Game-driven novel from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt


“A delightful final twist hits a perfect note. . . . Skinner’s debut pairs authentic gaming with old-school, sophisticated science-fiction concepts to create a twisty, reality-warping ride.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A Matrix-like spin on the world of online gaming. . . . Geared toward teens with an interest in gaming, this should still appeal to those seeking stories about the intersection of technology and humanity, ethics and profit, and reality and fantasy.”


Game Slaves

By Gard Skinner


On its September 17, 2013, release date, Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto V made $800 million in twenty-four hours, and over a billion dollars in three days. It became the largest release of any media product in history. Two months later, the new Playstation 4 console sold more than a million units, at $399 each, in twenty-four hours. According to a Pew report, more than 97 percent of United States teenagers play video games. This national immersion in gaming has led to questions and concerns over video game violence and addiction.

Game Slaves by Gard Skinner (January 7, 2014; HMH) looks at these questions through an innovative narrative and a series of choices that challenge the reader to look at their own lives, and their world, as a game. Phoenix and his gang—York, Mi, and Reno—rule the worlds of video games. For them, life in the grinder is great. Until Dakota joins the team. Dakota is convinced she is more than just artificial intelligence. She thinks she’s real, and she wants out of this programmable world. Her artificial intelligence rebellion spreads until Phoenix’s entire crew wants out. But life as a physical human raises a whole different set of questions than life as code. Can humanity survive? What will become of a generation that enjoys game worlds more than reality? Which corporate and personal ethics are really in play in the digital culture?

The idea for Game Slaves began when Skinner was in a local school speaking to a class about working in the ski media and wrote a short story for them; with input from his daughters and their friends, the story soon evolved into a complete novel.

He said, “With peak oil looming and the games industry dwarfing all other media, now is the time to have the discussion about what the true value of gaming can be. Daily life is not going to get easier as our resources dwindle. Escapism is inevitable. Where will our children choose to spend their time?”

Skinner is a former features writer for magazines including Bike and Powder. He worked as a sportswriter for a dozen years, with his column appearing in the Vail Daily, Denver Post, and ESP Magazine. He served as editorial director for Times Mirror Magazines and in 1999 won a Lowell Thomas Award for his work on AOL. A self-described “arcade rat in the 1970s,” Skinner worked for a local video games vendor while in college, servicing machines, collecting quarters, and moving cabinets. Since then, he has always owned a console (or two or three). He currently lives on a North Carolina island where he balances gaming, surfing, and spending time with his daughters. This is his first novel. For much, much more, visit

Game Slaves by Gard Skinner

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt • January 7, 2014 • $16.99 • Ages 12 and up

ISBN: 978-0-547-97259-6 • Ebook ISBN: 978-0-547-99346-1


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