Title: In Real Life
Author: Lawrence Tabak
Age Group/Genre: YA – Realistic Fiction
Release Date: November 11, 2014
So I was just browsing through NetGalley one day when this cover demanded my attention. Why, you ask? Well, the thing is…I sort of have a thing for video games. A lot of people don’t know this about me. When I tell someone I plan to spend the day playing Skyrim or Uncharted or The Last of Us, they are shocked. So I was immediately intrigued by the guy on the cover holding a game controller.
I will preface my thoughts by saying that I don’t know much at all about the professional gaming scene, other than that it exists, it’s getting bigger all the time, and it usually focuses on MMORPG type games. What I do know is that it’s really rare to find books that address the role video games play in the lives of kids and young adults. I mean, I spend plenty of time playing on a weekly basis, and I’m 24. It’s a big deal in my life, so I know it’s a huge deal for teens who play. But books simply don’t focus on that aspect of life very often. So that’s the first plus for this novel, because it’s all about the gaming.
The story focuses on Seth, a 16-year-old boy who dreams of going pro. He plays an online strategy game called Starfare and is one of the top players in America. After being written up in a magazine and placing in the American Nationals Tournament, his dream comes true. He moves to Korea to join Team Anaconda, one of the best teams in the world. But as pressure to succeed mounts, he begins to question his love for the game.
I think Tabak did an admirable job of capturing the pressure that a teen feels from all sides. Pressure from parents, friends, school, jobs, the future. In this way, the book reminded me a little bit of Carrie Mesrobian’s newest release, Perfectly Good White Boy. He also captured the intensity of a great gaming session. I’m nowhere near as good at gaming as Seth is – I play strictly for fun – but when I get in the zone, time flies and I can play for hours without realizing it.
I did wonder a little bit at the plausibility of the story. Seth’s road to success seems fairly easy. He has natural talent, spends time in practice, and rises up the ranks to become one of the best. Then he goes pro. Does it really happen that way for anyone? I’m sure it does, but I almost didn’t see any obstacles to his success.
Regardless, if you are a gamer, know any gamers, or just want to understand the world of professional gaming a little better, this is a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed it!