Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game, Theme.
Although this term may be applied to imaginary worlds governed by the rules of ancient games like Chess, this encyclopedia chiefly applies it to worlds designed by the manufacturers of Games – almost always Role Playing Games (or Gamebooks) or computer Adventure games (see Videogame). In the case of RPGs the parameters of the "world" (the fictional setting in which the game takes place) will be set out in the handbooks which form the central part of the game package; in the latter, much of the world's setting is described on screen by the computer program itself, and additional information may be given in the associated printed material. Since the mid-1980s it has been common for the more successful games of either sort to generate associational material, which may include stories, novels and Comic books set in the world of the game. Thus George Alec Effinger's The Zork Chronicles (1990) is set in a world first described in the computer Adventure game Zork (1982 US), published by Infocom, and subsequently the setting for several other Infocom games.
The US games company TSR Inc has been especially prolific in commissioning books associated with their role-playing games, though these are usually fantasy rather than sf – as books set in game-worlds tend generally to be. An example is TSR's Forgotten Realms Fantasy Adventure: Pool of Radiance (1989) by James M Ward and Jane Cooper Hong. The role-playing game Shadowrun (1989) has generated a game-worlds series, set in a world where fantasy and Cyberpunk elements are uneasily married, of which one is Secrets of Power: Volume 2: Shadowrun: Choose Your Enemies Carefully (1991) by Robert N Charrette. The Battletech novels by Robert Thurston and many others are more straightforwardly sf, specifically Space Opera. These are merely arbitrary examples of what is now a widespread phenomenon. Further sf games which have spawned multiple novels include Traveller (1977), Metal Gear (1987), Renegade Legion (from 1987), Warhammer 40,000 (1987), Torg (1990), Wing Commander (1990) Doom (1993), Resident Evil (1996), Crimson Skies (1998), Starcraft (1998), DarkMatter (1999; Alternity), Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (1999), Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), City of Heroes (2004) and Mass Effect (2007). Since game-worlds series books are often written by a variety of authors who are seldom the same people who invented the world in the first place, the game-world can be seen as a special case of the Shared World.
Authors whose book publications are solely set in game-worlds do not necessarily receive entries in this volume; many are absent. Nonetheless, though much fiction set in game-worlds is hack work, some is not. For example, the novels in the Demon Download subseries by Jack Yeovil (Kim Newman), set in Games Workshop's Dark Future (1988) world, are good, original works in the Cyberpunk mode.
Many games are set in worlds previously established in book form, as with the numerous GURPS supplements such as Riverworld (1989), based on the novels by Philip José Farmer. This volume does not accept such settings as true game-worlds, which by definition should have originated in a games format. [PN/DRL]
see also: Online Worlds; Postal Worlds; Virtual Reality; Worlds in Balance.
previous versions of this entry