Pushing for change can be dangerous when change starts pushing back.
Video game writer Niles River loves the work he does at Third Wave Studios: creating games with mass appeal that feature women, people of color, and LGBTQ characters. To make his job even better, his best friend is his boss, and his twin brother works beside him. And they mostly agree that being on the forefront of social change is worth dealing with trollish vitriol—Niles is more worried about his clingy ex and their closeted intern’s crush on his brother than he is about internet harassment.
But now the bodies on the ground are no longer virtual, and someone’s started hand-delivering threats to Niles’s door. The vendetta against Third Wave has escalated, and to make matters worse, the investigating detective is an old flame who left Niles heartbroken for a life in the closet.
No change happens without pain, but can Niles justify continuing on with Third Wave when the cost is the blood of others? If he does, the last scene he writes may be his own death.
This is an action-packed mystery with some romantic themes. While this book is a departure from the normal sweet and sexy romances in the m/m genre it is still worth reading. This story will grab onto you from the very beginning and doesn’t let go until the end. I loved the characters Ms. Gormley created and I would love to read another book with these characters.
This book revolves around Niles River, the head writer for a video game development company. However, we are given insight into not only him, but the other top execs at Third Wave as well. Rosie and Jordan were just as fully fleshed out as Niles and his boyfriend. I am really hoping Ms. Gormley writes another story with these characters but
concentrates on Niles’ twin, Jordan, this time as he deserves to find love and acceptance as well.
The main themes in this book are the homophobia and misogyny that are prevalent in online gaming forums. I have seen some debate about whether or not these things are actually happening currently, but regardless they are good things to be aware of. While this book did get a little soap boxy at times it fit with the story and did not seem overwhelming to me. Overall, a thought provoking and thrilling read.
Hi, and welcome to the Player vs. Player blog tour! Today I’ll be sharing a scene with you between Niles River and Detective Tim Wyatt, as Tim picks Niles’s brain about the activities of two cosplayers who have been found murdered, unaware that Niles has a connection to the victims.
Niles nodded, though he seemed shaken, and took a sip of his drink. “That’s pretty common. We geeks are plenty happy to talk about our obsessions in the hopes of converting someone and sharing the joy, but we get dismissed a lot.” He gave Tim a look, reminding him that he’d been one of those dismissive types. “It’s why we tend to be so insular. Stick with our own kind.” He reached for a chip, though he seemed more inclined to stare at it thoughtfully than nibble. “You know what fandoms they were into?”
“The first victim had an extensive anime and console game collection, but the second victim’s family said she had been playing video games on her computer lately.”
“Any titles I know?”
“No clue.” Tim growled in frustration. “Both girls’ computers are missing. They apparently took their laptops with them when they went out the day they disappeared and the computers haven’t been found, nor have their cell phones.
Which gives us reason to suspect they had contacts on there who don’t want to be found.”
“You think they knew the people, or person, who killed them?”
“Either that or there was something on their computers and phones that could connect them to the killer.”
Niles ran a thumb up and down his pint glass. “I have to admit, I’m a little hesitant to believe that a gamer could be responsible. Gaming gets an undeserved rap for promoting violence. I would hate for this to trigger a witch hunt. Geek culture is . . . It’s about sharing the love of something. People with similar interests coming together to indulge those interests. No different than a knitting club or sports fans who get together and go to games. Gamers are
“Ask any European country how harmless sports fans are when they riot after the World Cup,” Tim said with a smirk, taking a long drink. “Not to mention all those messages you receive.”
“Yeah, but that’s just smack talk. You can’t look at it that way.” Niles began to gesticulate, a mannerism Tim remembered him lapsing into whenever he’d start to get worked up.
“Well, how should I look at it? What do you get from it, hanging out with people who send death threats?”
“If you just look at that, then you’re missing everything else that fandom does for people.” Niles sighed. “You’re missing the millions of dollars raised for charity in fan-led activities. You’re missing the kids saved from suicide
because they have one bright spot in their life, a circle of people with a hobby in common. You’re missing the isolated and disenfranchised outsiders whose lives are made better by knowing there are other people like them out there. It’s not just harassment.”
Tim nodded. “Fair enough. But gamers are just like everyone else, right? You get your good; you get your bad.”
“Yeah, I guess, but generally speaking, even when it gets vitriolic, it is, as I said, harmless.”
“Noted. But harmless didn’t kill two girls.”
Niles’s shoulders tensed visibly. “You don’t know it was a gamer who did that.”
“Of course I don’t. If I make any such assumption, it will be because that’s where the evidence is pointing us. And that’s what I’m trying to find right now: evidence, one way or the other.” Niles blinked, then nodded and settled back in his chair. Tim gave him a comforting smile. “Okay. So, let’s talk about these gamers and the sort of people these girls might have hung out with.”
“It’s like any other fandom, really, except that TV and book fandoms are frequently dominated by female fans, and comic, sci-fi, and gaming fandoms tend to be dominated by male fans, or so the male fans think.”
“Explain that to me,” Tim prompted, pulling out a notepad.
“In reality, the numbers suggest the demographics are nearly equal. Women make up forty-eight percent of the gaming market.” Niles grimaced. “The guys claim that’s because they play more ‘casual’ games that don’t require a lot of skill, but there’s no data to back that up. I know plenty of hardcore female gamers, including my boss. As I’ve mentioned before, the male fans are a little resistant to the fandom trending toward serving female fans equally.”
“You mean like the harassing texts and emails you receive? I thought that was mostly homophobia.”
