LitRPG, short for literary role-playing game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of computer RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels. The term was introduced in 2013. In LitRPG, game-like elements form an essential part of the story, and visible RPG statistics (for example strength, intelligence, damage) are a significant part of the reading experience.[1] This distinguishes the genre from novels that tie in with a game, like those set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons; books that are actual games, such as the choose-your-own-path Fighting Fantasy type of publication; or games that are literarily described, like MUDs and interactive fiction. Typically, the main character in a LitRPG novel is consciously interacting with the game or game-like world and attempting to progress within it.


The literary trope of getting inside a computer game is not new.[2] Andre Norton's Quag Keep (1978) enters the world of the characters of a D&D game. Larry Niven and Steven Barnes's Dream Park (1981) has a setting of LARP-like games as a kind of reality TV in the future (2051). With the rise of MMORPGs in the 1990s came science fiction novels that utilised virtual game worlds for their plots. Early examples are Piers Anthony's 1993 Killobyte, Tad Williams's 1996–2004 tetralogy Otherland, Conor Kostick's 2004 Epic[3] and Charles Stross's 2007 Halting State. In Taiwan, the first of Yu Wo's nine ½ Prince (½ 王子 Èrfēnzhīyī Wángzǐ) novels appeared, published in October 2004 by Ming Significant Cultural.[4] In Japan, the genre has reached the mainstream with the release of the media phenomenon .hack//Sign in 2002 and Sword Art Online in 2009. Also of note is the Korean Legendary Moonlight Sculptor series with over 50 volumes.

While these novels and others were precursors to a more stat-heavy form of novel, which is LitRPG proper, a Russian publishing initiative identified the genre and gave it a name. The first Russian novel in this style appeared in 2012 at the Russian self-publishing website, the novel Господство клана Неспящих (Clan Dominance: The Sleepless Ones)[5] by Dem Mikhailov set in the fictional sword and sorcery game world of Valdira, printed by Leningrad Publishers later that year under the title Господство кланов (The Rule of the Clans) in the series Современный фантастический боевик (Modern Fantastic Action Novel)[6] and translated into English as The Way of the Clan as a Kindle book in 2015. In 2013, EKSMO, a major Russian publishing house, started its multiple-author project entitled LitRPG. According to Magic Dome Books, a major translator of Russian LitRPG, the term "LitRPG" was coined in late 2013 during a brainstorming session between writer Vasily Mahanenko, EKSMO's science fiction editor Dmitry Malkin and fellow LitRPG series editor and author Alex Bobl [ru]. Since 2014, EKSMO has been running LitRPG competitions and publishing the winning stories.[7][8]





Many of the post-2014 writers in this field insist that depiction of a character's in-game progression must be part of the definition of LitRPG, leading to the emergence of the term GameLit to embrace stories set in a game universe but which do not necessarily embody leveling and skill raising.[19][20] Some of the earliest examples are Chris Van Allsburg's 1981 Jumanji which is a children's book about a magical board game.[21][22] and the Guardians of the Flame series (1983–2004) by Joel Rosenberg[23] in which a group of college students are magically transported into a fantasy role-playing game.

Ernest Cline's 2011 novel Ready Player One, which depicts a virtual reality world called OASIS filled with arcade game references from the 1980s and 1990s, became an example of this new genre.[24][25] Other examples include Marie Lu's 2017 novel Warcross, which is about an online bounty hunter in an internet game,[25] and Louis Bulaong's 2020 book Escapist Dream, which tells the story of a virtual reality world where geeks can role-play and use the powers of their favorite comic book, anime, movie and video game characters.[26][20]


  1. ^ Серия книг LitRPG by EKSMO (in Russian).
  2. ^ Miller, Paul (28 May 2016). "What is LitRPG and why does it exist?". The Verge. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  3. ^ Browne, Elena (1 March 2018). "Conor Kostick on Ready Player One, Epic and LitRPG". The O'Brien Press Blog. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  4. ^ Kuo, Grace (3 June 2012). "Taiwan novelist captures hearts of youngsters at home and abroad". Taiwan Today. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  5. ^ Господство клана Неспящих.
  6. ^ Что такое ЛитРПГ: всё о жанре, Mir Fantastiki magazine (in Russian).
  7. ^ "Романы серии LitRPG (Первый сезон)". Fan Book. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  8. ^ "What is LitRPG?". Level Up Publishing. 11 June 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  9. ^ a b "14 OF THE BEST LITRPG BOOKS". TopSciFiBooks. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  10. ^ "What is LitRPG?". LitRPG Reads. June 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  11. ^ Kostick, Conor. "What are the top LitRPG books of all time?". Level Up Publishing. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "All Time Best LitRPG". Level Up Publishing. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  13. ^ "An Interview with Pirateaba". 22 January 2018.
  14. ^ Murphy, Kevin. "The best LitRPG books, graphic novels, and light novels". Shepherd. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  15. ^ Bendixen, Melissa (11 August 2023). "Level up with 25+ awesome litRPGs". Audible Blog. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  16. ^ a b c Duques, Matthewe (11 August 2023). "Top 25+ Best LitRPG Books 2023 Review". Penn Book Center. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  17. ^ Simmons, Preston (21 January 2022). "The Top 10 Best LitRPG Books in 2022 RANKED". Reader's Grotto. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  18. ^ Maven, Alex (1 May 2022). "Top 9 Best Litrpg Wuxia Novels". Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  19. ^ Tuleyev, Murat (17 January 2019). "Писатели сегодня зарабатывают реальные деньги". KST News. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  20. ^ a b Almond, J. (30 October 2020). "A Closer Look at Video Game-Inspired Books". John Almond. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  21. ^ Balogun (30 August 2017). "When Afrofuturism Meets Sword & Soul! Why YOU should be reading LitRPG". Chronicles of Harriet. Archived from the original on 25 January 2022. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  22. ^ Perry, Travis (21 May 2020). "Free Original Storyworld Ideas, Part 5: GameLit (and Animal Eye)". Speculative Faith.
  23. ^ "Guardians of the Flame Series".
  24. ^ "What are the best GameLit books?". Level Up Publishing. Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  25. ^ a b Matharu, Taran (8 January 2018). "5 virtual reality books for your gaming-mad tweens and teens". Retrieved 24 August 2023.
  26. ^ Hannigan, Carl. "Escapist Dream (Book Review): How It Represented and Satirized Geek Culture". Voice Media Group. 29 August 2020