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This is Not a Game

(Dagmar #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,389 ratings  ·  274 reviews
Once upon a time, there were four of them. And though each was good at a number of things, all of them were very good at games...

Dagmar is a game designer trapped in Jakarta in the middle of a revolution. The city is tearing itself apart around her and she needs to get out. Her boss Charlie has his own problems — 4.3 billion of them, to be precise, hidden in an off-shore a
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Orbit (first published March 2009)
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,389 ratings  ·  274 reviews

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Mike (the Paladin)
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
By page 60 I knew that my interest, which had waned earlier, wasn't coming back. I don't know maybe I'm too old or the wrong generation for this book. Told from points of view varying from "Dagmar" (our game designer protagonist) to the people "back at the office" and of course, the people on the internet the story wanders along seemingly searching for a conspiracy to be part of. With the danger and threats of the real world closing in around her and her survival in question Dagnar has reached o ...more
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gamers, gamines and anyone who's game for a fast-paced story
Recommended to Alan by: Charles Stross, inter alia
This Is Not An Average Novel

An intense near-future thriller that merges live-action role playing games with a realistic high-tech plot—this is one SF mystery that really works. Published almost simultaneously with Charles Stross' similar Halting State, it shares a number of general plot points—the intersection of online life, role-playing, with so-called "meatspace," in particular—but goes in a radically different direction.

This Is Not A One-Note Book

The novel is structured as a series of revela
Alain DeWitt
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This is the first Walter Jon Williams book I've read. I picked it up at a passenger terminal in Afghanistan somewhere because I had finished the book I was reading and didn't have anything to read and this looked interesting. Rest assured it won't be the last.

A complex tale involving a specific type of video game called an alternate reality game (ARG). An ARG is a game that blurs the line between a fictional reality and our own 'real' reality. In an ARG, characters from the game will contact pla
‘This Is Not A Game’ explores the extent to which online gaming and, as a by-product, social networking can be exploited to serve an individuals interest. Collectively controlled by a puppet master, participants of games that routinely blur the line between fact and fiction are caught up in a complex web of mystery and intrigue as they seek the killer of Big Game Ideas founding member, Charlie.

The protagonist, Dagmar, essentially a second-in-command figure at Big Game Ideas, went to college wit
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the third WJ Williams book I have read - the others being Implied Spaces and The Fourth Wall. The story precedes the events of The Fourth Wall, and I probably would have understood that book better if I had read This is Not a Game first. There are 4 main characters in the book- all former college mates who participated in gaming, and whose paths later diverged. Three are successful and continue some association- Dagmar works as a fiction writer for games for one of Charlie's companies. A ...more
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Set in a near future, this is basically the story of an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that not only touches the fringe of reality but seeps into it, by design of the puppetmasters (game moderators). It didn't start out this way, but a collection of events and a couple of experiments push it over the edge until the game becomes literally an all out effort to save the world.

I loved reading this book. The writing was effortless and entertaining, as were the characters and the plots. I had so much fu
Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I flew through this book. It had me hooked on page one and, thanks to a four hour flight, kept me engrossed to the end. I thought the plot was deftly woven, the use of an on-line role playing game in real-time/real-world was fascinating. I liked the murder-mystery elements of betrayal, revenge and double revenge. I liked the way world wide financial elements were manipulated on a more intimate level, shall we say. I can totally see the self replicating software happening at some point in the fut ...more
Apr 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
I love most of WJW novels and some like Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire are among my top sff books, with Dread Empire and Implied Spaces close also, but sadly this one should be entitled "Not a Novel"

I fast plowed through it to see if it has anything of interest to me; it was just unreadable and boring - artificial, could not connect with the characters or the setting, seemed just a "game" so to speak, not "real"

A while ago I would have shrugged and said, well, near-future thrillers are not
Mike Shirar
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this one- especially interesting reading in 2017, when several of the near-future predictions about our online lives have come and, in the case of ARGs, seemingly gone already.

Fun mystery/thriller also featuring a great exploration of how technology impacts our lives, good and bad, and how to live ethically in an online world. To be clear, none of this is preachy, heavy-handed, or at all artificial.

Also enjoy the fact that all the pop culture reference are now 8 years out of date
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cyberpunk
What happens when on-line gaming and real life intertwine into a single narrative. The author merges together influences both of the game \ gamers affecting the real world and real world affecting the game. There are some interesting concepts with some nice nostalgic memories of when the games RPG etc started.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rwr
This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and one which I will continue to explore, as there are more books in the series. Exploring the experiences of Dagmar, a young woman employed by a video game company, it is more than a good read, but really encourages us to explore the role that social media plays in our lives, and how we are affected by it.

The first story in the book, as there are several, takes place at the very beginning, as Dagmar is trapped in Ind
When Dagmar lands in Jakarta, she finds her connecting flight has been canceled... along with every other flight out of the country. The currency is under attack and a revolution is underway. Luckily, Dagmar is the major producer/writer for Great Big Idea, a company that specialized in creating ARGs: alternate reality games. Her boss is a multimillionaire and he's determined to get Dagmar out of the country and back to safety, where she can start writing the next big game. When some of the more ...more
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: avoid
unfortunate cover images... and catchphrase... but hey, i'll give a shot at a book following the folly of rich white ARG (alternate reality game- for the un-initiated) producers as the real world goes to shit around them.

and frankly it was the closest book to my backpack this morning that i hadn't already read. seriously considering making a book cover for this though, the cover is honestly embarrassing.

thoughts after finishing this book:
the author has some decent ideas and has some insight into
Ethan Bernauer
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
In my opinion, this was a very good book. The title lured me in a little bit. I thought that this would be a strange type of book since it was about a video game, but it actually wasn't that bad. I was very surprised by the ending because it took a sharp turn and changed what I thought was going to happen. Many parts of this book are suspenseful and keep you drawn in to where you don't want to put it down.

