Like a good book, a good video game has the ability to suck you in and transport you to new worlds. Before you know it, days have passed, the soda cans have achieved a worrying height, and there’s chip dust on your face. When, inevitably, you turn off your game and face reality (as we all must sometimes), why not do it with a book about video games? Whether you want a contemporary novel about modern-day gamers or a peek at gamers of the future, these books with characters experienced in the art of pwn have something for you.
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
In Little Brother, a near-future police state has run amok, and it’s the techies and gamers who have the power to fight back. After 17-year-old Marcus is interrogated for days following a major terrorist attack, he decides to take down the DHS himself. Using his game systems, the Internet, and some pretty sweet (yet totally believable) tech, he repeatedly disrupts the government’s surveillance attempts, while simultaneously mobilizing his gamer friends (mostly through his Xbox—the book’s true unsung hero).
Guy in Real Life, by Steve Brezenoff
When Lana literally runs into Lesh while he’s stumbling home drunk from a metal show, he gets all swoony, while she’s just annoyed the collision ruined her D&D notebook. During Lesh’s subsequent two-week grounding, he gives an MMORPG a try, getting sucked into the world. Eventually, Lesh and Lana, a dungeon master and artist, form an unlikely friendship, with each learning how to balance the roles they play in their respective games and the roles they play IRL.
Head Games, by Mariah Fredericks
While Judith might not fit in at her elite prep school, she’s a successful thief in an MMORPG called The Game, earning loads of respect and wins as Terryn. Her obsession with online gaming took an escapist turn after she was dropped by her best friend—in The Game, she can control who she is and how close anyone gets. But when she finds out one of the players is actually her bad-boy neighbor, her carefully crafted virtual reality starts to make an uneasy transition back to reality.
Playing Tyler, by T. L. Costa
Tyler is an exceptionally talented gamer who struggles with ADHD and has a deep love for flying planes. In a total dreams-come-true twist, he’s hired to beta test a flight simulator designed by Ani, a 16-year-old female gamer and prodigy. (Sideline: Where can I find Ani so that I can give her the other half of this BFF charm?) The two gamers start to fall for each other…until their relationship is complicated by a sinister discovery about the nature of the simulator.
The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner
Like most people in the future, Michael is a gamer who spends the majority of his time on the VirtNet, which offers total mind and body immersion. He’s figured out how to hack the virtual world, so let’s just say he does what he wants. When the government asks him to help find a hacker, he joins his friends on a quest into dangerous levels, discovering some nasty secrets about his beloved VR. What with the action-packed plot, terrifying creatures, and incredible world-building, I’m not sure why someone hasn’t already turned this book into a video game.
Insignia, S.J. Kincaid
Tom is the ultimate player of video games, using his prowess in virtual reality to make ends meet. But it’s not like the gaming you and I do: in Tom’s future world, virtual-reality simulations allow players to plug into a 3D gaming landscape using a chip in their brains. When the government discovers Tom’s mad gaming skills, they snatch him up to join the Pentagonal Spire so he can become a soldier in WWIII and put those skills to use behind the control of battle drones. It’s sort of like Ender’s Game, but with all the charm and heart of Harry Potter.