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8-Bit Novel: Crafting a Techno-Thriller Inspired by Retro Gaming and Real-Life Mysteries

8-Bit novel

8-bit Novel: Crafting a Techno-Thriller Inspired by Retro Gaming and Real-Life Mysteries

8-bit novel is an upcoming book planned for release in Christmas 2024.

What if an 8-bit game held the key to solving a real-life murder? My upcoming novel, 8-bit, is a techno-thriller about a video game engineer uncovering a chilling link between an 8-bit game and a real-life murder, racing against time to prevent another death. Writing a techno-thriller can be challenging, particularly when merging gaming with real-life mysteries. This is my first attempt at this subgenre, and I’m relying on inspiration from other works.

8-bit was inspired by an article I stumbled upon, “On Its Anniversary, Check Out These Fresh Horror Games You Can Play on the Nintendo Game Boy.” This article sparked my gaming development side, leading me down a path of exploring the connection between retro gaming and chilling real-life events.

I never heard of these horror games before and would’ve loved to try them out as a kid when I had the Gameboy Pocket. However, an idea sparked my gaming development side.

Let’s dive further into what sparked the idea.

Contents

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From Gaming Enthusiast to Storyteller: My Journey

First and foremost, I love video games. I grew up playing the NES, SNES, and the Gameboy, playing games like Super Mario, Super Metroid, and Zelda: Link’s Awakening. My parents would spoil me by buying games every other week for whatever system I chose, and gaming has been a big part of my life ever since. This passion for gaming has influenced my storytelling in 8-Bit, where retro gaming elements play a crucial role in the plot’s development and character motivations.

Over the years, I’ve upgraded to newer systems each generation. Today, I participate in Super Smash Bros. tournaments, play independent games by aspiring gamers, and watch Twitch streamers. Some of my favorite video games are the Metroid series, horror games like Resident Evil and Dead Space, and the punishing FromSoftware games Dark Souls III, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring. I also return to play some retro games for nostalgia whenever the mood kicks in.

This lifelong love of gaming has led me to explore different facets of the gaming community, and now to writing a techno-thriller where gaming plays a central role.

Pixel Art: From Games to Story Inspiration

How do retro gaming graphics inspire both art and storytelling? My history with retro gaming has led me to appreciate pixel art, even outside of gaming contexts. This aesthetic has also influenced my storytelling in 8-bit. After publishing the novel, I plan to share pixel art created specifically for it, drawing from Gameboy Pocket’s green palettes to make it authentic.

See graphic for reference for the Gameboy color palette:

Gameboy Pocket color palette

Every day, I’m on Reddit r/pixelart, inspired by the amazing creations. Pixel art’s limitations allow horror to thrive, leaving gaps for our imaginations to fill. This influence permeates 8-Bit, where the visual design mirrors its themes. Take a look at this article, “The Best Horror Games with Pixel Graphics”, and you’ll see what I mean.

Unpacking the Mechanics: The Game Engineering Behind 8-bit

8-bit novel promotional cover
8-bit novel promotional cover by Mark El-Ayat

Curious about how games are engineered, I started watching videos of people reviving broken Gameboy and other gaming systems. This opened my eyes to the technical intricacies behind gaming and led me down a path of exploring its mechanics.

This fascination with game engineering has shaped the narrative of 8-bit, where the mechanics of gaming systems play a crucial role. Nolan Fischer’s expertise in game engineering is integral to unraveling the story’s mystery.

If you’re interested in the technical side of gaming, start by watching this video: The Insane Engineering of a Gameboy. Then explore DIY videos on Instagram where people make Gameboys from scratch.

Writing 8-bit: Blending Fiction with Reality

After reading the Bloody-Disgusting article and seeing other pixel art for inspiration, I came up with a prompt:

Story Prompt: A game engineer receives a mysterious package of a game cartridge from an 8-bit game showcasing a murder that actually happened years ago. The engineer must solve the mystery by playing the game before the next victim is killed.

This prompt gave rise to Nolan Fischer’s story, a game engineer whose life takes a dark turn with the arrival of a mysterious cartridge. Nolan revives broken gaming systems and resells them after an overhaul upgrade. He’s also a true crime enthusiast and works as a Twitch streamer.

