Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life Blog reported last week that mega-bestselling author Nora Roberts had made a deal for a video-game adaptation of her recent book, Vision in White.
I haven't read Vision in White, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I read Nora Roberts novels every so often, especially when I feel rotten. They're literary Pringles potato chips: always the same, probably not good for you, and good every time. Vision in White is the first in a planned quartet about a group of wedding planners, so I'd guess that the video game is about getting a bride to the church on time, with everything she needs.
The commingling of books and video worries me, because I know from my own experience that I spend a lot of time online that I used to spend reading. On the one hand, it's not productive for authors to conspire in cannibalizing their own readers' time; on the other, if people are going to spend that time on video games anyway, why shouldn't authors benefit?
So here are five book-based video games I'd consider playing:
1. Stephanie Plum's Demolition Derby. Fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books know that she loses at least one car in every book. A Stephanie Plum game would be a natural; she could drive through the streets of Trenton, picking up Tastykakes and Grandma Mazur on the way, dodging potholes, looking for Joe or Ranger, getting sidetracked by Lula . . . and trying not to blow up her car.
2. Freakonomics SimCity. Create your own community, following the principles of Freakonomics: determine your players' outcomes according to the names you give them! Manipulate crime rates with the power of eugenics! Turn your drug-dealing operation into a successful McDonald's franchise! Actually, it wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that some version of this game already exists.
3. Anthony Bourdain's Cook's Tour. This game would probably need to combine aspects of Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain's excellent crime novels (Gone Bamboo and Bone in the Throat) and the "No Reservations" TV series. Travel to exotic countries, score drugs, pick up ingredients in the local food markets, and get it all on the table in time for dinner service. Extra points for cigarettes smoked; in penalty rounds, you work through a hangover.
4. Diana Gabaldon's Time Travel Adventures. Based on the phenomenally successful Outlander series, this game would drop you into a random historical time period, where you would have to acquire appropriate clothing, figure out basic transportation, and find a hot guy to hook up with. Also fight off would-be rapists, carry out spy missions, and apply modern technology to solve historical problems.
5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Okay, this one's cheating, because this was a computer game — a very early game, originally released in 1984 for the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64 (!), Atari and PC, among other formats. The objective, of course, is to find the lost planet of Magrathea, but to do that, you have to figure out the Infinite Improbability Drive and deal with all the other residents of the galaxy. The good news is that DN Games is remaking the game for the new generation, in a point-and-click format; check progress and see what they're doing here.
What books would you want to see as video games? If you're an author, how would you turn your book into a video game?