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Capturing the flavor of the game is as important as respecting the strengths and limits of the story's medium. "I think that a novel is a novel and a game is a game. They strike me as different art forms, and attempting to imitate each other is a way to lose yourself. It's better to let each art form play to its strengths," Buckell writes. "The brand of the game is in some ways a promise to them that they will get more of that same experience. When I wrote The Cole Protocol, I wanted to make sure that we had some impressive fire fights, action, and some larger-than-life set pieces where the action takes place. In my case I chose an asteroid system that has been connected together to form a megastructure, as megastructures are a big part of the fun of Halo. But likewise, in a novel you get more time to explore people's motivations and flesh out the world more fully, so I set out to shine a light into some corners of the universe that I, as a fan, wanted to know more about!"
When Kum came aboard the Halo: Evolutions project, the Halo universe had already expanded well beyond the realms of the games, with multiple novels, comics, and an animated anthology in existence. "That said, the games are the core of that universe and the introduction for most fans out there. With that in mind, I wanted to capture one of the defining moments in the series and recreate that moment in prose form. For me," Kum writes, "that moment in Halo: Combat Evolved when the game suddenly jumped genres, going from a pretty awesome sci-fi first-person shooter to 'survival horror holy smokes, Batman'... well, if I say that left a scar, I don't think I'd be the only one.
"Celebrating that 'oh shit' moment and the following panic and mayhem, that's what I wanted to pull off with [The Mona Lisa]," Kum reveals. The story, which is about marines in space battling the infectious Flood, features loads of action and an alien warrior armed with a salvaged cricket bat, "There are stories that cannot be related via gameplay - at least, not first-person shooter gameplay - but this isn't one of them."
"Of course," Lee says, "one battle after another doesn't make an interesting or compelling story. As a storyteller, you are also obligated to bring your setting and characters to life. Every novel I've written has attempted to expand parts of the Warhammer settings in ways that the games cannot. My experience as an RPG designer has been a huge asset in that regard, helping me breathe life into the culture, language, politics and religion of my characters."
I assumed that writing novels set in beloved game worlds would change the way a writer plays games - maybe make fun feel like work. "It hasn't really," Buckell writes.
Forbeck agrees: "I've always been fascinated by how stories and games work together, so writing novels based on games hasn't changed how I look at the games involved."
Kum felt likewise about her experience with Halo. "Except," she writes, "I really want to see a cricket bat in there somewhere."
"I can't say that writing for a particular game world has changed the way I play or view the game itself," Lee shared. "If I were to write a character or a story that had a direct impact or a connection with the game itself, then I think it would change my perspective on the game, but as a rule most games and game-related fiction are two [linked] but separate entities."
Will Hindmarch is a freelance writer and game designer that's not afraid to look foolish now if it makes him smarter later. He's the co-founder of Gameplaywright Press and a writer for numerous paper and video games.