Niles River is the lead writer for video game script at Third Wave, a progressive video game company with a mission of providing games with inclusive characters. As a gay man, who writes characters that are gay, queer, people of color, and inclusive to all parts of the spectrum, he receives a lot of hate mail and threats. So when he receives a note that seems more menacing than the others, he’s ready to sweep it under the rug as more of the same. It’s only with the urging of his twin brother, Jordan, and Rosie, his best friend and the CEO of Third Wave, that he takes it more seriously and is willing to report it to the police.
Detective Tim Wyatt is Niles’ old flame from college, and Tim broke Niles’ heart. A chance meeting outside the police precinct brings them back together and Tim takes the letter into evidence just in case. But as Tim goes about investigating the two recent homicides he has on his hands, it becomes clear that the two murdered girls are somehow involved in the gaming and cosplay world.
The threats continue and more bodies are found. An attack on Jordan that was clearly meant for Niles brings the fear even closer to home. When some fanart is discovered, it’s clear what the connection is between the murders to Niles; the killer is basing the deaths on the way they feel the new game Third Wave is releasing should end. And it becomes even clearer that Niles and Rosie are on the list of possible victims. With no solid leads as to who is committing these crimes, fear and tension ratchet even higher. Now the question is whether or not they can discover who is behind it before everyone, including Niles, ends up dead.
I’m going to be completely honest here and say that I snatched this one up because gaming was at the center of the tale, and I wanted to see how Gormley dealt with it. There aren’t enough stories portraying geeks in a positive light. This story was more murder mystery than romance, but it was written incredibly well, and I didn’t have an inkling as to who was behind it until just before the characters did.
A big part of this book is highlighting the misogynistic world of video games in general. It’s definitely something we all should be aware of, and it’s also fantastic to think of a gaming company that would be stretching its role and being all inclusive with the types of characters within games. And as much as I appreciated this aspect, towards the end of the novel, it got just a bit tedious. The same information was presented yet again, and by that point, I felt it was unnecessary. It had been clearly drummed into my head just how cis-male, heterosexual the gaming world is, and honestly, I got tired of hearing it yet again. That being said, some serious atrocities are being played out in the gaming world, and the author adds a note at the end to point out just how much women in this field have to deal with, and the obscenities they are forced to put up with. It’s definitely not something that should be ignored, nor swept under the rug, but I do wish that by the end of the book we hadn’t heard it quite so many times.
What I really thought was fantastic throughout this whole book were the characters. Gormley did an amazing job of giving us well-developed, individual, and engaging characters. From the very beginning, they held my interest, and I was wholly invested in the outcome of the story. Niles, in particular, wormed his way into my heart from the get-go. I loved that he chooses to see the good in people, to be trusting, and I liked that we got to see the toll that takes on him. He’s not naïve or stupid, but he makes a conscious choice to give people the benefit of the doubt. But he has also dealt with some tough things, and he’s not so willing to trust Tim, who hurt him so badly before. I love the dichotomy of Niles, and I was very glad to be able to see him so clearly.
Interwoven with the characters and the message, is a plot of murder that kept me guessing. Nothing about it, taken as a whole, is entirely original. But what was amazing was the way it was written. Each clue and fact was doled out at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way without ever feeling extraneous or shoved in. This part of the story was organic and real, as if, perhaps, it was a real investigation. I was entranced as the story progressed, fitting each new piece in with the ones that had come before, and putting together the clues to try and guess who was behind it. And it was only when we got those last pieces that it all made sense. I loved not being able to see who done it until nearly the end, and I was gratified by the way this was written.
Guys, if you’re looking for an incredibly well written mystery with a host of engaging characters, then Player vs. Player is definitely for you.