Books that influenced game designers

image-medium (66)Keith Stuart writes in the Guardian blog about 10 books every gamer should read. He’s met game designers from all over the world –  US, Russia,  Japan,  France, Denmark,  Britain -while writing about technology for the last 17 years. He says while the cultural references can be hugely diverse, there are certain books / movies that come up in conversation over and over again. Game designers and developers have cited these most often as influences on their work. Links to our catalogue if you want to read them

Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo – Post-apocalyptic saga set in Tokyo charts the coming of the creature known only as Akira, a power both feared and prized for its potential to shake the recovering world. Influences from West (Star Wars) & East (Japanese author Seishi Yokomizo) Credited with introducing manga & through its animated movie translation, anime, to Western audiences. Other authors: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns Alan Moore’s Watchmen

Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – HP Lovecraft – reinvented the horror genre for the 20thC, dropping witches & ghosts and ‘envisaging mankind as an outpost of dwindling sanity in a chaotic and malevolent universe.’ Games  –Dungeons and Dragons, role-playing games since. Other authors: Michael Moorcock (especially the Elric books)Stephen King (The Dark Tower series 1 Gunslinger. 2 Drawing of the three 3 Waste Lands ); Robert Bloch.

Dragon Ball – Akira Toriyama Considered to be one of all-time great mangas  it ran as a serial in the weekly Japanese comic, Shōnen Jump, (230m copies sold worldwide). Based around the Chinese novel Journey to the West this epic combines exciting martial arts action and eccentric & fascinating characters. Mix of combat, mythology and comedy. Other authors ‘big 3’ manga – Naruto, Bleach One Piece

The Greek Myths – Robert Graves Ancient Greece inspired the heroic quest (Odysseus, Perseus), a central element in almost every role-playing game. Also influences ideas of prophesy, destiny and of ‘the chosen one’ who is born to vanquish evil. Myths include magic and vengeful gods.  Games: God of War and Altered Beast Other authors: the Norse and Celtic mythologies; the Bible.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell (not got this one, but others by him) A study of world mythologies and the concept of the heroic archetype. The author argues that all mythological tales spring from a single monomyth in which a hero defeats a series of challenges to attain a life-changing gift. Other authors: Sir James George Frazer The Golden Bough

House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski – a cybertext, ‘a work of “ergodic” literature in which the formatting of the text becomes a puzzle the reader must solve. A story about how to tell stories in the digital age’. Other authors: Jorge Luis Borges

King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard  Allan Quartermain is the archetypal flawed adventure hero and introduced the Lost World genre of fiction. Indiana Jones is the modern version.  Everything from Pitfall to Tomb Raider where hero and team locate a lost temple filled with treasures may have roots in this novel. Others:  Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island)  Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan),  Robert E. Howard (Conan)

Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien   Influenced  fantasy game designers about the importance of mythological back story e.g. Dungeons and Dragons and Japanese role-playing games such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and onto World of Warcraft. Other authors: Michael Moorcock; Terry Pratchett; Brandon Sanderson;  Steven Erikson; Mervyn Peake Gormenghast 

Neuromancer – William Gibson  Gibson more anarchic writing about hackers, criminal corps, paranoia, busted up computer hardware, hard-drinking renegades and drugs appealed to bedroom programmers in the 80s /early 90s   Games= Syndicate, Beneath as Steel Sky and later Deus Ex, .hack// and Metal Gear Solid  Other authors: Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson or Pat Cadigan;  Manga – Ghost in the Shell

Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein – eBook Gears of War, Halo, Killzone, Quake… owe a debt to the concept of the space marine brilliantly realised in Heinlein’s future war epic about the concept of a mechanised military defending humanity from invading aliens. Key elements in the biggest sci-fi games: troubled hero advancing through the ranks, an insect-like extra-terrestrial threat,  factional military.Other authors: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Iain M Banks’ Culture novels

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