Published in 2010, Metagame, by Sam Landstrom is a science fiction novel I found through my Pixel of Ink account. I held onto it for a while before really getting into it, though when I did, it seemed strange that I hadn’t dove right in. The world Mr. Landstrom creates is fun, and believable.
Opening these pages takes us far into the future, where The Game is everything. Think of your favorite MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game), but live, and ongoing, at all times. That’s pretty much the world of MetaGame. Micro-chipped brains can link everyone together, like trolling Facebook 24/7, but with better search parameters. Everything you do can be done for game points, and everything, including plants, people, and created objects are covered in nanosites, creating a “…three-dimensional map of the world that software could easily understand…marking moving objects in real time…”
The more game points you have, the more prestige you carry, granting long-youth, long-life, and possibly even immortality. Points are earned for everything, including everyday “job” type duties, including software engineering/programming, medicinal research, law enforcement, etc, so every aspect of an individual’s life has become a “game,” thus creating “flow,” in turn generating happiness for all. For those who like games as we know them today, they are available, though frowned upon from a societal stand-point, as they are thought of as lazy. These games are called Spank Games, and require literal, physical movement to play. “Sloth is a sin [therefore] spank games require physical movement [so they at least enhance physicality]…” To play spank games, one must jack into a world-wide virtual reality, where the game is played superimposed over the real world. Watching a spanker can be entertaining, as they typically look ridiculous while they’re embarking on whatever game quest they happen to be involved with.
Our main character, D_Light (many of the characters have gamer-tag-like names), is one of the top ranking gamers in his Family. After an intense Rule #7 (a randomly implemented game where any gamer is allowed to kill (literally) another, and be granted 1/5th the victims total game points), D_Light finds himself the #1 points earner for the day. This circumstance offers him the opportunity to be involved in a monthly MetaGame, (known also as Divine Quest or House Crusade); a game offered only to nobility. Comprised of a series of games, not even the participants know what the quests will be until they are starting them. More a cultural phenomenon than a traditional game, the MetaGames take place in the real world, versus the software constructs of the electronic worlds.
Teamed up with Lyra & Djoser, the nobility invited to participate in the Metagame, along with their bodyguards, Amanda (a product, I thought of as a cybernetic robot) and Brian, a chip-on-his-shoulder meat-head type, we follow the group through their MetaGame, which leads them into the depths of the OverSoul’s cultural constructs.
What I really enjoyed about this book were the references to the reasoning behind the creation of the culture this book takes place in. Real psychology, like that of Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow, were used by Mr. Landstrom to create a very believable culture. I’m an origin story lover, so thoroughly enjoyed the chapter prefaces that told the back-story. Thinking about it more as I write this, I may not have enjoyed the novel without these insights…
If you’re a gamer, or a tech person, you may enjoy this novel just for the sheer joy of reading about the universe the story takes place in. I definitely did. If you like a good onion peel of social constructs, this could do it as well. There’s even the hint of a love story, but not enough to overshadow the rest, and definitely the build-up of “what the hell is happening!” that will make you want to continue to the end.
**** Four (4) Stars