Kameleont Killers – a novel about video games
The world’s first literary work with video games as its subject matter and thematic core?
Probably. Written between January 1992 and March 1993 and published in early 1994, the novel is also an early example of a text, of any kind, presenting video games as art and not mere entertainment. Preceded, of course, by the pioneer work of prime merit: Chris Crawford’s The Art of Computer Game Design.
Crawford’s book was, however, totally unknown to me at the time. Rather, it was my own attempt to write an educational and analytical essay collection about video game theory and criticism that paved the way for Kameleont Killers. Pretty pleased with the dozen or so chapters I had produced by the summer of 1991, my delusion of an audience of more than five people could nevertheless not be sustained for very long.
Tired of wasting my time trying to convince people of the artistic potential of video games, it suddenly seemed like much more fun to mock the artistic merit of potential games. Why, I should write a fictive story about a near future where video games were already an established art form, and much the worse for it! I was pretty sick of video games at this point anyway. This would be my “farewell to games” I told myself with self mocking aggrandizement.
Somewhat ironically for someone promoting the artistic potential of games, I then began working on a satirical (but intellectually close to impenetrable) novel where I mocked both art and games. Mainly, though, I used them as vehicles for discussions/statements about psychological matters in the mould of Polish modernist writer Witold Gombrowicz and British “One-Upmanship” author Stephen Potter.
I would be more comfortable recommending Kameleont Killers to fans of Gombrowicz’ Ferdydurke than to fans of Miyamoto’s Mario. But the ideal readers would surely be the potential fans of the fictive game “På Färd i Durkens Värld”, the novel’s one worthwhile “art game”, where literary themes merge with ludological into a game morph of the novel itself.
Kameleont Killers was not exactly a success. People didn’t understand it, or else didn’t like it. I was pleased to be interviewed by Svenska Dagbladet, one of Sweden’s largest daily newspapers (not to be confused with local paper, Sydsvenska Dagbladet), but I can’t remember uttering anything resembling the quotes later appearing in print. To my surprise the most discerning and honest review was from a Swedish computer game magazine. Still some major misunderstandings there though.
Looking back, from the few glimpses I dare to catch today, I’d say it’s a slight and quirkily flawed, quality novel. I’m embarrassed by it and can’t read it nowadays, but I’d wager those are just my personal feelings of no particular authority …
Ola Hansson, May 2007