Friday, 1 October 2010

‘Mogworld’ – Yahtzee Croshaw (Dark Horse Books)

Regular readers of the blog will know by now that computer games and I don’t get on all that well. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing I love more than settling down with a couple of beers to play something on the PS2; the problem lies in those games that allow you to do whatever the hell you want whilst playing (which is pretty much everything apart from Tetris these days). I get bored with these really quickly and games like ‘Halo’ soon become exercises in how to kill the main character in increasingly amusing ways (I actually managed to stab myself with my own lightsaber one time...).
This is the reason why I have never played ‘World of Warcraft’. Not only would I get bored of it really quickly but, in doing so, I would annoy literally millions of people around the world with my ensuing antics! Reading a novel that’s based around ‘World of Warcraft’ (and pokes fun at it at the same time)? That’s a different deal. Having read ‘Mogworld’, I can quite confidently say that I never felt the urge to kill off the hero in a number of amusing ways. Our man was happy to do that all by himself.

If Jim was alive then you could say that he isn’t having a good life at the moment. Not only has he been wrenched back to an earthly existence by a renegade necromancer but the doors to the heavenly plane remain firmly shut, no matter what he does. Not that Jim doesn’t have enough on his plate in the meantime. No matter what he does, Jim always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time in a world that is slowly collapsing under the weight of its own adventurers guild and strange rules on population control. The man who cannot die (no matter how much he wants to) has somehow found himself in a position where he must save his world from destruction!
Somewhere else entirely, Jim’s exploits are about to bring him into contact with a group of people working to a deadline of their own...

Have you ever played a game like ‘World of Warcraft’ and found yourself wondering what the computer controlled characters must be thinking about your interactions with them? In the real world, how would the rules on questing etc really play out? Yahtzee Croshaw has obviously had this playing on his mind a lot as he has come up with a novel that asks these very questions and answers them in such a way that didn’t have me laughing out loud but did have me cracking a wry smile at some of the things going on. ‘Mogworld’ could very well have been written for people like me who like to push computer games in exactly the opposite direction, just to see what happens. In my wildest dreams, I have never been able to bring down the economy of an entire continent! Not only does Jim inadvertently do this but, in doing so, Croshaw shows us that the rules most of us will quite happily accept in a computer game don’t hold up to closer inspection. To be fair, they’re not really meant to (it’s just a computer game after all) but the way in which Croshaw pokes holes in these rules is such that I enjoyed peering through these holes almost as much as Croshaw enjoyed making them!

I say ‘almost’... While Croshaw pitches his work at as balanced an audience as possible I couldn’t escape from the feeling (whilst reading) that I would have got a lot more out of it if I played games like ‘Warcraft’ or at least had more than a passing acquaintance with them. As it was I couldn’t escape the feeling that while I was chuckling at the more obvious commentary there were lots of other jokes that were flying under the radar that I was missing completely. While it’s not the book’s fault that I didn’t quite fall in the target audience this is still worth bearing in mind if you’re planning on picking the book up yourself. The bottom line is that the more you’re into gaming the more you’ll get out of ‘Mogworld’.

That’s not to say that the story isn’t a lot of fun for the likes of people like it me because it very much was. You can tell that Croshaw is enjoying himself telling his story and that enthusiasm is infectious to say the least. The nature of the plot means that lots of the jokes are ongoing and will crop up again and again over the course of the book. This did lend a predictable air to proceedings but I found that this was balanced out fairly well by Jim’s constant struggle to understand the world and the constant stream of sarcasm that he directs towards his travelling companions. There are plenty of other things happening as well that propel the plot forward at an energetic pace. Croshaw certainly proves to be adept at writing pulsating scenes of action that, when coupled with engaging characters, made me want to keep reading so I could find out what happened next.

While the blurb on the back of the book gives the ‘big twist in the plot’ away I’m trying not to do the same thing here. What I will say is that while the twist is not presented as a surprise to the reader, Jim’s eventual realisation (and surprise) is conveyed extremely well and this makes for some touching moments right at the end which add a depth to Jim’s character that he hadn’t been aware of previously.

Perhaps I’m not quite the person that ‘Mogworld’ was meant for but that didn’t stop me having a great time with it. I’m certainly hoping that this isn’t the last I hear of Yaghtzee Croshaw and I’ll be checking out anything else that he writes in the future. Here’s a guy who guarantees a grin with his writing.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

MatsVS said...

I presume you are familiar with his review work? (If not, just google Zero Punctuation) That is mildly entertaining, too, though he has been treading familiar ground of a while now.

Still, he is decent out pointing out certain absurdities in games, and though his fans are morons for the most part, he is still worth a chuckle every now and then.