. Legend even has it that some discontent babies could even be lured to sleep by the melodious theme music of Mario Bros. (as in the case of my infant brother). My mother would often ask me to fire up the Nintendo in order to “soothe the beast” as I thought of it. Of course, I had no problem in doing so and would leap at the chance to beat my favorite levels over and over again.
So what is there to offer kids and teens now that video games have evolved beyond anything my 7 year-old self could have ever imagined? Or is it possible that books and video games are really more similar than we think? Are they not both stories, played out each time a player hits a button or a reader turns a page? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but don’t take too much time–I hear there might still be some cake. (Go Portal!)
These books, in no certain order, have the ability to “soothe the beasts” (aka gamers who feel more comfortable holding a controller rather than a favorite novel).
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid
Tom Raines doesn’t lead your typical kind of life. Supporting his gambler father as they travel casino to casino, he plays virtual reality games in order to pay the rent. Meanwhile the world’s natural resources are nearly deplenished and they’re right smack in the middle of an epic World War III…in space. Tom Raines may not be your typical hero but, with his sick virtual-reality skills, he just might be the world’s best hope. Comes fully loaded with sci-fi action, acne, and girl problems.
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang
Dennis Ouyang is caught in the middle. His parents want him to become a doctor and he wants to become a professional gamer. Four angels appear to help him “choose the right path” but he’s still not sure what it is.This graphic novel offers a great perspective for tweens and teens who feel like they have to live their parents’ dreams and not necessarily their own.
The Leveller by Julia Durango
Ever thought about becoming a bounty hunter in a virtual reality world? Can’t say I have either, but Nixy Bauer is and she’s gearing up for her biggest job yet. Her mission: find the son of the virtual reality world developer. Her problem: he just might not want to be found …or does he? (Dog the Bounty Hunter not included.)
Erebos by Ursula Poznanzki
The game Erebos truly makes you an offer you can’t refuse…or perhaps you just shouldn’t. Much like the rules of Fight Club, if you decide to play the game you can’t talk about it and you should probably forget about doing anything else due to its addictive nature. When 16-year-old Nick receives a deadly assignment from the game–that he must refuse–he is banished and begins the journey to figure who really controls the game and why. Great read for those who like to game and even for those who like to watch others game.
Surfacing by Mark Magro
Left with the aftermath of a nuclear war, children are sent to the underground Parkman Institute of Science and Solutions in order to learn how to rebuild what is left of the world. Zoe, a student with curious abilities, enlists the help of Balt, a promising student who creates an A.I. head as a mid-term project, to help her escape after she learns that their time at the institute might not be exactly what it seems.
Though not virtual reality involved, I believe that this book has enough artificial intelligence and futuristic toys to keep any gamer happy. The more seasoned gamer will also be able to detect numerous video game influences peppered throughout the book.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
For those students who are obsessed with 80’s pop culture, this just might be the book for them. Complete with a trailer park, puzzles, and many, many 80’s pop culture icons this book marries virtual reality and the 80’s together in one lovely white wedding. Originally written as an adult novel, Ready Player One became the recipient of an Alex Award (books written for adults that have a large appeal for young adults) in 2012 and is currently enjoyed by teens the world over.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Classic Alert! Who doesn’t want a chance to save the world through video games. I mean, really? Ender Wiggins has been bred to become a military genius. His training ground, video games. Ender is the whole package, but can he really save the world from aliens?
Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber
Like watching a scene from the movie Tron: Legacy, Game Over, Pete Watson is sure to make you wish you too could take a trip to the virtual reality world of gaming. Unless, of course, there happens to be giant mechanical cockroaches, which there are, and missing fathers, which there are, and you suddenly change your mind…But I hope you don’t! Chalked full of humor and girl crushes this book is the stuff of which legends are made.
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Massively-multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG) fans will probably take a liking to this graphic novel as they follow the story of Anda who explores the world of Coarsegold Online and makes friends, fights the bad guys and realizes that the right choice is not always clear. Stunning art work helps readers take a deeper look at some culture and poverty issues throughout the story.
The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
As the old saying goes, to catch a hacker, you need a hacker–or so I think…and Michael just so happens to be that hacker. By going off the grid he might be able to catch a devious hacker-murderer, but this will take everything he’s got. Sure to please fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series. Book one of the Mortality Doctrine Series.
Books that are also worth a read–Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff and Epic by Connor Kostick.
Erin Johnson is a middle school librarian who loves playing video games, getting crafty, making and eating food and spending time with her husband. She hails from the beautiful state of Pennsylvania.