“No. The homophobia is bad. The misogyny is much, much worse. The default male gamer assumption is that if a woman has entered into gaming or comic book fandom, it’s to garner male attention. They’ve been known to try to make the environment very unwelcoming for female fans.”
“In what way?”
“Check out Fat, Ugly, or Slutty—all one word, no spaces or punctuation—dot com if you want to see some samples. One common response to a female fan bringing up anything is ‘Tits or get the fuck out,’ by which they mean, ‘If you’re not here to entertain and titillate us, you’re not welcome.’”
Tim frowned. “Couldn’t that be chalked up mostly to the age demographic?”
“The average gamer is around midthirties.” Niles sighed. “And male gamers, specifically, don’t want to see gaming change. Homophobic and gendered slurs are common, and they like that female characters in games and comic books tend to be designed to appeal to the male gaze—unrealistically dressed, objectified, anatomically impossible, hypersexualized poses.”
“And it’s grown men defending this?”
“Well, as you’ve seen with my harassment, guys can get very vitriolic when their preeminence is challenged. It’s basically the whole anti-sexism-racism-homophobia debate in a microcosm: ‘I, the privileged demographic, don’t have a problem, and therefore anyone pointing out that problems do actually exist or trying to change the status quo is a threat to me.’” Niles shrugged. “But they do their bullying anonymously, with words and cyber attacks, not physically. Any hints otherwise is just them talking big.”
“Yeah, well, one guy—or a group of them—could take it into his head to up the ante.” Tim frowned thoughtfully.
Niles groaned, rubbing his temples. “See, you’re doing it. Assuming it’s a gamer.”
Tim sighed. “Niles, I’m acknowledging that it could be a gamer. It could also be some random stranger who got the drop on the young women in the parking lot. The difference between those two theories is that one leaves me a possible connection to investigate, and honestly, the crimes don’t seem random. Stranger-on-stranger crime is much less common than crimes where the victims know or have some connection to their attackers. So I need to know the sort of people these young women would have associated with.”
“Fine. Okay.” Niles scrubbed his fingers through his hair. “Just . . . don’t get tunnel vision where gamers are concerned, okay? Especially not based on all the crap people have thrown out about gaming and its effects on our culture.”
“I know how to do my job.” Tim fought to suppress a frown. “You can trust me to give everyone a fair shake.”
“Can I? You were never very open-minded back when we were in school.” Niles pressed his lips together and shook himself. “Forget it. What sort of cosplay did they do?”
Tim blinked at the change of subject but forced himself not to be diverted into discussing personal business that had no place here. “There are different kinds?”
“I mean the characters.”
Tim was interrupted when the waitress approached to take their orders. He tried not to flinch when Niles ordered two meals packaged to go.
“One was a sort of femme fatale,” Tim answered when the waitress was gone. “The other was sort of an alien or nonhuman creature, we think, judging from the leftover face paint. No one working the crime scenes recognized a specific character or costume.”
“Okay, well, that narrows it down to, oh, at least a couple hundred archetypical characters,” Niles said wryly, refilling his glass. But then something tightened in the corners of his eyes and his face went a little gray, putting
Tim on alert. “Um, one of the girls wouldn’t happen to have been wearing brown leather, was she?”
Tim straightened, then leaned farther across the table, pitching his voice low. “Yes, actually. Do you know who she was portraying?”
Niles closed his eyes, his lips moving silently. When he opened them, they were bright with tears. Tim felt an answering knot of unease form in his stomach. “If it’s who I’m thinking of, she was playing Issis Lowe. And her companion, the alien, was a character named Gairi. I saw them that day. Talked to them. Me and Rosie and Jordan, at the autograph signing.”
“Did you get their names?”
Niles nodded. “Yeah, but off the top of my head, I couldn’t—”
“Charity Anspach and Lakshmi Agrawal?”
“Oh God. That’s them.” Niles blew out a shuddering breath. He hung his head for a moment, then wiped his eyes and looked up. “They’re really dead?”
Tim nodded and reached across the table to squeeze Niles’s hand, hesitating at the last moment. He cleared his throat. “Look, I’m going to need you, your brother, and your boss to come down to the precinct and give us statements on your contact with the victims that day.”
“All right.” Niles’s voice was little more than a whisper. “I’ll call Rosie and Jordie. Just let me take the food home to my guest, and then I’ll come down to the precinct.”
“Okay, I’ll call Payne, have her meet us down there.” He stood, digging his phone out of his breast pocket while Niles stared at the table. Tim could almost see his mind trying to throw up its defenses, shutting out the ugly image of what those young women had suffered. Things like that had no place in Niles’s universe. Tim had always adored him for that dewy-eyed worldview, but it was heartbreaking to see Niles when he couldn’t protect himself from the harsh
realities of life.
“Niles?” He had to repeat himself before Niles looked up. He didn’t like how hard Niles was taking this. What sort of connection had he had to those girls? “Just one thing: the characters the girls were playing . . . where were they from?”
“My game.” Niles’s mouth quivered, and he drew a deep breath, meeting Tim’s eyes dead-on. “Issis and Gairi are my characters. I wrote them.”
Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.
Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse
, Book One; Acceleration
, Book Two; and Velocity
, Book Three) can be found at most major online book retailers, and be sure to check Riptide
for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover
, the The Professor’s Rule
series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau
), the post-apocalyptic romance, Strain
, her New Adult contemporary, Saugatuck Summer
, and of course, Player vs. Player
, available now. She is presently at work on two more novels set in the Strain
, coming summer/fall of 2015.
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of one a book from my backlist
(excluding Player vs Player.) Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 13th. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.