LitRPG is created right in front of our eyes, and it is Russia that is one of the pioneers of subgenre. However, it goes back to the East – but more on that below … The West, which, as a rule, almost always stands at the forefront of all changes related to science fiction, this time noticeably lagging behind, being content with traditional books-games and novels.
In the meantime, the Anglo-Americans are sleeping in a hat, on the bookstores of domestic stores more often come across small volumes of specialized series of publishing houses “Alpha Kniga” and “Eksmo”, which were the first to seize the fortune by the lush tail. Certainly similar projects of other publishers are not far off. After all, if there is a demand (and there is a demand for it), then there will be an offer. The laws of the market …
Millions of people are immersed in the game worlds every day. Especially popular in recent times are online games, especially the MMORPG. Naturally, gamers crave communication, which is what they do in specialized forums and in chat rooms. It is the network flood of gamers, dedicated to their all-consuming hobby – detailed flood, with logs of fights, description of equipment, methods of pumping characters and other gaming moments, and became the cornerstone of RPG.
Other gamers write fan fiction based on their favorite games; It is not surprising that someone thought of inserting fragments of game mechanics into the artistic text. Who exactly did this first can hardly be established – the network is big … Although, most likely, it happened somewhere in Japan or South Korea – in countries where the gaming industry has reached an unprecedented scale and directly affects society.
But you can accurately determine who reformatted network fanfic in a kind of literature. The main engine of the new sub-genre was the South Korean Nam Hiisang, the author of the series of ranobe – small illustrated novels – The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor (“The Legendary Moon Sculptor”). The cycle has been launched since 2007; last year the fortieth volume appeared.
In the center of the story is a Korean young man, Hyun Lee, who really needs money, because he has a lot of family debts and obligations. The hero begins to play in the MMORPG “Royal Road”, which involves millions of people. Various inventory and artifacts from the super-popular game cost real and considerable money, because its favorites are provided with a good income. True, the competition in the game is terrible, and to succeed and earn more, Hyun Lee has to spend the lion’s share of time to upgrade his character named Weed. Well, and on the extraction of necessary items – while Hyun Lee demonstrates greed and pettiness on the verge of clinical pathology. By the way, these features of the protagonist – extremely unsympathetic in real life and unpopular in ordinary fiction – with the filing of us Hiisang became almost the signature chip of most of the heroes of litRPG.
In Korea, Nam Hiisang has long become a cult figure, his cycle sold millions of copies, but outside the country he is known mainly among MMORPG fans. The two initial volumes of The Legendary Lunar Sculptor were released in the United States by Midoraka Entertainment, but it soon went bankrupt. Since then, only fans have translated the series into English, posting their works online. There are also amateur translations of the cycle into Russian – nine volumes are already available on the Web.
The Legendary Moon Sculptor in Korea was even published with illustrated gift omnibuses.
Another cycle of the litRPG, Sword Art Online (“Sword Artists Online”) by Japanese Japanese Reki Kawahara received much greater international fame, largely due to the huge success of the same-name anime film version. In terms of content, this series, published since 2009, can be considered a classic LiteRPG: Thousands of people find themselves captives of the world’s first massively multiplayer online game with a full immersion of The Sword Online Master. Moreover, because of the caprice of the insane demiurge of the game who set up this trap, gamers can truly die in the event of the death of their character. The main characters of the cycle strongly pump over their abilities, replenish their inventory, carry out auxiliary quests … But their main goal is not money and not entertainment – they are trying with all their might to complete the game until the end, because it is possible to free her captives and return to the real world.
True, the Kawahara series can only be considered a branch of the literary RPG. There are missing some important subgenre elements like game logs. A more “pure” version of the litRPG can be called another runobe with a very similar content – the Log Horizon Tono Mamare cycle (“Login Horizon”). The plot is about the same – tens of thousands of gamers from around the world are becoming prisoners of the Elder Tale game, but the author gives a much more detailed description of game mechanics than Kawahara.