This book is about the main character, Dagmar, who, at the beginning of the book, is stuck
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All of the chapter and section titles in This Is Not a Game begin with the phrase "This Is Not a..." so I'll have to preface my observation with the comment that this is not a science fiction novel. It is a very good suspense/thriller with a little genre content, but... The book has a ten-year-old copyright, and it's closer now to reality than I imagine even the author could have imagined. It's a good murder mystery with more social-media-community influence than anything else I've read that com ...more
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a fast, engaging read that, I thought, got internet culture mostly right (although I haven't played any Alternate Reality games, so I can't speak to that aspect). I had trouble putting it down. There was insufficient denouement, but on the other hand, it had more of a wrap-up than most Neal Stephenson books have. Unfortunately, a major plot point hinged on a completely ridiculous premise - that when you have a list of many thousands of items, and you have a program that acts on one of t ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great new story from Walter Jon Williams involving four role-playing game players who meet in college. One goes on to be a successful entrepreneur, one becomes a venture capitalist, one a game designer, and one a bitter burnout. The story revolves around the games they create for a living and what happens when one of them is unexpectedly murdered.

The thing I liked about this story most is that it blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. The games produced in this book involve real-world ac
Mar 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
one star for a book that I started and did not finish. Nor did I get very far. Just not interested in the premise or feel of the writing, though I normally like WJW.

odd thoughts:

I am beginning to develop this theory that Charles Stross and Walter Jon Williams are working together behind the scenes.

The description of this book looks like a different take on the same or eerily familiar universe as Stross's Halting State.

Likewise, Implied Spaces grappled with the same ideas behind Stross's Glassho
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
I was involved in the XBOX 360 ARG the year before the release. I know some what of this gaming style. I find it fascinating and highly marketable.

Walter Jon Williams is know for his high-tech "cyberpunk" novels. This is not one of those novels. Which I found very nice. Call it a techno-thriller or whatever, but it was a good read.

The only complaint was the plot became a little transparent by the end of the story. Though it didn't detract from the read. I found I empathized with the characters
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
...If you enjoy a good (techno) thriller this book is as good as it gets. Events frequently outpace the main character keep her, and to an extend the reader, off balance. Williams captures the paranoia, desperations and frustration of the main character very well, without making her completely helpless. Dagmar is used to being in control of the game, when she eventually cuts the strings that move her the result in interesting, unexpected even. In short, I thought This Is Not a Game was a very en ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Dagmar is a “puppet-master”, a designer, author, and producer of wildly popular on-line games in which millions of participants solve the puzzles she devises. After he latest game has successfully conclude with a wedding in India she heads back home to California with a stopover in Jakarta. That quick layover turns into a weeks long nightmare as the collapse of the Indonesian currency has led directly to a bloody coup with Dagmar trapped in the capital city.

What starts out as a fairly straightf
First off: This Is Not Science Fiction.

The basic idea, about using the participants in an ARG as mechanical Turks to solve real-life problems, was a clever one. But I'm dubious about computers or international finance working quite as Williams describes it, and the characters were flat. No one seemed to have any life--any hobbies, any friends, any past or future--outside of what the plot required.

I suppose Dagmar does have an implied future, since there are sequels, but I won't be reading them.
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Clever idea of takng RPG to the next step of Actual RPG i.e. real time game played via the internet and in real life with players doing tasks and solving puzzles in the real world. A sympathetic female lead character and a cast of techies to help her come to terms with what her boss has done and what her old friend has become. Very enjoyable fast read. I'll look the author up for more of his works.
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly enjoyable, consistently well-plotted page turner. Walter Jon Williams does not fail to convince once more.
Tim Street
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you are into ARGs this is a Must Read. I really enjoyed the book and would love to make it into a web series.
Allan Gonzalez
Jan 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, original and fun to read.
Cesar Felipe
May 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
False advertising.

This isn't a story about an ARG, or social networking. This is simply a below-average crime thriller starring characters that happen to work on designing ARGs for a living.

The concept is promising, players from all over the world working together to aid a single person achieve things they couldn't achieve through conventional means. A great story could be written from this, but this is not that story. Murders occur, and someone slowly figures out how and why. It just so happen
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was one of those books I picked up for $0.99 on sale on Kindle, which means it was pretty much a "luck of the draw" as to quality. But I have to say, I enjoyed it.

Dagmar is a wonderfully competent gaming geek who makes her living writing alternate reality games, and finds herself swept up in real life events that both relate to the game she's writing (peripherally), and that she can use the game to help solve. That's... about as much as I can say without giving away massive plot spoilers.

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Play Book Tag: This is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams - 4.5 stars 3 15 Jul 23, 2016 03:15AM  
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Walter Jon Williams has published twenty novels and short fiction collections. Most are science fiction or fantasy -Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire to name just a few - a few are historical adventures, and the most recent, The Rift, is a disaster novel in which "I just basically pound a part of the planet down to bedrock." And that's just the opening chapters ...more

Other books in the series

Dagmar (3 books)
  • Deep State (Dagmar, #2)
  • The Fourth Wall (Dagmar Shaw #3)
“When you revealed that the Rani was in fact the Nagi," Charlie said, "the players collectively pissed their pants."
"I'd rather they creamed their jeans.”
More quotes…