Soapbox features allow our individual writers and contributors to share their thoughts on hot topics and random things they’re chewing on. TodayMichelle is reading an incredible novel about games, and states that books and games should be on the same page…
The two children were thinking Super Mario Bros. in the hospital playroom. One asks the other, “What’s the secret to landing high on the flagpole?” This is the beginning of Sam and Sadie’s friendship, the centerpiece of Gabriel Zevin’s novel, Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
For anyone who tried and struggled with hitting the top of the flagpole, mashing buttons, and sighing in frustration, this is a great nostalgic nod to the NES game. For each, this is the beginning of a deep friendship that will be reflected in the pages of this epic tome.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the first book I’ve read that takes gaming seriously but appeals to a mainstream audience.
“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” follows the friendship of these characters from meeting in childhood, to university students creating amateur games, to world-renowned developers. It offers insightful and funny commentary on creativity and maturity. This is not a “gamer’s book”, but a book about games; you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy it.
Zevin argues that a novel can protect characters who play games, but anyone can read them. But why is it so unique? Where are the books where the hero comes home after a long day and relaxes with his Nintendo Switch? (Not based on my own life at all). Why aren’t there more books about games?
Google “books about games” and you’ll see non-fiction books (Blood, sweat and pixels, Console Warsfiction books, encyclopedias) and novels that occupy the space of science fiction (The first player is ready, Snow accident).
There aren’t many novels that weave games into the narrative like T&T&T. Ready Player One, the poster game novel, is full of references that are integral to the reader’s understanding. Its sci-fi label is firmly attached, and it makes no real attempt to make the games accessible or appealing to a non-gaming audience. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this. But it’s usually a gaming novel that people think of first, and that fact alone means that when it comes to books, games are still somewhere “elsewhere,” in an arena where non-gamers don’t live.
the way mainstream media views games and “gamers” hasn’t changed much since the days of the Game Boy. Zevin opposes this cliché
I’m sure a lot of aspiring novelists are writing manuscripts like T&T&T that are game references in a way that is accessible to everyone. But publishers, like readers, might see a manuscript like this, think it’s Ready Player One-A, and toss it on the slush pile. Literature itself still does not reflect how games are played and consumed in real life. Maybe that’s how filmmakers once saw games: beautiful environments, sure, but too otherworldly to present as reality. Yet even as filmmakers improve their relationship with games (more on that later), writers resist. The “oldest” tool still has to accept the “newest”.
That is why Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is… Ahem — game changer.
The literary world may hold its strongest shield against the gaming sector, but whatever the reason, its defenses must be lowered. Games are more popular than ever. About 3 billion people worldwide play mobile games. Nintendo Switch sales have surpassed Game Boy and PS4. During the pandemic, there were switches Sold Outand our favorite escape from the closed island Animal Crossing: New Horizons flew off the shelves. Non-gaming news might call this industry “booming,” but it’s already booming.
Yet the way the mainstream media views games and “gamers” hasn’t changed much since the days of the Game Boy. Zevin opposes this cliché. It gives gamer characters dimensions beyond their gaming enjoyment.
Sam is being raised by his grandparents and we have this loving relationship as they take care of him, guide him and give him life advice even as he grows up. They run a pizzeria where Sam had his first gaming (and “greatest spiritual”) experience on Donkey Kong machine. In Sadie, we see a child who worries about her sick sister/best friend, even as she is ignored by her parents and forced to grow up at the age of 11. Games become one of the few consolations in her life, even if she can only play for one hour a week. Sam and Sadie are more than players, they are people.
Things have changed in the world of entertainment, if only by inches. The games are more on the screen, and the players are not just antisocial teenagers. In 2010 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World showed us that video game references can appear in your favorite movie. Apple TV+ shows A mythical quest it’s a workplace comedy first, then a game show – and it was created for viewing not only by gamers. Game adaptations are improving and appealing to people who have never touched a console (think The last of us, the witcher, Lassoand future ones Tetris biopic and Super Mario movie).
Playing and reading also have a certain affinity. In T&T&T, Sam says, “There is no act more intimate than play, not even sex.”
Increasingly, games of any size are based on more complex plots with multi-dimensional characters. I consider the plot to be the main draw card for the game and the purchase. For me, the emotional investment makes achieving the final boss fight, the final quest, the grade from Grandpa all the sweeter.
There are even games that mirror books, for example Disco Elysium (created by novelist Robert Kurwitz) and Beacon Pines. Both are largely text-based, encouraging readers to imagine as a novel does.
Playing and reading also have a certain affinity. In T&T&T, Sam says, “There is no act more intimate than play, not even sex” (!). When you spend so much time getting to know the characters and sharing their aspirations, it’s impossible not to care about their lives and ambitions.
Such closeness gives the consumer an active participation in the development of the story. If you leave the room while the movie is playing, it continues. But books and games are needed you move the story by turning pages or pressing buttons. And reader players like me do it for both, with the same thing some more ardor.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the first book I’ve read that took video games seriously while also speaking to a wider audience. It also made me laugh, cry, and google all about it. The compelling story and broad appeal create such a perfect union of the oldest and newest media that it can influence the wider discussion about games in the literary space. Now that his recognition is growing (i it is screenedof course), we could see a greater presence of games in literary worlds.
This is the tomorrow I’m looking forward to.