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Player vs. Player #1: Ultimate Gaming Showdown

Player vs. Player #1: Ultimate Gaming Showdown

by M.K. England

Narrated by David Lee Huynh, Keylor Leigh, Dani Martineck, Shannon Tyo

Unabridged — 5 hours, 16 minutes

M.K. England
Player vs. Player #1: Ultimate Gaming Showdown

Player vs. Player #1: Ultimate Gaming Showdown

by M.K. England

Narrated by David Lee Huynh, Keylor Leigh, Dani Martineck, Shannon Tyo

Unabridged — 5 hours, 16 minutes

M.K. England

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Overview

In this action-packed series, four kid gamers meet at a virtual tournament and battle for the ultimate grand prize. Perfect for young fans of Ready Player One and Mr. Lemoncello's Library.

Sixty-four teams.
One mysterious grand prize.
Four gamers determined to win it all.
 
Welcome to Affinity, the hottest battle royale video game in the world! Gamers can be anything they want to be in Affinity's high-tech, magical universe-and test their skills in fierce PvP combat. So when Hurricane Games announces an epic tournament with killer prizes, four kids form a team that feels unstoppable . . . but also maybe doomed from the start?
 
Josh is the tank . . . when his parents let him game.
Hannah is the melee fighter . . . but she can only play at the public library.
Larkin is the healer . . . as long as her family's not around.
Wheatley is the ranger . . . with a secret that might wreck the whole team.
 
As solo gamers, they're good. Really good. But the tournament is a whole new level of competition, and it'll take all four of them to bring it home. Can they step up their game in time for the final match?


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

06/27/2022

England’s (Spellhacker) action-packed series opener follows four intrepid gamers teaming up in a virtual tournament for a mysterious grand prize. As some of the top-ranked players of Affinity, an online pvp game, Josh, Larkin, Hannah, and Wheatley are invited to compete in an e-sports tournament sponsored by the platform’s creators, Hurricane Games. Though they barely know one another and are considered the underdogs among their competitors, some of whom are pros, the group, who have dubbed themselves the Weird Ones, is confident in their individual abilities. But real-life interpersonal challenges beyond Affinity threaten their chances at winning. Josh’s father disapproves of his constant internet usage; Larkin, who lives in a video game–free household, plays in secret; Hannah’s financial precarity makes playing difficult; and Wheatley is hiding a troubling secret. Danger’s graphic maps and intricate avatar design expertly complement the high-stakes thrills, written with an infectious passion for gaming. Conversational prose, imaginative worldbuilding, and the cast’s respective struggles balancing their e-sports dreams with reality add nuance to this fast-paced escapist adventure. Josh is a “skinny Chinese kid with glasses”; most other characters read as white. Ages 8–12. Agent: Eric Smith, P.S. Literary. (June)

From the Publisher

"Brightly funny, deeply relatable, and full of digital heart. . . . My gamer heart is full and ready for more. Now, where do I sign up to play Affinity myself?!" —Sean Easley, author of the internationally bestselling The Hotel Between series

"Fast-paced and brilliant . . . near-impossible to put down." —Diane Magras, award-winning author of the Mad Wolf's Daughter series

"[An] ode to virtual gaming and real friendships. . . . A highly readable blend of gaming action and real-world problems." —Kirkus Reviews

"A thrill ride
. . . a great selection for reluctant readers and dedicated gamers." —Booklist

"[A] fast-paced, escapist adventure." —Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

2022-03-16
In the online world of Affinity, gamers play to win.

Four exceptionally talented and highly ranked Affinity players have just learned that the game will be hosting a top-level team tournament with incredible prizes. Though each of the tweens is individually a skilled and successful player, they’ll need to rely on one another to win. Personal issues threaten to get in the way of each team member’s tournament performance. Josh, their leader, has a dad who can’t stand his passion for video games. Larkin is gaming behind her parents’ backs—her home has a strict no video games policy—but she wants nothing more than to become a professional gamer. Hannah’s mom works long hours but still can’t afford high-speed internet, so Hannah games mostly at the public library or at school. Wheatley is hiding a huge secret that may change the way his teammates feel about him and jeopardize his spot on the team. The stakes are high, and the competition is fierce. Each member of the newly christened Weird Ones team must slay their own demons in order to rise to the top. The characterizations and the world of Affinity are well developed and compelling in this ode to virtual gaming and real friendships. Danger’s dynamic artwork adds to the sense of excitement. Josh is Chinese American; other characters are assumed White.

