Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin is one of the books of the year. The phenomenon of TTT has exploded thanks to BookTok, and to date, on Goodreads, there are over 580,000 reviews. Zevin tackles different themes, blending love, friendship, and gaming, managing to captivate and unite millions of readers. The author not only manages to make very distant themes converse with each other but also leverages the success that gaming has achieved in popular culture in recent years. The world of gaming has garnered a lot of success in recent years, especially in popular culture. Many games have now been adapted into movies or TV series, think of the success of Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, or The Last of Us, to name a few. Another noteworthy aspect is the strength of storytelling in this novel: the games in TTT become real stories to be experienced virtually, with beginnings and endings often dictated by the user’s choices. Zevin’s insight is undoubtedly to have embraced this feature and applied it to her novel, using storytelling in the world of video games to tell the story of the two protagonists. But let’s discover more about the author, how this book came to be, and the evolution of game design according to Zevin. Gabrielle Zevin talks about the genesis of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow with Sohani Goonetillake in an interview for The Shameless Book Club, telling about the challenges and the time it took to build the story of Sam and Sadie, who, by programming video games, also narrate their lives.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow: between storytelling and game design
The course of Sam and Sadie’s life – the two protagonists of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – seems to be marked by video games. In the early years of their adolescence, they play games together like Oregon Trail, Super Mario, and the arcade version of Donkey Kong. These are all games that have made history in the gaming world, and Zevin uses them as witnesses to an evolution that has always gone hand in hand with programming progress. At a certain point in the novel, the two protagonists establish Unfair Games, their production company, and design games such as Both Sides, Counterpart High, and Our Infinite Worlds. These are a series of video games born from the author’s imagination, employing narrative devices capable of depicting the evolution of programming from the 1990s to the early 2000s.
Over the years, in fact, the two characters also program MMORPGs, which stands for Massive(ly) Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, a term coined around 1997 referring to online role-playing games. Games like League of Legends, World of Warcraft, or Diablo serve as perfect examples, but they are very different from the first one designed by Sam and Sadie: Ichigo. All of this serves as a testament to how the advent of accessible internet for everyone has changed the way games are constructed and conceived.
All the games that have inspired Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Not only Oregon Trail, Super Mario, and Donkey Kong, but also The Sims, EverQuest, or Harvest Moon are just a few of the games that inspired Gabrielle Zevin in writing this novel. The last three mentioned are video games that became famous during the same period in which – in the fictional narrative – Sam and Sadie began developing their MMORPG games. Also, The Last of Us massively inspired Our Infine Worlds in the book, something that the author talked about also on Instagram account.
The possibility of crafting a genuine narrative through video game design is a cornerstone of this novel. Sadie is the character who best embodies this aspect of the story told by Zevin: she has studied subjects such as programming related to specific ludic techniques and psychology, only to find herself narrating stories alongside Sam through the video games they work on together. These details demonstrate how, for authors like Zevin, research on the subject is a fundamental starting point. In games like EverQuest or Harvest Moon, storytelling is indeed central and encourages the player to pursue a well-defined narrative thread.
Storytelling and videogames
Throughout the novel, Zevin’s goal has always been to narrate the partnership of two creatives like Sam and Sadie over the course of nearly thirty years. In addition to this, the author also effectively illustrates how game design has evolved over time. This is a subject that, in most cases, is reserved for enthusiasts of the field. In conclusion, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is a narrative experience that allows even those who are not passionate about video games to explore many of the themes related to this industry. Storytelling becomes a tool that enables the author to navigate between the characters’ story and the video games they design, sometimes bringing the two dimensions together. The result is a stimulating read, unlike others, that opens the doors of literature to game design as well.
One last curiosity: you can play one of the games designed by the author on her website. The game in question, Emily Blaster, is inspired by the poems of Emily Dickinson and is waiting to be discovered here.