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Independency: PWNED - A Novel Idea

Column By Lisa Jonte on July 17, 2013

This week’s article isn’t strictly about Indie MMOs. It is however, about an Indie book project that takes place within an MMO, and, after careful consultation with Me, Myself and I, we all agreed that that totally counts.

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First, a little background information. Once upon a time where was a lovely group of people known as The Dead Gentlemen, and eventually another group of pretty much the same people known as Zombie Orpheus, (two companies with the might of one!) It was their wish to create fine, gamer-friendly entertainment, and that’s exactly what they did. First, with the low-budget cinematic epic, The Gamers, then with the slightly higher budget (yet equally epic) movie,  The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. Surveying their work and calling it good, the Dead Gentlemen went on to create the most excellent web series, Journey Quest. As it happens, these same fine people are also in the middle of producing a third Gamers movie, Hands of Fate.* That’s where all this novel talk began. That is to say, I donated to the Kickstarter campaign for HoF. From there, I heard about PWNED.  

PWNED, it seems, was originally a Gamers screenplay that was optioned, but never actually made into, a movie. Once the rights reverted back to its creator, he, having no wish to see all that hard (and funny) work go down the proverbial drain, decided to repurpose the whole thing as a novel.

This is where I (and by extension, you) come in.

Set in both the real world and the fictional world of Fartherall Online, PWNED is the story of a non-gamer who severely messed up his relationship with his MMO-playing girlfriend, and is now trying desperately to find said girlfriend in the MMO she plays, and win her back. The problem is that he doesn’t actually know her character’s name, or, for that matter, her race, class, level or server.

The sample chapter offered on the Kickstater page is an absolute riot. While there’s a certain amount of creative license within the fictional game world (communication is a lot smoother than it would be in a real world MMO, and PVP is a whole lot looser) it’s clear that Matt Vancil knows his MMOs. The hilariously spot-on character naming sequence told me that this is a guy has not only been there, but has at some point probably set up housekeeping.

Admittedly, PWNED isn’t the first novel to feature an MMO as a major part of its narrative framework. There’s Mogworld, by Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame for example, and this site’s very own Genese Davis, has authored the rather popular, The Holder’s Dominion; both books feature fantasy MMO backdrops. Heck, it isn’t even the first game-centric novel to be titled Pwned.

What PWNED is, (along with the other books mentioned) is proof that MMOs might just be moving from the fringes to the mainstream of not only pop culture, but collective consciousness. This identity shift could potentially go beyond the proliferation of lightweight, fantasy-themed browser games, or the luring of casual gamers into the larger MMO realm through crack dealer-esque free-to-play policies. It means that about ten years (probably less) MMOs might likely become as common a pop culture trope as utopian-future sci-fi shows and dystopian future YA novels.

Think about that. Within the span of a single, short lifetime, MMOs will have gone from not existing, to being de rigueur. And I’m not talking about lame-ass propagandized Movies of the Week, like Mazes & Monsters, but serious mainstream entertainment. For example:

  • Can you imagine a spate of Summer blockbusters wherein not one, but ALL the plots take place in or around MMOs?
  • Perhaps a TV sitcom with a couple who are both gamers, frequently arguing over group missions, or the division of loot, or even dealing with the jealousy of one of them getting tired of their current game and moving on to another.
  • How about a Showtime series based on competing guilds?
  • If that’s not a mind-blower, think on this: one day, you might come home to find your Nanna reading a romance novel set within an MMO.


Their passions knew no bounds, but Bella497 wondered, was it truly she whom Noob_Scragger loved? Or was his unbridled lust really for her level 80 raid gear?**

Yeah. I’m just going to leave that there for you to ponder.

What do you all think? Will the world of MMOs and MMO players eventually be co-opted into the larger social and pop culture? If that happens, will it be a good thing, or will it sound the death knell for MMOs as we know them? Or could mainstream assimilation of the whole MMO milieu actually change things for the better, by making funding more common from what are now uncommon sources? Let me know in the comments!

In any case, and whatever the future holds for MMOs and their place in the world, Matt Vancil’s PWNED is due for debut in early 2014. I, for one, am looking forward to reading it.

*Yes, I know TDG has made a whole lot more than I listed here, but I like what I like. Sue me.

**Original romance art painted by Alan Ayers for the cover of Captive of My Desires by Johanna Lindsey, and shamelessly (fair use!) modified by me.


Read more of Lisa's Independency columns:

Lisa Jonte / Mother, writer, artist, editor. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the fem-centric GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.) A gamer since way back, (no, seriously, waaaay back) her collection of gaming paraphernalia is older than most game store clerks.

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