Review: It's All Fun And Games

It's All Fun And Games - Dave Barrett

* Review copy provided by Netgalley *

From the time I discovered The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid I was drawn to stories about young people transported to a magical place.  Whenever I ran across a book with that premise I’d snatch it up and give it a try.

So, of course I had to read “It’s All Fun And Games”.

I’ve never done any live action or table top role playing, although I think it sounds fun and would have if I’d had the opportunity.  I’ve done my share of adventure gaming with computer games.

So the premise of this story really appealed to me.

I liked the use of a newbie, Allison, to whom the basic rules are explained, so a reader unfamiliar with this kind of gaming is giving the basics in a way that seems natural to the story.  I think enough information was given to inform the reader, but not so much it seemed artificial or dragged the story down.

As the story begins we’re introduced to TJ, the regular LARPer, and his friend Allison who he convinces, reluctantly, to join in a game one weekend.   The fact that TJ seems to have a bit of a crush on Allison and tempts her to come along with the information that a guy she has a crush on will be there was such a classic young person ploy it made me chuckle.

We’re soon introduced to the rest of TJ’s group, Chuck, Simon, Jimmy, and Stu, and we’re given the mission,

“Word has reached us that a mighty wizard has arisen from the squabbles of Arcanum in Estervary.”

“One stands supreme amid the ruins of his rivals and is able to act unchecked – at least for now.  He has turned his eyes westward, with thoughts of war and conquest.”

“Or shall we ride forth to meet him, to turn him aside before he comes within a hundred leagues? For myself, and for our people, I choose the later.”

The adventure game starts off normally enough, but soon the group finds itself in a situation where things have obviously changed.  Arrows from adversaries are suddenly deadly real.  TJ and his group suddenly find that their weapons also are suddenly real, as are the abilities, knowledge and even some memories, of their characters.

At first they don’t have much time to think about this as they’re in the middle of being attacked.  But afterward they seem to accept it rather quickly and with minimal thought or question, which seems strange.  In part this makes some sense perhaps, because although they maintain their own memories and thoughts, they now additionally have memories and thoughts of the characters they’ve created and been playing.  As if they are still themselves, but also now actually their character as well.

I thought that was an interesting aspect, this duality of memories and knowledge.  It also meant they conveniently had information, as well as abilities, to assist them along the way.

I enjoyed this story, but also was a bit disappointed.  Early on an event occurred that should have had more emotional impact than it did, but we’re just not given enough to be very invested in the characters.  I found them all likable enough, but would have liked to have had more in the way of characterization and interaction so that we really felt for these young people.  Possibly the fact that they were not overly distressed or confused by their situation lessened the impact for us as well.

Due to the fact that knowledge and ability needed was usually conveniently there, and the fact that I wasn’t too emotionally invested in the characters, the tension and suspense in risky or dangerous situations wasn’t what it could have been.

We’re not ever given any explanation on how they magically came to be in this place, with their characters and the game story suddenly real.  I was fine with that though, although some hint would have been nice.

Overall I’d give the first half of this story a solid 3, “I liked it”, and I do think the second half of the story was better.  So I’m giving this a 3 ½.  I do think this is an enjoyable read plus extra points for a book that will appeal to guys – those are often so hard to find.

I received a free, expiring, copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.