“There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family.”
Good Game, Well Played
Mad Cave Studios Youth Imprint Maverick makes a heady statement about its publications. It promises that reader’s will find themselves in their stories. Well, after reading and reviewing a few, I can honestly say that Maverick is honoring that statement. From World Class, to Needle and Thread, and Nightmare in Savannah, the stories have explored the many facets of youth and growing up. Narratives that many readers can relate to while mixing in fantastic stories to feed the imagination. The same can be said for this new book in the Maverick line, Good Game, Well Played. In this slice of 90’s Americana, a group of teenage friends are doing their best to save their favorite game store, Game Champ. Some of the teenager’s work at the store and some are just frequent customers. If just hanging around, playing video games and talking to their friends qualifies as customers. However, the story begins with one of the friends returning home after years away. During the flight, she reminisces about what had happened and how she and her friends had found belonging in the local Game Champ.
Sienna and Art
Each of the kids who frequented Game Champ had their own problems and family situations. The ringleader of the group, Sienna had a loving family who took an real interest in what she did. They hoped for nothing but the best for Sienna and her future. But Sienna liked things as they were. If she had her way, she and her friends would have worked for Tim (the owner of the store) and Game Champ forever. She had a long-rooted aversion to change. As far as she was concerned, an uncertain future was a scary proposition. Her friend Art also worked at the store and (as his name implied) was an artist. He had been drawing cartoons about his friends for years. Sienna had always encouraged him to do something with his talent. Art had a large multi-generational family along with a cat, dog and a pet bird and many younger brothers and sisters. His parents encouraged his art ambitions to a point, but the older males in the family thought it was time to give up such “hobbies” for real life job possibilities.
Definition: Friend – “Someone who gives you the freedom to be yourself; one of the nicest things you can have; the best thing you can be”
Sid and Jo
Another of Sienna’s friends, Sid was an aspiring singer/songwriter who had a band he played with. What the band was called depended on which day you ask. He and his bandmates were constantly changing the band’s name (which made it kind of difficult to sell band merch.) Sid’s mom was constantly working, so more often than not, he was responsible for looking after his kid sister. Especially since his older brother was often not home. Their friend Jo was a master gamer. She lived at home with her super strict dad and her loving mom. Going to church was very important to both her parents but even more so to her dad. He also failed to understand why Jo seemed to prefer dressing in casual, almost masculine clothes opposed to the dresses they bought for her.
Then there was her friend Hope. She came across as all tough and was the only member of the group who smoked. Much to the chagrin of Sienna who kept pulling the cigarette out of Hope’s mouth, telling her to quit. Only Sienna could have gotten away with that without paying the price of a punch in the mouth. As it is, however, Hope was living by herself in a run-down apartment with less than favorable fellow tenants. Which probably explained her mostly less than sunny disposition and why she spent so much time with her friends at Game Champ. It was the one place that they all felt at home. Thanks mainly to the owner of the store, Tim who was a kid at heart along with his furry friend and companion King.
“A real friend is one who walks in, when the rest of the world walks out”
But when the landlord to the building that housed Game Champ demanded that Tim paid him the back rent he owed or lose it, the kids decided to brainstorm to find a way to help him. The Landlord gave Tim 30 days to come up with the money owed. Fortunately, each of the kids had a talent that might help stave off closing. As the ringleader of the group, Sienna gathered the kids to brainstorm ideas to raise money to help Tim. Partly because she loved Tim and Game Champ, and partly because of her aversion to change. Sid informed Sienna that he and his band could perform a gig at the store for free, which should help to increase customers. Sienna enlisted Art to make up flyers advertising the band’s show. But he did her one better. They could take the comics he has made, put them on the wall and offer them as a bonus for each game purchase. Plus, he could sell portraits of customers. All of the money raised would be given to Tim to help pay his back rent.
Plans in Action
Sienna also suggested a game tournament. They could have customers who wanted to enter pay a registration fee. When the tournament ended, the winner would receive the money collected. However, if they all worked hard at the game, one of THEM could win and once again, give that money to Tim. They all agreed to this plan. Anything to help Tim and save Game Champ. Although, what it really meant was that Jo was going to have to win the tournament. Because there really wasn’t enough time to make them all good enough to win. (Apparently, they left off the stipulation that employees were ineligible to participate. But their contest, their rules). So, the big day came, and it was a huge success. Jo won the tournament, and both the band and Art’s portraits were a huge draw for customers. They didn’t raise enough to pay off Tim’s debt entirely, but it made a huge dent.
Tim was completely taken aback by their generosity. So much so that he got a bit emotional, much to the delight of Hope who loved to tease “the old man” about it. It looked like they were going to just make the deadline. But suddenly, the landlord appeared and moved up the timetable. Tim admitted defeat. He really appreciated all the hard work his young friends had put in. They had done all they could. But Sienna felt like they had failed. Plus, in a moment of disappointment, she blamed the others. They didn’t work hard enough. They were lazy at times. None of which she really meant. But it was out there now. And there was not a way to take it back. Not that she didn’t try. But when Game Champ closed, all of her friends just went their separate ways. At least until 10 years later, when an event brought them back together. What that event was and how their lives have changed is a story for you to read. But rest assured, for the most part, it is a feel-good story.
“True friends are never apart, maybe in distance, but never in heart”
The most wonderful thing about friendship is that it can consist of all kinds of people. Each with their own lives, families, and problems. But when push comes to shove, they can usually get past the obstacles placed before them and focus on the relationships they have forged. Such is the narrative that writer Rachel Smith has created in Good Game, Well Played. True to the nature of Maverick’s credo, Smith has created family dynamics that should prove to be relatable to readers, while intertwining them inside a game playing genre that most young people understand. It was a nice touch to intermittently show each friend’s status, as if looking at their game bio menus. Also, true to life itself, things don’t always end like one might want. It’s how you cope with the outcome that builds character and is one of the central themes of the book
Running in complete concert with Smith’s story, artist Katherine Lobo has a great gift of capturing these moments with art that encapsules the story. So much so that there are spaces where writer Smith refrains from dialogue and just lets the visuals tell the narrative. That is a high compliment to the artist and the faith that their collaborator places in their abilities. Lobo proved up to the challenge making for a nice comprehensive whole. All in all, Good Game, Well Played takes its place among the exceptional work that Maverick continues to put out for the Youth market. Be sure to check it out when Good Game, Well Played by Mad Cave Studio and their Maverick imprint hits stands on April 20th.
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Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.