The God Game by Danny Tobey
You are invited!
COme inside and play with G.O.D.
Bring your friends!
But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!
With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
When Stevie mentioned this “GOD” game book I was hooked. (This was a review copy, provided by the publisher for free in the hopes I would like it and join the tour, which I did) I was brought up in a religious environment and it has taken some time to work through that, and I did some work with AI(Artificial Intelligence), neural networks, machine learning and cybersecurity. This book felt like a very interesting one for me.
The God Game is a wonderful display of what an AI that has been fed all data about religion and has to then make a choice about humanity and religion and the common denominator in it. The conclusion as to what the motivations of the AI behind the God game, left thinking “oh wow, that is a very interesting question” and it made sense. It fit the way AI process data and come to questions and conclusions, and it also fit the panorama of religion.
I am aware Tobey is heavily involved in AI, so not a surprise here, however, what was interesting was also seeing each character be fleshed out as their own. They all have their own motivations to be part of the game, and to keep winning, but it is also their compasses and own morals that define how far they’re willing to go, and what parts of it they will question or go against.
Some of the concepts where very far fetched but it was still interesting to see this “futuristic” approach to AI mixed with some of the data that is already available but is too big data that processing is usually quite costly compared with the return it provides in useful information for those processing it (in this case, since it is an AI and fiction, there doesn’t seem to be that type of limitation).
Another thing explored here that was interesting was the way games and being “online” and outside of “real life” can warp you and give you an odd sense of being in control or of things being harmless and no consequences coming from it. “It is just a simple joke, a simple dare, no one was hurt”, that type of thing.
As interesting and well developed as the GOD game is, I wouldn’t want to play it. And I had the issue that every adult and “responsible” person that has more than a sentence or so of action in this book is a terrible person. They have horrid secrets, have failed the teenagers and are just a combination of selfish and bad, even if some are trying to make it better or hide it or whatever. That was my least favourite part. I know it works for what the story is trying to say, but it made it not as good as it could’ve been, because all the “NPC (non playable characters)” where more or less made to fit exactly the plot and make it make less bad of what the main cast was doing, and I just wish there had been more contrast, more to work on.
One last thing, this book explores how far someone can go towards “bad”, so there is an incredibly long list of trigger warnings that I honestly couldn’t comprehensibly list. To me, due to the context of the game they were less of a shock, but I expected that and worse given the premise, however, if you are coming to this book without expecting the worst, it is going to slap you in the face badly. Take care when reading this.