Videogames into print -- More and more hit videogames are hitting the book shelves, from ''Mortal Kombat'' to ''Doom''

You’ve played the game, now…read the book? Following the tradition established by movies and TV shows, videogames and CD-ROMs are launching literary spin-offs faster than you can snarl, ”Finish him!” In five months we’ve seen a novel based on the videogame Mortal Kombat (along with another book based on the movie based on the game), two titles derived from Doom, and the fourth in a series based on the Wing Commander discs. A literary prequel to Myst is due in November.

”When you’ve got games that have sold millions of copies, why not see if they work in another medium?” says Toni Weisskopf, executive editor of Baen Books, publisher of Wing Commander. ”It’s a good bet.” The rewards can be high, at least for publishers: For instance, Pocket Books has nearly 200,000 copies of each of the first two Doom books in print. Publishers have also come to realize that CD-ROMs draw a mass-market audience, says Roger Stewart, whose Prima Entertainment division led off an ambitious list of novelizations this summer with such titles as The 7th Guest, Pandora Directive, and Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller. ”It’s not like only a few geeky people have heard of Mortal Kombat and Myst,” he says.

But do these books have any appeal beyond the sci-fi fans and young, hardcore gamers most publishers say they are targeting? Yes and no. The paperback Doom: Knee-Deep in the Dead is a numbing duplication of its source’s obsession with guns, ammo, and the shooting of everything that moves. Other books, like Mortal Kombat, do a better job of transcending their electronic roots. Seasoned with Asian mythology, Kombat is a lot more engaging than you’d expect from a game devoted to beating the heck out of your opponent.

Fortunately, both books have a sense of humor: One of the first creatures the Doom protagonist blows away is a zombie who once was fellow Marine William Gates. And in the poetic Kombat, characters make deadpan references to the towns of Jackichan and Tekka-maki. Though his audience is mostly kids, says Kombat author Jeff Rovin, who also contributes to Mad magazine, ”if an adult picks it up, you want to give them something to chuckle at.”

Mortal Kombat
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