A highly readable blend of gaming action and real-world problems. (game manual, character illustrations) (Fiction. 9-14)

Product Details

BN ID: 2940176163476
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 06/07/2022
Series: Player vs. Player , #1
Edition description: Unabridged
Age Range: 8 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

1

JOSH

 

I know it’s my job to get punched in the face repeatedly, but this?

This is the worst.

All the color bleeds out of the screen as my character drops his shield and falls to his knees with an exaggerated groan. For the third time in less than a minute. Just in case I missed what happened, I’m helpfully reminded in big red letters:

ELIMINATED by Viperzz!

 

The game spins the camera around so I can see from every angle as Viperzz jumps repeatedly on my fallen avatar’s face. I designed it to look similar to my own, since the game had enough character options for me to get pretty close to “skinny Chinese kid with glasses.” Regretting that decision now. Two of my own teammates charge onto the screen and join in the stomping of my too-real-looking face before finally attacking our enemy like they’re supposed to. Somehow, in between slinging arrows of electricity at the other team and trying not to die, my so-called teammates still manage to type out some trash talk.

 

[Team Chat]

StryderX: Get good, you DELIGHTFUL UNICORN OF SUNSHINE

OohShinee: Try staying alive for more than ten seconds, SUPER NINJA

 

I roll my eyes and hit the F12 key to take a screenshot. DELIGHTFUL UNICORN OF SUNSHINE is a pretty good one. Within a week of getting this game, I downloaded a mod that turns common insults and whining into something much more fun, and I haven’t turned it off since. Things slip through the filter once in a while, but at least it makes match chat only mildly annoying instead of a vast ocean of school-lunch vomit that makes me sad for the whole human species.

And sometimes the filter’s random positivity makes for some really funny screenshots. I still have the shot of the time some random guy’s string of insults ended up telling me I was a FLUFFY PIRATE CHEETAH OF JOY who could go CELEBRATE myself like a PRO ASTRONAUT.

There’s no filter in the world that makes voice chat tolerable, though. Forget that.

My two “teammates” run off just as my respawn timer counts down to zero. I appear back at my team’s starting point at full health, ready to try again.

Whoo.

I shake out my hands and resettle them on the WASD keys and mouse. I really do try not to let it get to me. Those other two are sticking together for a reason. They’re probably friends who play together after school, just like I’m doing . . . but by myself. Because we had to move for my mom’s job yet again, for the third time since I started middle school. Maybe I’d be like them if I had someone to play with, too.

Then they charge headfirst together into a giant, obvious net of stun traps set by the other team, leading to their quick and ugly demise.

Never mind. There is no universe where I could ever be like them. Even my dog, Marvin, would be a better gamer buddy than these guys, and all he does is sleep on my feet and fart in the middle of every match. His stink instantly turns every battle into Hard Mode.

If I can’t have someone to game with after school, though, at least I can be the top-ranked Affinity player in my role. I’m a tank, and it’s my job to take the hits and keep others safe so they can do their own jobs: healing, attacking up close, or attacking from long range. No matter how bad these two guys are, it is my duty: I will protect them from their own stupidity.

Or try to, I guess, because there they go again, walking headfirst into the other team’s clutches without my backup. Our other teammate, who’s been totally silent, is attempting to follow along with their “strategy,” but they’re clearly ignoring her. All three of them get destroyed before I have a chance to catch up and protect them.

 

StryderX: Uuuuugh, we are getting completely owned

OohShinee: Why are you two so bad?

 

Yeah, ’cause we’re the bad ones. Normally I don’t bother with jerks like these. They never listen, and they’ll never change. They’re like bullies at school: anything you throw at them will just get used against you five seconds later. Fighting back only drags the whole thing out.

