Off the Shelf

“Dream Park”

By Marcus Pan

Dream ParkPure gamer geek here – Dream Park is actually a novel about gamers playing a game. Just in case you were tired of all the games-to-novels things (a’la Thieve’s World, Dragonlance, etc.) here’s a book about playing a game. Munchkin mania and dice rolling slobs aside, Dream Park was an enjoyable read.

The setting is a fantasy complexed called Dream Park, a futuristic Disney World for gaming fanatics. Through sounds, smells, holographic imagery and acting, Dream Park puts on Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games far beyond anything that can be accomplished thus far. Gaming has become big business – Lore Masters (veteran gamers who lead the parties) and Game Masters (glorified computer-savvy DMs) compete in live action games that last for days, played within huge gaming areas equipped with modern imaging and audio. Successful games can reap millions of dollars for many involved, being turned into cinema, film and marketing the way Disney markets their schlock today – basically everywhere.

As it is big money, however, it’s also surrounded by stiff rules. Overseen by a body of judges, Game Masters and Lore Masters as well as the gaming party itself are awarded series of points based on their imaginative play and successful questing. As you earn points as a game character, you can go on to lead parties yourself as a Lore Master (getting a bigger cut of a successful game’s take) or even a Game Master designing future games for others to play within Dream Park. All this sounds funky enough…but then throw in a bit of mystery.

It seems one of the gamers in the party has slipped away during a break, broke into the Research & Development area of Game Park and ripped of an experimental serum developed to heighten senses, bringing fantasy gaming and corporations like Dream Park who cut their teeth on creating worlds out of nothing for people to explore to a whole new level of realism. Security Chief Alex Griffin pops himself into the game as a spy, playing along with the party, in an attempt to find the stolen serum, the thief, and the murderer of a security guard found suffocated on the floor of the R&D department one fateful morning.

So we have…a fantasy game being played, a mystery being riddled and the gaming commission overseeing the whole thing with a strict hand because, after all, if the game gets fouled up who knows how much untold amounts of money would be lost by destroying the future of a successful game’s marketability. A fun read – and a nice break from the immersion into a gaming world in a typical fantasy novel. It was interesting reading a book where everyone knows it’s fantasy.

“Dream Park” by Larry Niven & Steven Barnes
Copyright © 1981 by Larry Niven & Steven Barnes
ISBN: 0441167276
An Ace Book

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