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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 10:02 GMT
Playing games with words
Quake III screenshot, id Software
Quake: More than just a shoot-em-up
The worlds of writing and computer games seem distantly related, but for one novelist gaming has proved a real inspiration as BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward found out.
The first time novelist Christopher Brookmyre and I bumped into each other, he shot me dead with an energy weapon.

He did it the second time too. And the third.

After that I blew him to bits with a rocket launcher. But then he fragged me several times in succession.

All in all it was not your usual interview. As you may have guessed, initially it was not an interview at all. It was a game of Quake III Arena.

Blown away

Part of the reason for the deathmatch was the fact Mr Brookmyre dedicated a book to Quake creators Id Software and a Quake clan called POTZW.


"I set out consciously to try to depict not just the community and the sub-culture, but also the slang terms and language growing up around it

Christopher Brookmyre
The book bearing the dedication, memorably entitled A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away, has a plot partly inspired by his involvement with the Quake scene.

Certainly the months, if not years, he has spent playing Quake paid off in the deathmatch.

I was thrashed 15 frags to three.

Afterwards Mr Brookmyre made me feel much worse about the score by saying that it was the first online match he had played for months.

Perhaps I should stick to journalism.

Like many children he got into computer games thanks to Clive Sinclair and owned a ZX Spectrum when he was 13. An Amiga followed soon after.

Computer user, BBC
Gaming and writing can be solitary pursuits
He was a keen gamer back then but stopped playing when he bought an Apple Mac because that was what he was using at work.

Soon, however, it became obvious that he was missing something.

"I realised that there was this whole internet and other things going on and my LC2 Mac was just not up to it," he says.

He bought a PC and started playing again about the time that Quake was released. He was hooked and spent hours playing against the computer controlled Reaperbot created by Stephen Polge.

At this time he was writing fulltime and was working on a book called Not the End of the World. For the sake of getting the book finished he avoided going online.

"I was not going to connect a modem to it until I had finished writing unless it was too distracting," he says.

Big players

And so it proved. He got very heavily involved in the Quake 2 scene, joined a clan called Princes of the Zorgon World (POTZW) and spent countless happy hours fragging away online.

It helped with the literature too.

Books, BBC
Games and books soak up a lot of time
Some of the elements of his fourth book, One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, came out of his online experiences and included a couple of references to online gaming.

But A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away is much more explicitly indebted to the world of gamers, lamers, frags and campers.

"I set out consciously to try to depict not just the community and the sub-culture," says Mr Brookmyre, "but also the slang terms and language growing up around it.

"It would be a shame if they were not acknowledged in some way."

He was also interested in how someone would react if they suddenly found themselves in a situation that they had only before experienced online.

Anyone who has spent any time playing computer games will enjoy the book, if only to see how many gaming references they can spot.

The main character in the book, Raymond Ash, often finds himself wishing that problems in real life were as easy to solve as those in the game world. In the end, though, the time Ash spent playing does pay off.

But it is likely to be the last of Mr Brookmyre's novels that owes its genesis to gaming.

"I would not want to milk it," he says, "it was something that I enjoyed and wanted to explore."

See also:

23 Jul 02 | Technology
16 May 02 | Science/Nature
24 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
27 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
24 Sep 02 | Entertainment
06 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
Internet links:


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