My name is John Ward. I work as an illustrator painting images for self-published authors which they use as book covers. Here’s one I did:

Painting is solitary work. It’s a lot of hours stuck in a chair focused on a single image. At times, it can be exciting and other times it can be like watching paint dry. Literally.

That tedium part can be dangerous. That’s when I’m tempted to get up and find something else to do . . . which isn’t always compatible with deadlines. As a way of dealing with that temptation, I started listening to audiobooks. The stories provide just enough distraction to keep me in my chair, but not so much that I lose focus.

During the early spring of 2017 while engaged in this activity, I discovered a newly-named type of fiction called LitRPG. The nascent idea for the genre had existed in one form or another for decades, but recently authors, readers, and various online communities had begun to explore and expand on the concept.

Dakota Krout defined the genre in this way: “LitRPG is progression fantasy or science fiction bound by the rules of a video game. It uses a hard-magic system that allows the readers an in-depth look at those rules, which ensures consistency and allows for the mitigation of power creep.”

It was—and still is—an exciting time to be involved in the genre. People were pushing against the boundaries, exploring new ideas, and trying to understand exactly what it meant for a story to be LitRPG.

As that understanding became more formalized new genres were born eventually leading to the rise of GameLit, and Progression Fantasy. If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re already familiar with those terms and how they came to be. Rather than rehash that history, let’s talk about the purpose of this newsletter.

Simply put, I want to continue that exploration. Not only as a way of understanding the genre itself, but also as a way of understanding the best ways to present the concepts and ideas within this genre.

  • What makes for a great GameLit or LitRPG story?

  • What makes for a great GameLit or LitRPG book cover?

  • What is it about these stories that makes me enjoy them the way I do?

This newsletter is an effort to answer that question. I want to document the qualities, the game mechanics, and the story elements that make these genres appeal to me.

I hope you’ll come along.