5. The Battle School (from the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card)
The Ender's Game movie is still about a year away, so until Ender Wiggin gets portrayed on the big screen by the one child actor with a goofier real name (Asa Butterfield), we can only imagine the awesomeness of playing videogames that train you to defend Earth. The book's human students get to fight it out in the Battle Room, play an adaptive fantasy game that's built into their desks, and study nothing but math, military history, and how to zap Formic scum. Ya know, because school should judge kids based on their skill with videogames, the only games that actually matter. Hear that, Mr. Nielsen who gave me a C- in 7th grade PE? I CAN TAKE YOU ANY DAY IN HEROES OF MIGHT AND MAGIC III: THE RESTORATION OF ERATHIA, YOU COWARD.
4-3. Hacker Snack, and also a futuristic game you play against the dead (from Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card)
Lost Boys has to be one of the first novels to not just invent a game, but invent a game that's awesomely retro. Main character Step Fletcher designs Hacker Snack, a puzzle game similar to Chip's Challenge and the top-selling Atari title of Fictional 1981 (narrowly beating out Reagan's Revenge, a sidescroller I made up and desperately want to play). But Hacker Snack is obsolete when the book starts (damn you, Commodore 64!), whereas Step's oldest son Stevie is playing a game with AMAZING graphics. It's a game only Stevie can find on the computer. It's also a game he plays against a group of kids the local paper reported as missing or dead, who only Stevie can still talk to. Things get entertainingly Sixth Sense-y from there, but that never detracts from how fun the creepy supernatural future game AND the addictive Atari puzzler sound to play.
2. OASIS, a world-conquering MMO and once-in-a-generation treasure hunt (from Ready Player One by Ernest Cline)
Imagine a world where Steve Jobs' magnum opus was a online society forever replacing human interaction, instead of a smartphone forever replacing human interaction. Well if that game existed it would be a lot like OASIS, from Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. Main character Wade Watts has the objectively crappy life of an orphan who lives in a storage unit slum in dystopian future Oklahoma (although hey, he's got suuuuuuper cheap rent). Wade escapes his depressing existence through OASIS, which he uses for a free comprehensive education, endless access to arcade classics of the 1980s, and an ongoing hunt for James Halliday (Fictional Steve Jobs)'s inheritance. He hid his fortune in OASIS's design, and its literal videogame keys can only be found through a mix of dominating at arcade gaming (great!) and knowing '80s pop culture front to back (tubular!). That makes OASIS a lot like World of Warcraft, if it contained life-changing riches just waiting for the world's biggest fan of Family Ties and Oingo Boingo.
1. The ideas of Peter Molydeux (@petermolydeux)
Legendary designer Peter Molyneux invented "God gaming" with Populous and made God gaming literal with Black & White, along with tons of other amazing achievements. But he also oversaw the Fable series' general decline and came up with that Project Milo thing for Kinect and never mind about that "god" stuff he must be an idiot. Since Molyneux's reputation is so complicated, gaming artist Adam Capone parodies it brilliantly with @petermolydeux, a Twitter account pitching increasingly great-yet-insane game premises to the Twittersphere. Examples:
You are the last Bee in a world where everyone hates you. You can't sting people but can fly into car windows and cause accidents etc petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) November 15, 2012
Had an idea for a FPS where your head is a mirror. Your only weapon is to bounce sunlight in the right directions. You also control the sun. petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) November 14, 2012
I want to make a game that a parent plays during labor. The final boss can only be truly defeated by the sound of a crying baby. petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) August 21, 2012
The @PeterMolydeux account's grown so popular that it spawned the Molyjam, 48 hour game jams where people in cities around the world gather to take those ridiculous Tweeted ideas and try to make them real programs. November's issue of Wired reports that the guest of honor at the first London Molyjam was Peter Molyneux himself, who encouraged the designers to keep reaching for bolder and crazier ideas. It turns out Molydeux LOVES the Molydeux joke, and its exuberant creativity inspired the legendary designer to make his next revolutionary game, where you slowly tap pieces off of a cube? Oh come on, Pete. What the hell is that? Make the mirror head shooter thing happen instead!