“An alternate reality game, also known as an altered reality game (ARG), is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”
When Dagmar is stuck in a foreign country after a connecting flight is cancelled her problems are only just beginning. With the country’s currency collapsing and coming under military lockdown, the situation deteriorates very quickly and she fears for her safety. Her boss and friend, Charlie, is a multi-millionaire and uses his money to hire specialists to help get her out. But as the Puppetmaster of Great Big Idea, a company that focuses on ARGs, she uses the wide fan base to assist her wherever they can – and comes up with some positive results.
Back in the real world and inspired by her recent experience, Dagmar starts up the next ARG from Great Big Idea. But things start to go bad when an old friend and fellow employee is murdered. Now realising the power she has in the real world through the players of her ARGs, Dagmar starts to insert real events into the latest adventure in the hope that they can help solve this real world crime. But as events unravel she discovers just how bad things could get – can her and the Alternate Reality Gamers solve the clues and get to the bottom of things before it is too late?
The first thing that struck me about This Is Not A Game is how easily I slipped into the characters we follow. Dagmar is the main focus of the novel and we discover things with her and live through her experiences, it’s very pleasing to follow someone that is likable, and enjoyably so. With her experience as the puppetmaster of Great Big Idea she has many tools at her fingertips that we learn very quickly can make a huge difference to her predicament. Of course, this also serves to bring us up to speed with the jargon and nature of ARG’s and the basis of the novel.
This is the main plot point in the novel and if you don’t understand the mechanics of how things work it could mean that the story drags. I don’t think this is a major issue though as essentially this is a techno thriller with some good characters and a well developed and thought through plot. Above all else, that is what matters, but Williams does such a good job at immersing you in the story and layering the plot just right that the pages soon fly by.
I don’t really have any issues with This Is Not A Game either, everything to make a good, enjoyable novel is present. If I had to be picky I would simply say that once certain revelations happen it is fairly easy to see the outcome, not that this detracts from the entertaining storytelling in any way. All in all a highly recommended techno-thriller that will make the time you spend reading it fly by!