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Backlist Love: Gamer by Chris Bradford

Gamer by Chris Bradford

“THE MOST REALISTIC FIGHT GAME EVER. WHERE EVERY ENEMY HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN.”

About the Book:
It is the year 2030 and an unknown virus has wiped out millions of adults on the planet (for some reason it didn’t affect children), leaving vast numbers of kids to roam the streets homeless and starving. The only point of hope for these children is a virtual reality fighting game called Virtual Kombat ”“ so real it hurts. This game allows people to enter the world of Virtual Kombat and fight other players plugged into the arena, or just watch their favourite players battle it out with other fighters. The ultimate winner of the game receives fame and fortune ”“ a very tempting prize, especially to the starving kids roaming the streets. Since people are still afraid to leave their homes in fear the deadly virus will resurface, people stay inside as much as possible and play Virtual Kombat as a way to escape their lives of self-confinement.

The maker of Virtual Kombat is considered a saint because he takes homeless kids off the street and takes care of them in the City Orphan’s Home in exchange for their complete participation in beta versions of his game. Scott is one of those lucky kids that win a chance to be in the City Orphan’s Home. Scott has always been good at video games ”“ his dad used to play with him before the virus ”“ and he’s also skilled in some martial arts. But these new versions of the game are different… now you can feel pain ”“ feel what it’s like when someone gives you their “Killing Strike”. And Scott soon finds out some sinister secrets to Virtual Kombat that make him question what is real and what is just part of the game”¦ or is there really a difference anymore?

Why I love it:
Every time I read one of Chris Bradford’s stories I immediately want to take up a martial arts class of some sort because the action sequences are so incredible, and this is especially true with Gamer. This book is one of my FAVOURITE action-adventure stories on the Barrington Stoke list. I love the dystopian future that Chris has created here and all the little details that he’s invented ”“ like Synapse drinks, Zing bars and booster bread ”“ which makes it all seem really realistic and adds to the gaming theme. Gamer is not only awesome for it’s outstanding action sequences though, it also raises some interesting topics about the future of our current society, as any well-written dystopian thriller is bound to do.

The virtual reality fighting game idea is a really clever theme because it’s not so far fetched as a future world with how dependent people are becoming these days on technology for entertainment, and to some extent escapism. Is it really that crazy to think that people could plug into a virtual reality with the rest of the world to play a fighting game? Even today, gaming developers are working on some intense VR technology to make the gamer’s experience more real. And I’ve met a few people that have been so addicted to Call of Duty or World of Warcraft that they start to lose their grip on reality a bit, just like the characters in Gamer (I admit, if they created a virtual reality Hogwarts I’d be all over that!). Let’s just hope any VR technology invented in the future doesn’t go quite as far as Virtual Kombat in Gamer.

It’s also interesting to note that the virtual reality scenario that people in Gamer choose to escape into, instead of living and connecting meaningfully with real people in their lives, is a brutal fighting game. The fear they felt from the killer virus that took the lives of millions of adults seems to be somewhat placated by a player’s ability to dominate another person physically in a virtual reality. This attempt to numb the vulnerability people feel about the dangers of the real world reminds me of the research done by Dr Brené Brown, a researcher in Texas who studies fear, vulnerabilty and shame (read an article in The Guardian about Brown’s research here). Brown argues “to live a full life requires courage ”“ and showing courage means doing things that make you feel vulnerable.” Scott, the main character in Gamer, shows this courage when he chooses to reject the nice life he’s made in Virtual Kombat in place of living in the real world on the streets. It would seem in this dystopian future the majority of the world has become a slave to their fears and are unable to accept their vulnerability, which in turn is expressed in their obsession with the virtual reality fighting game, Virtual Kombat. I think there’s an important lesson here, especially in our current fear-based, media-laden society.

There’s really just so much to talk about with this book ”“ which is why it’s one of my favourites. And with an amazing lenticular jacket, this novel is just all around an awesome book to add to your shelf. You can buy Gamer by Chris Bradford here, watch Chris Bradford read an excerpt from Gamer below, or read the first chapter of Gamer for yourself.

Watch Chris Bradford read an excerpt from Gamer below:

Read the first chapter of Gamer by Chris Bradford below:

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