Growing up, I was an avid reader of Dragon magazine. I would read each issue cover to cover (usually in History or Social Studies classes) and I enjoyed every bit of it… even the advertisements. There is one particular advertisement that showed up quite often in the magazine, and it was for Gen Con. Being unemployed (unless you count mowing and raking lawns in the neighborhood) and without a driver’s license during the mid ’80s meant there was absolutely no way this Florida boy was going to be able to attend. Gen Con was a young gamer’s Vegas, I’m guessing… and in these pre-Internet days, my gaming group and I struggled for any bit of information we could get about each year’s event. I remember even sending off for the registration guide and reading all the descriptions of the various adventures that would be run and for which players could sign up.
My gaming days were put on hold for a while (namely college and early career), and Gen Con kept on. I’ve never been able to attend, but I have made up my mind to change that, and I’m now trying to figure out just when I can make the flight and get up there. Gen Con is legendary, and over the years I’ve heard from various folks who have attended about so many special memories of the event. My day is coming, though.
When it comes to the GeekDad writing group, there is one among us who DOES have a long history with Gen Con — Matt Forbeck. Matt’s a full-time writer, and a year ago he launched his 12 for ’12 Kickstarter campaign — twelve novels in twelve months, four trilogies. And one of those trilogies really caught my eye… a murder at Gen Con!
I don’t know if I’ve ever even heard of a major crime being committed at a gaming convention, but having read a lot of Matt’s other books, I knew I couldn’t pass up backing this one, and I’m happy to report that the first book in the Dangerous Games Trilogy has been released — Dangerous Games: How to Play.
This 200+ page book (complete with listing of KS backers in the back along with the 12 for 12′ origin story) focuses on Liam Parker’s first visit to Gen Con in Indianapolis. Parker’s just graduated from the Police Academy back in Michigan, but he harbors a secret desire to be a game designer. He’s packed up some prototypes of his Mojo Poker game to hopefully demo to a number of game publishers attending Gen Con.
Let me stop here and explain that Matt has dosed this first novel with loads of real-life gaming celebrities and companies — and I’m 100% certain he dropped in names that I very well should have recognized and probably did not. He even put himself right in the novel because the Mojo Poker game is based on a game in one of his stories, and Liam is hoping to get Matt’s blessing for actually creating it and trying to market it.
Back to the story — I mentioned a murder at Gen Con. Yep… Liam is not only a fish out of water at his first Gen Con, but during a very festive evening he stumbles upon a murder scene. A freelance game designer is found dead in an alley, and Liam is dropped right in the middle of the investigation. He’s even given a role by the Gen Con organizers to act as liaison with the Indianapolis police department. Liam just wants to play some games, visit some booths, and show off his game… but it’s his understanding of gamers and their traditions (as well as the sometimes unusual behaviors) that allow him to make more headway in his own investigation than the local homicide detective.
It’s good stuff. Fun stuff. Matt has tossed in references to games, old and new, that many of us have played. He references special events that Gen Con attendees already know about and non-attendees (like me) cannot wait to see in person. There’s a little bit of education thrown in about the game publishing world. And, of course, there’s a new game that’s being released and is under embargo… and that game features prominently in the story’s plot.
Most of the story is told from Liam’s point of view, but there are occasional jumps as minor characters are introduced who will have a direct impact on Liam’s investigation. There are more surprises about half way through the book, but I’m going to stop here and let readers find out on their own. And the best part? This is only the first book in the trilogy! The murder mystery is resolved, but there are still two more books — what in the world has Matt got planned?
I absolutely loved reading this book, and it’s given me an even stronger desire to attend Gen Con. And the one person I can count on being there? Matt Forbeck. He’s filled this book was amazing details that only someone with years of experience attending could provide. The secret routes between rooms, the odd traditions and award ceremonies, and the meet-and-greet locations where newbies can mingle with the pros… it’s all in here. The murder mystery is just a bonus…
The second book, Dangerous Games: How to Cheat, is currently being edited by Matt and is expected to be released soon. Matt tells me it’s more of a crime novel and that the third book… well, how’s this for a teaser: Die Hard meets Gen Con.
I am SOOOO glad I backed this trilogy!
For those of you who missed the Kickstarter… don’t worry. Matt tells me he’ll be selling digital versions soon from his website. Print copies won’t be available until all Kickstarter backers have received their copies, but when they are ready, you’ll be able to buy them from DriveThruFiction.com.