Sword Art Online has an anime series and, of course, games.
First, a small digression. Many Russian authors and admirers of the lRPG for some reason rank this subgenre as a cyberpunk – for no reason at all. Our magazine has repeatedly written about cyberpunk (the last time – in number 3 for 2012), so we will not repeat. We only note that cyberpunk has clear “birthmarks” – first of all, these are asocial heroes, an anti-utopian soulless world and, most importantly, non-conformist ideas. If there are no such signs, what kind of cyberpunk is this? Even if the action is tightly tied to information technology and virtual reality – there is in fact still a cyber-fiction, entertaining light version, in which there is a lot of “cyber”, but no “punk” at all. Here in the mainstream of cyber fiction, the Lite RPG fits almost perfectly.
So, we have a book, the hero of which falls into the world of virtual gaming reality, and clearly realizing this from the very beginning – no “Matrix”. Our hero and his comrades are gamers, the book is completely or mostly devoted specifically to the game (as a rule, MMORPG), its passage, additional quests and other manifestations of game mechanics. The text is replete with gaming slang, detailed descriptions of the game interface, the characteristics of game objects, characters, locations. In addition, a lot of the text is occupied by game logs, which displays all the information about the actions of the gamer. It looks like this:
YOU GET A SUBJECT! Type: equipment Title: Soul of the Silver Wolf Description: right brace, part of the legendary armor of the Silver Hammer Makeup Item class: Legendary! Durability: impossible to destroy! Extras: Stealing is impossible! Attention! Item from the legendary set set! Number of items in the set: 14 Minimum level restrictions: none Additionally: the effects given by the object increase in proportion to the character’s level Current effects: +2 strength +2 endurance +2 defense Ability / ability: awakening the soul of the Silver Wolf
Ruslan Mikhailov, the novel “The rule of the clan of the Sleepless”
And similar information blocks – on almost every page … How interesting is it? Considering that the litRPG originated in the gaming environment, the main part of its target audience is people who are immersed in the world of computer games. Regular fans of fiction rarely pay attention to this subgenre. In addition, most of these books are written, to put it mildly, at a very low artistic level. In any case, for the time being – after all, initially domestic litRPGs were published by enthusiasts in the network samizdat and only very recently attracted the attention of Russian publishers.
However, given the fact that MMORPG fans in our country are still in abundance, and their number is steadily growing, the potential target audience of such literature is quite impressive. No wonder the specialized series of “Alpha” and “Eksmo” in circulation already approaching quite well-promoted inter-author projects. If this goes on like this, in the next couple of years the litRPG series will be able to challenge such mastodons of project fiction as
For the first time, the lRG “Maid In Rush” appeared on Samizdat in 2012 – clearly influenced by amateur translations of Nam Hiisang’s first books. Ruslan “Dema” Mikhailov with the novel “The Reign of the Sleepless Clan” can be considered a pioneer. At first glance, his hero Rostislav is very similar to the protagonist of the “Legendary Lunar Sculptor” – a good player, but a goal like a falcon, rather greedy and thrifty.
True, then serious differences begin, primarily due to the difference in mentalities – both the authors and their audience. If the Korean Hyun Lee initially relies on inhuman perseverance and hard work, then the Russian Rosistavu freebie rushes. Probably, if the hero of the “Dominion of the Clan of the Sleepless”, hitting the game world of Valdir, had to pump the most elementary skills of his character for hours, it would fundamentally contradict the Russian national idea “Happiness is a lot of money, and let no one leave it offended” …
Be that as it may, the book gained popularity on the Web, and in November 2012 it was released by the Leningrad publishing house under the slightly modified title Dominion of the Clans and in the series Modern Fantastic Action. In the same place, sequels came out later – the novels The Fate of the Clan and The Rage of the Gods. On the special series liteRPG at that time no one else thought …
LitRPG is a special subgenre, and it has its fans and admirers. Until then, the LitRPGs will not leave the literary “scene” and will develop.