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Top 5 Books To Get You In The Mood ... For New Games

by: Randy -
More On: Blog

[Sean Nack's a good guy.  He doesn't mean to show me up as much as he does.  But when I came out with "Alternative Theme Songs For Winter Games" (two of which were eaten by internet ether) Sean devised a Top 5 list of his own.  Here it is. - Randy]

There are a lot of lists. Especially in our community, everyone has their "Top 5" lists, or their "Best Ever" lists. All that's well and good, but how many times can you read "Top 5 Hottest Characters" or "Most Influential", or the ever popular "Coolest"?

I have nothing against lists in general, but what about we try a list that might actually help you out a little bit? How about a list that might change your perspectives, alter your perceptions, and maybe, just maybe, help you get in the proper frame-of-mind for a few of the most anticipated games of the year? Prepare yourself for the next contender for the "Best Lists List": the Top 5 Books to Get You In The Mood…wait for it…For New Games.

Yes, you read that correctly. I said books. I'm an old-fashioned guy, ladies and gentlemen, and I firmly believe in the power of the written word to transform a person, and even to prepare you for the types of situations you'll encounter in the next few months. So grab a book (they're square-ish, made largely of paper, you may be familiar), curl up on the couch (honestly, what else do you have to do this month?) and get your literature on:

1. Game: Far Cry 2

    Book: The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

With as much remorseless violence as you've no doubt dealt out throughout your  videogame career, you surely consider yourself a hardened killer, completely prepared for whatever the African savannah has to dish out. My friends, I  encourage you to e-shoot and e-burn and e-bomb to your heart's content, but  know this: in the real world, violence not only has physical consequences, it  corrodes the soul. In Joseph Conrad's classic tale, based on his actual adventures  in the then-Belgian Congo, the author demonstrates the incredible toll that  violence and the degradation of humanity takes on a man, when his boat is  assigned to head hundreds of miles up-river to retrieve a company rubber  collector who has gone completely insane and set himself up as a god-king in the  African jungle. When  the man is finally overcome by his illnesses, both mental  and physical, his final words are a reflection of his actions, and his own  heart:  all he can see is "the horror…the horror." You may also recognize this plot,  modified quite a bit, in the classic film "Apocalypse Now." After you read this  book, you may find yourself questioning your own actions in the game: how far  into your own heart of darkness are you willing to go?

2. Game: Spore

    Book: Origin of Species, Charles Darwin.

While obviously not as inspired as the previous selection, and certainly tougher to  read, where better to get a strategy for creating and leading your own organism to success than from the man who is most closely associated with evolution? This  book may have ushered in some morally-questionable science, such as that old misconception about "nature, red in tooth and claw", but if reading about  Galapagos finches gives you that one great idea for your creature that makes you  the dominant force in the universe…like I've always said, as of about right now,  there's no place for a great fictional idea than the real world. 

3. Game: Fable 2

    Book: The Black Cauldron, Lloyd Alexander

Thought you saw LOTR coming, didn't you? This one is a personal choice for me,  because, well, I'll put it this way: I hate sword and sorcerer crap. I'm way more interested in the sci-fi end of the business, for one thing, but for another, I read  this book when I was about seven years old, and nothing ever stacked up against  it. What I should say is that this is actually the second of a five part series, and  that the Cauldron creates armies of the undead, blah-blah, but what caused me to  pair the two is the series inimitable hero: Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper. Much like  your faceless, nameless hero, he was nothing until adventure came along and  claimed him. The tenor of the series is also much different from LOTR, as it takes  itself far, far less seriously, though is still inspired by Welsh mythology, and it's  this mix of the grand and the humorous that makes it a perfect lead-in to Fable 2.

4. Game: Left 4 Dead

    Book: Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks.

Ok, so this one is pretty much a gimme. Max Brooks' equally fantastic World War Z is also a valid choice, but the survival guide makes you think  strategically, question the efficacy of your surroundings, and most importantly in  a zombie apocalypse scenario, act defensively. As a person who is actively and  seriously preparing for the zombie apocalypse, the defensive considerations  are paramount in the initial stages, and while you can't change Valve's plan or  weapon load-outs, you can learn to manage your surroundings to your  advantage. Attacked in a two story house? Run up the stairs, create a choke-point,  and plink away. Learn which weapons are most effective in what environments,  and most importantly, take away from your time spent in the imaginary  apocalypse some lessons for the real world.

5. Game: Fallout 3

    Book: Lord of the Flies, William Golding.

I know what you're thinking: where're the nukes, the zombies, the irradiated  monstrosities? Where's my apocalypse? All those things are important to the  scenario, but the theme is paramount, and Lord of the Flies is thematically about  as apocalyptic as anything ever written. William Golding's tale of British  schoolboys trapped on a desert island illustrates perfectly how that most delicate  construction of man, society, fails in the face of our greatest enemy: man. What  keeps us from killing and eating each other, what element is removed when you  have such infamous incidents as Rwanda, the Holocaust, or My Lai? Society's  restrictions on killing. Society and the fickle goodwill of your neighbors are the  only things that keep us recognizably human. What better definition of apocalypse  is there, on a small scale like Lord or a large scale like a post-nuclear wasteland,  than mankind's' loss of humanity?