Mogworld is the debut novel by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, a well-known internet game reviewer whose piece Zero Punctuation can be found at The Escapist. Mogworld is a witty, irreverent farce, taking its shots at the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game genre and trying throughout to maintain Yahtzee’s trademark style.
Sights clearly fixed
While you can easily argue that the entire MMO genre is being lampooned in Mogworld, as someone who has played many of these games over the years, the degree to which the primary target is World of Warcraft (WoW) comes through in spades. It makes sense, as WoW is the largest and most populous game in the genre, but it also feels a little bit like picking the easiest target. While the familiarity increases the appeal of the novel to both fantasy and MMO fans, there has already been a lot of lampooning of WoW and the players thereof, so one can’t help but feel, “Oh… This again.”
That said, while Yahtzee may be aiming at a fairly large target, he fires the barbs with a great deal of accuracy and wit. I laughed a few times in spite of myself at the way Yahtzee explained various MMO elements within the bonds of a narrative world. The comparisons he made were clear and generally explained in ways that most similar satires don’t consider.
And they called him… Jim
I tend to want to focus more on the overall development of “The Characters” when reviewing, but the nature of this story leans towards spending some time just on the protagonist… er… hero… er… jerk of the story, an undead mage by the name of Jim. Jim isn’t really sure what he is. He may have enemies, he may do heroic things, but all he really wants to do is die. He definitely represents Yahtzee himself; they have the same biting wit, the same chip on the shoulder, and the same willingness to take the piss on virtually any subject, though Jim’s fashion sense leaves a little to be desired (where was the sweet hat!?). As a result, fans of Yahtzee’s reviews are going to find Jim both familiar and endearing.
In a less satirical novel, Jim would have become the unwilling hero, thrust into events beyond his control. Jim’s magical powers are passable at best, and his adventuring party is a cavalcade of silly adventuring stereotypes. He would have slowly learned to harness his powers, bonded with his friends, and eventually overcome his shortcomings to become a true hero. Instead Jim is cynical, sarcastic, tries repeatedly to escape his ‘friends,’ and really only acts heroic out of pure and unadulterated spite. Truly a hero for the modern ages.
The problem with satire
The inevitable problem with satire is that after a while, the point has been thoroughly made. When the plot of the novel is to mock something, you really only need one or two hundred pages before the subject is well and truly mocked. After that it seems to drag, and Mogworld is no exception. I’ve often found that comedy, especially when it comes to satire and barbed comedy, especially suffers from this problem when the writer or actor decides to try doing something longer.
The plot of Mogworld is a ten-minute Zero Punctuation review that goes on for an hour and a half. Sure, each of the jokes throughout is still funny, still clever, and maybe even still makes you chuckle, but a certain malaise sets in that is hard to get around. Add in a few jarring fourth-wall breakings (or fifth-wall? The entire story pretty much breaks the fourth wall by being about World of Warcraft), and you’re left with a somewhat disjointed series of jokes.
Why should you read this book?
Anybody who enjoys Yahtzee’s game reviews is going to enjoy this book. It’s basically 400 pages of Yahtzee game review. While this is one of the things that makes people want to go out and buy it in the first place, it ends up being one of those “cause of and solution to” sorts of things. The same kind of humor you already like is going to make Mogworld appealing, but the way it goes on past the tipping point pushes the book down the rankings on my ‘To read again’ list.
If you like Yahtzee, read this book. If you like MMOs, read this book. If you like both, I’m going to assume you’ve already read the book, and I’m very curious to hear what you thought about it!