However, with high crime and expensive rent, Nolan plans to move to Florida, where his relatives live, offering a chance to reconnect. His business, Fischer Mods, modifies gaming systems, reflecting the nostalgia theme in 8-Bit. But the arrival of a lone game cartridge, showcasing the infamous murder of a nineteen-year-old girl named Suzy Holms, disrupts his plans.

If Nolan doesn’t follow the game’s orders, another victim will die in the same fashion as Suzy, reopening a cold case. What is Nolan’s connection to all of this? He was only eight years old at the time of the murder.

Exploring Key Themes in 8-bit

Migration to a different area

One of the main themes is rekindling with family and migrating to a newer area. Nolan is living alone, away from family, so he could focus on his passion. When his passion took off, he decided to remain in New York because he got used to the lifestyle and made a lot of friends. However, because of how unsafe with unforgiving the weather, he decided to take his talents down to Florida at Fort Lauderdale.

The perception between reality and gaming

Nolan is an avid gamer, however, his best friend Adrian insists that the game he received is nothing but a prank. Nolan’s obsession with Suzy Holm’s murder has increased as he continues to play the game and research the references that are presented in the game. Things start to get morbid and wonders if there is more to the game and its creator than there already is or is it simply a prank. Can Nolan break away from what’s real and what’s not?

The role of technology and human behavior

There has always been a good and bad when it comes to technology. The good, there is an advantage, it’s innovative and makes life easier. The bad, it can be used for corruption, greed, and even intimidation. In this case, the game cartridge was engineered specifically for Nolan as a threat to his wellbeing and others if he doesn’t comply. The advantage the creator has is the lack of identity, which makes things difficult for Nolan to solve who is behind the game.

This mirrors broader societal tensions regarding technology’s role.

Capitalism and Nostalgia

Nolan sells retro games, only upgraded. This taps directly into the growing nostalgia market, where many people, including me, return to playing older games, listening to older music, and watching classic TV shows and movies. Nostalgia profoundly affects people at certain ages, and the older we get, the more we reminisce about the “good ol’ days.” This also explains why Hollywood continues to remake classic movies—not just to reach newer audiences, but to bring older generations back to reminisce.

In 8-Bit, this theme plays a significant role in Nolan’s character development, reflecting his love for gaming and how his business thrives on this sentimentality, intertwining nostalgia with the narrative.

Take a look at this article where they get into greater detail: How to Use Nostalgia Marketing to Influence Consumer Psychology and Drive Brand Loyalty.

Literary and Cinematic Inspirations for 8-bit

Short Stories

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster: A classic science fiction story where technology’s influence on society and human connections is central, providing a look at how technological elements can drive a narrative.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison: A dark, dystopian tale featuring an omnipotent computer, showing how tech-driven narratives can build tension and suspense.

Novels

Daemon by Daniel Suarez: A high-tech thriller that unfolds when a legendary game designer’s death triggers a computer program, a daemon, designed to unleash a series of events that begin to unravel the fabric of our hyper-connected society.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson: This techno-thriller features a richly detailed virtual world, blending digital elements and real-world tension, offering insights into intertwining technological narratives.

Neuromancer by William Gibson: A seminal cyberpunk novel that weaves technology and intrigue, following a hacker on a mission in both digital and physical realms, showcasing how tech and suspense can seamlessly blend.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: This novel offers an interesting perspective on the intersection of gaming and reality, exploring how a game can drive a narrative in both worlds.

Movies

WarGames (1983): A classic film that blends gaming, technology, and suspense, following a hacker who accidentally accesses a military computer system, offering inspiration on combining tech elements with tension.

eXistenz (1999): A Sci-fi movie that follows game designer Allegra Geller and marketing trainee Ted Pikul as they escape an assassination attempt and enter Allegra’s virtual reality game, eXistenz. Through bio-portals, they dive into a world where the boundaries between gaming and reality blur.

Final Thoughts

8-bit represents a unique blend of retro gaming aesthetics and techno-thriller narratives, exploring the intersection between gaming and real-life mysteries. The story delves into the dark side of technology, its impact on human behavior, and the balance between nostalgia and progress. Through Nolan Fischer’s journey, we see how these themes intertwine, creating a narrative that is both engaging and thought-provoking.

This story reflects my passion for gaming, storytelling, and exploring the connection between technology and human experiences. I hope that 8-bit resonates with readers who share similar interests and sparks conversations about the complex relationship between gaming, reality, and nostalgia.