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Books Versus Games

May 19, 2011

Drew Karpyshyn (author of the the Mass Effect books, the Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy, as well as the upcoming Star Wars: The Old RepublicRevan) is one of the authors I “favorited” on my Goodreads page, so that was how I saw the notification for a new entry on his blog yesterday, in which he contrasts Revan as a game character versus a book character:

“To put it bluntly, Revan in the book will not be the uber-powered death machine you controlled at the end of the video game. You might have min-maxed your character to smack Darth Malak down in seconds without breaking a sweat, but in a book that battle would have been a brutal, hard fought affair spread over multiple pages. In a video game it’s fun to kill hundreds of Sith Masters, but in a book that would just be boring. It would suck out any drama or conflict or tension, and as an author I have no interest in writing that.

Now, I suspect some of you are already getting worked up about how I’m ruining SW canon by nerfing the Revan from the game. Well, tough.”

You tell ‘em, Drew. Sometimes I think what FUN! it must be to be a Bioware writer and be able to write cool books, but in the end I see stuff like this and I can’t say I envy him his job. There’s already been resentment from some Knights of the Old Republic fans over the establishment of the male, “redeemed by the light side” canon Revan, and it’s hard to believe now that even his power levels are under contention.

I respect canon as much as the next gamer, but there’s gotta be a line drawn somewhere separating game mechanics and the elements that makes a story good. I played a female Revan in KOTOR and I’m not pissed off…heck, I’m happy I even had the choice to begin with! Like Mr. Karpyshyn points out, games and books are not the same thing. You do one thing to make a game fun for gamers; by the same token, you must do another to make a book fun for readers. Good to see him sticking to his guns.

To be honest, when a video game tie-in novel actually tries to work in too many of the game mechanics into the story, I get annoyed. I’m okay with a little bit — just enough for flavor — but I really don’t need it thrown in my face. It’s harder to get immersed when whatever I’m reading is making me think about stuff like class, levels, abilities, quests, etc. If an author needs to take a few “artistic liberties”, I say by all means — because I’m reading something, even a game book, I’m definitely in it for the reading experience.

5 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you!


    • Cheers! Most recently, the first SWTOR book I read and the second GW2 book felt too “game” book for me.


  2. Hm, you just lost some nerd cred there. See, true nerds know the two sometimes cross. For example, when reading a pen & paper RPG rulebook to just read it. Used to do that all the time with my R.Talsorian Cyberpunk 2020 books.


    • No, I’m not *that* kind of nerdy. I would never read a pen & paper just to read it, not that I won’t, just that I can’t. It’s one thing to play, it’s another to settle down in bed at the end of the day with a book, I need my fiction. Novels novels novels. Books vs games as in novels vs. video games.


      • Well, at the time I wasn’t reading the rulebooks to just read them/memorize the rules. I was reading them and while doing so using the rules as a framework to form stories in my head. So the fiction was there, it was just coming from me.



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