5 virtual reality books for your gaming-mad tweens and teens

Published on: 08 January 2018 Author: Taran Matharu

With the Steven Spielberg Ready Player One movie on its way and new genres such as GameLit emerging, it’s clear that gaming-inspired, virtual reality-themed books are on the rise.

If your child loves video games, they're bound to love some of the brilliant books below, all set in worlds full of gaming rules and virtual reality (VR). 

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 

Ready Player One swiftly reached cult status after its release in 2011, with a Spielberg film due in early 2018.

The novel tells the story of a futuristic dystopia where an economic crisis has led to most of the population retreating into The Oasis, an all-encompassing virtual reality game that has become the world’s chief pastime and economic resource. When the founder of The Oasis dies, he leaves his fortune to whoever can solve a series of clues based on his passion for popular culture from the 1980s. Soon every player in the world becomes obsessed with finding the mysterious “egg” hidden within the game.

After several years, teenager Wade Watts deciphers the first clue and becomes the favourite to win – but is soon forced to go on the run as nefarious corporations close in on him, eager to take the prize for themselves. In a race against time, Wade and his friends must complete the quest before their pursuers catch up to them.

2. Awaken Online: Catharsis by Travis Bagwell

Self-published in 2016, the Awaken Online series went viral almost immediately, achieving huge success within just a few months of its arrival. Bagwell’s book is perhaps the best-written example so far of the newly emergent genre known as GameLit or LitRPG, where game mechanics are a key feature of a story.

Awaken Online tells the tale of Jason, a teenager who is bullied terribly by Alex, the golden boy of their high school and son of a wealthy businessman who works at the world’s premier game’s company.

When Alex attacks Jason and simultaneously gets him kicked out of school, Jason turns to Awaken Online, a newly released video game, to assuage his frustrations. There, he learns that Alex has become one of the game’s top players, in part due to his father’s involvement in the project.

Jason decides to choose the Necromancer class, allowing him to create zombies to do his bidding. As the story continues, Jason must use clever strategies to level up his character and become powerful enough to challenge Alex. What follows is a fast-paced, action-packed story, full of twists and turns in the lead up to Jason’s final confrontation with Alex.

3. Warcross by Marie Lu 

Written by number one New York Times bestseller Marie Lu, Warcross tells the tale of online bounty hunter Emika Chen, who accidentally hacks herself into the world-famous Warcross Championships and becomes an instant celebrity.

The mysterious founder of Warcross, billionaire Hideo Tanaka, immediately hires the teenager to spy on the tournament players, suspecting foul play. Soon, Emika uncovers a sinister plot that could change the world as she knows it.

Warcross sits firmly in the YA genre, with a diverse cast of characters, well-written prose and a twist-filled plot. For those whose are more casual gamers, this novel may just be the perfect introduction to VR-based novels. 

4. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson 

Snow Crash came out in 1992, which makes its futuristic setting and spot on take on virtual reality all the more incredible. It is considered a classic in the Cyberpunk genre, and was named One of Time’s 100 best English-language novels.

The protagonist, ironically named Hiro Protagonist, lives in a dystopian future, working as a pizza delivery driver by day, and playing as a warrior prince by night. Spending as much of his free time in the virtual alternate reality known as the Metaverse, Hiro discovers a new computer virus that’s somehow begun to infect humans themselves. With the end of the world looming, Hiro must team up with a sassy skateboard messenger, Y.T., to defeat the insidious virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. 

5. Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller 

Jason Segel (famous for his role in TV comedy How I Met Your Mother) and his co-writer Kirsten Miller usually write books for younger children, but their debut YA novel is a VR-based, Black Mirror-esque story that is taking the genre by storm. Otherworld is a full-immersion VR alternate reality where not all is as it seems. 

Something strange is happening in this new world, and Simon is hell-bent on finding out what it is. The company that created the game have sinister plans, which might just involve them taking over the world. Full of twists and turns, this novel is both a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology and a celebration of its potential – a difficult feat, but one that Segel and Miller pull off.

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