What if video games didn't exist... and we all read books instead

Does it have any pictures?

Imagine, if you will, a terrible alternative reality where video games don't exist. How did that happen? Er... maybe people continued to believe that video games might break their television sets. Who knows. Point is, if parallel dimensions do exist, one of them looks like this.

So we've come up with the following slides to illustrate exactly how the world of books would look if it had evolved the same way that video games have. Turn the page (we mean click to the next slide) and we'll get started...

Old books must be finished in one sitting

The first books didn't come with bookmarks or page numbers, so the reader was forced to start the entire book again from the beginning whenever they picked it up. Obviously this was fine for short stories like Pac-Man (enlarge the image above to read an excerpt), but began to grate when longer adventure books started being released.

Page numbers were introduced first, before bookmarks were finally included with the sale of each new book. Some books came with more than one bookmark, allowing the reader to have several read-throughs on the go at the same time, or share their books with their friends. However, such luxuries wouldn't last for long...

Piracy is combatted in ever more clever ways

Early books were either just lent, sold or copied in photocopiers. But, naturally, book companies wanted to stop that happening because it meant they only saw money from the first sale.

Without ever finding a happy compromise, the situation veers from suiting the pirates back to throttling legitimate readers until finally Microword announces a new book format 'Xbook One' that requires the reader to physically post their copy of the book back to the publisher every day so they can just check it's a real one. Wailing, gnashing of teeth... you can probably guess the rest.

'Play, Create, Share' is just blank notepads

Media Molecule manage to make the idea of notepads fun again to much critical acclaim, although cynics say that the paper is too floaty, although they accept it can be fun when four people are drawing on it all at the same time.

EA's SimCity series even adds in some coloured elements to the paper, allowing you to plan your city around blue bits (water) and green bits (land), although it comes with pencils that don't work, and sometimes people open their SimCity book to discover everything they drew the day before has since vanished for no obvious reason.

Books based on movies are almost universally awful

Licensed books are almost all awful, save for some standout titles like GoldenEye. After this watershed moment for the book industry, the Bond license subsequently becomes something of a poisoned chalice, with otherwise excellent authors given the license by their publishers, only to find themselves out of a publishing deal mere months later.

Bizarrely, many movie-licensed books feature very strange descriptions of the lead characters. For example, the character of Dylan Sanders in the Charlie's Angels book adaptation is described as having 'a face that looked like a melted plastic doll, framed with hair of pure puke-sick' which made it difficult for readers to enjoy the rest of the book's banal 'action'.

LAN parties are book clubs

Books have terrific multiplayer modes. Everyone starts at the same time, and then the first one to the end of each chapter is the winner. Griefers are those who pull out other players' bookmarks while they're taking a break, or the ones who call out important plot points as they find them. Fortunately, such miscreants can be booted from the lobby. Literally.

Asynchronous multiplayer is a traditional bookclub, where everyone reads a book in their own time (Psychonauts is a favourite starting point), then meet up to discuss how they found it. Riveting!

Readers petition authors for different endings

Not since Sherlock Holmes met his untimely demise at the hands of Moriarty has the book-loving world seen such an uproar. Even in a 'choose your own adventure' title like Mass Effect 3, there was not one single final page that was deemed good enough by the community. So they lobbied for better. And they got it.

Before the inevitable 'Book of the Year Edition' bound all the endings under one cover, extra pages were released by BioWare, adding new options to the final chapter's path choices. It still wasn't quite what everyone wanted, but it was such a lot of hassle, the petitions eventually fizzled out. Mostly because everyone agreed that Mass Effect 2 was a better read anyway.

'Unlock All' DLC sends you the synopsis

Unsurprisingly, 'unlock all' packs for book versions of video games cause just as much outcry as gaming versions do in our world. Some argue that the content is the sole reason you bought the book and that if you're just going to immediately unlock everything it has to offer, you're missing out on a major part of the experience.

Others say it's a good idea and that they don't have time to read through every book they buy, so they're happy to pay that little bit more and get to the best content as quickly as possible. However, the content isn't always worth the combined price. For instance, the 'Unlock All' DLC for the hardback (snigger) version of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 simply says: 'To confirm: You never see any nipples'.

TV news reporters haven't read any books

Especially not the ones they're making sensationalist headlines about. They bring on panels of experts to discuss the effect that books are having on young and impressionable minds, even going so far as to suggest there may be a link between reading books and killing people. After all, Hitler even wrote a book and look what happened there.

All stock images of books are totally out of date, either showing the Mario paperback series, the Penguin Classic 'Space Invaders' or the Dead Sea Scrolls.

'Mobile' books gain massive popularity

Mobile books start to take off around 1998. Of course, they're novelties at first and the resolution of the printed words isn't very high. One of the first mobile books to really gain traction with the mass market is a simple story about a snake who eats things. Despite its simplicity and repetitive plot, people read it over and over.

As page resolution at these small sizes increases, mobile reading gains popularity until mobile books are essentially just smaller versions of big books, at which point everyone kinda wishes they were still as simple and fun as Snake. Sequels and spin-offs of Snake are written, but none seem able to recapture the magic of the original.

Nintendo releases a dual book book

Nintendo, ever looking to push the technological envelope in directions nobody expected, shocks the book community by unveiling its new twin-book book. The revolutionary new design allows readers to read four pages at once.

The lower of the two books features pages that can be drawn on. The follow-up features pop-up books for the higher of the two tomes. But then people say that might hurt children's eyes (presumably by popping out too violently), so eventually they bring out one big book, the pages of which can be drawn on but doesn't feature any pop-up mechanisms. People start pointing out how it's looking more and more like a regular book. Nintendo leaves the publishing business shortly afterwards.

Cheat sites are... weird

The most popular and awesome site on the internet is BookRadar.com, which offers amazing features about what would happen if books had waned in popularity and something weird like video games had taken off instead.

Cheats and walkthroughs are mostly just shortcut guides directing readers to the pages with the juiciest bits on them. The sweariest swear-words, the hottest rude bits... and, of course, the best references to other books. People who are not hardcore book readers are amazed at why anyone actually bothers to make this sort of thing.

Read any good games recently?

Books are great, but we like games more. Otherwise we'd be called 'BookRadar.com'. Don't click that, by the way, it isn't an actual site. Although we did stumble upon a HorseRadar.com recently. Not that we go searching for horses very often...

And if you're looking for more, check out If video game hardware was dug up in a thousand years and Video game characters' school report cards.

Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine, Traxion.gg, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.