“Maybe it was the willingness to play that kept one from despair.”
What is play, or gaming, but “the possibility of a different world”?
“The possibility that you might walk through the door and reinvent yourself as something better than you had been before.”
An epic of a read, lushly-layered with historically-accurate details, of a time and a place and a culture and a mindset, so quintessentially capturing the 90’s when our story begins, that this reader (not a gamer) felt the unmistakable tug and draw of nostalgia.
Based on the intricately-intertwining developing history of two friends, Sadie Green and Samson Mazer – eleven years old at the onset of this tale, each dealing with their own experience of trauma, pain and fear – who connect and form a life-long bond, over the shared experience of immersive computer-gaming.
Sadie and Sam, divergent in backgrounds, yet each a high-school branded “smart-kid”, grow up at a time when a world of possibilities cannot help but present itself.
As Sadie and Sam enter college (Sadie – MIT, and Sam – Harvard) , their relationship develops beyond friendship and love, into something perhaps deeper, – a sort of energy which coalesces their shared gaming vision and talents into a tightly-collaborative and highly-synergistic professional creative team.
“I want to make something that will make people happy. Something kids like us would have wanted to play to forget their troubles for a while.“
As Sadie, a brilliant and successful IT-technician (ahead of her time and her gender), falls into an unhealthy and destructive love affair, she also falls victim to a persistent struggle (both culturally and more devastatingly, internally), surrounding her work, as the author explores themes including female marginalization, imposter syndrome, and the fragmentation of identity (still prolific, yet so much more centrally a fingerprint of past decades).
“Going to MIT in a female body was an isolating experience.”
Sam, on the other hand ( a character this reader found particularly poignant), isolated, physically disabled, in constant pain, yet seeking a new and brighter future, has struggles of his own. Locked into the rigid emotional constraints in place for those of his gender, unable to express his hurt or his feelings (including, tragically, those for Sadie), his professional freedom his only outlet – Sam, for one, is prepared to take advantage of the only tools at hand.
“It was as if all these years Sam had been waiting for an audience.”
A fascinating and unputdownable story, rich with psychological insight and heart-rending in its insights of an industry and its champions, – I loved this tale, these characters, their journeys, (apart and together) and the opportunity to visit a world as immersive, artful and experiential as the computer games that resulted.
A great big thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.