Piranha Frenzy by Colin F. Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a book that either anticipates or was written in reaction to gamer-gate. I think wherever you fall on that is probably the biggest predictor of whether you are capable of liking this book. I’m not saying if you were on the side of the journalist that you will automatically think this was a good book, but if you weren’t I find it hard to believe you’d like this book at all. A quick primer if you pay no attention to video games journalism or think pieces about the harassment of women online. A woman, Zoe Quinn was (still is?) working on a video game. Her ex wrote a blog post saying she slept with some guys for positive coverage for her game. Then, out of proportion to the fact that whether or not she did this, it’s just video games (for CTHULHU’S SAKE) people started harassing her and sending her death threats and all kinds of stuff. Google it if you care.
This book switches things around from reality and has the main character be a women in games journalism who is dating a man working for the publisher of the year’s biggest game – Satanic Realms 5. This rather short book (almost novella-sized) explores what she has to deal with in that world. I think it gets its point across without being preachy and while still telling an entertaining story rather than a morality tale. Via the characters (who are given short bios at the beginning of the book like a Victorian novel) the author also explores the different generations of gamers. I think the main character is supposed to be an older millenial or younger Gen X given her gaming touchtones. The guy in charge of the whole operation (A video games Website called Piranha Frenzy) is someone who was in college when the original Playstation came out and the other characters fall in between there and one or two are younger than our main character.
Touching on podcasts, Youtube celebs, and even referencing the founding of Giant Bomb – whether this book ends up being a classic or a relic of its time will probably depend on how much things change and how much things stay the same. I do appreciate the novel as there aren’t many fiction books that occupy this aspect of my life/personality. There are plenty of books with gamers at the center (I’ve bought quite a few via StoryBundle bundles), but not as many about the dev side. Although I have appreciated it in Cory Doctorow’s For the Win and the gamedev sections in Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s Mogworld.
As I said up top, your mileage may vary based on whether you consider SJW to be a dirty word, but I enjoyed my brief time in that world.