Maybe it’s the miserable day I had at school, or maybe it’s the four matches I played right before this one that all had teams just as selfish. But this time I can’t let it go. I do the thing I never do, and type furiously into team chat while waiting to respawn again.

 

TankasaurusRex: Maybe if we actually had a team of four in this match instead of two bestest buddies ever skipping around alone together, we might walk out with a win.

TankasaurusRex: We could, you know, actually try to play *together.*

 

Pointless, though.

 

OohShinee: DANCE off, SPACE CHAMPION

StryderX: You can’t keep up with us

 

Should have known better.

The match timer ticks down—five minutes to go. I can deal with these guys for five more minutes, take the loss, and move on with my life. It won’t hurt my ranking that badly.

Then a private message pops up in my chat window.

 

[Private Message]

PunchyTime: Ha, nice

PunchyTime: We could work together and make this a 4 vs 2+2 match, at least.

PunchyTime: Assuming these two noobs don’t rage quit on us first. This other team isn’t even good. We can take them.

 

I check the party list, and sure enough, PunchyTime is my silent fourth teammate. She’s our melee DPS—the short-range damage dealer—and I like this person instantly. Her character is weird. Like mine.

In Affinity, you can customize your character in a thousand small ways, but everyone makes the same two major choices at the start: your affinity, which is where your character gets their power, and your teknik, which is your style of fighting. There are ten Affinities, from magic runes to nature, demons to nanobots. For your teknik, you choose from twelve more selections, like sword knight, martial artist, hacker, sorcerer, or whatever else. There are over a hundred possible combinations, but like every other game in the world, people have decided that certain combos are the “right” ones. You don’t see many players who don’t use one of those popular builds.

Except me. I watch more Let’s Play videos on YouTube than anyone, but I don’t want some streamer to tell me how I should play the game. I want to play it, my way. I’m a Rune Knight, the least popular tank build.

PunchyTime apparently agrees. Her class combo shows up as Demon Puncher . . . which I have literally never seen in any match, ever.

This could be fun.

 

TankasaurusRex: Meet me at the gravity bridge. Let’s destroy these guys.

PunchyTime: I am SO excited right now, you don’t even know

 

My character respawns at the beginning again, standing proud in his shining silver armor, and I launch myself off the starting platform without a second to waste. This match is a “storm the castle” sort of game, but the castle we have to claim for our own is a spaceship that will let our team escape a moon base that’s exploding under our feet as we go. Whichever team reaches the ship and defends it for one minute while it prepares to launch will win the match. I’ve played it a hundred times. I know we can win. Even with this team.

I see the glow of PunchyTime’s demon energy before I actually set eyes on her avatar. My footsteps clang on the metal deck of the moon station as bursts of purple fire explode from around the next corner. I pull up my shield, glowing with a magical Rune of Protection, and launch myself around the corner, straight into a raging battle.

The gravity bridge is a long, thin walkway that stretches over a giant crater. Minor complication: the gravity occasionally flickers out, sending everyone floating in midbattle. That’s not the most fun part, though. With a flash of blue-green light, my shield launches from my grip . . .

 . . . and soars straight into the face of the girl trying to take out PunchyTime. She flies off the bridge with a comical shout, and my shield slams back into my hand as if pulled back by the world’s strongest magnet. I love that move.

PunchyTime executes a lightning-fast roundhouse kick to another guy, and just like that, the bridge is clear. She casts a quick flash of a spell—a speed boost—and we’re off, racing side by side toward the objective.

 

[Private Message]

PunchyTime: LOVE IT

PunchyTime: You know how to wreck some face

 

I grin. Is there any better compliment? This total trash fire of a match has completely turned around. I tap out a quick reply:

 

TankasaurusRex: It’s an honor to punt fools off a bridge with you.

TankasaurusRex: Now let’s steal a spaceship and win this match.

 

2

JOSH

 

The moon base falls apart around us, raining debris and fire as we run. The other team attempts an ambush during one of the big explosions, but it’s a common strategy no one actually falls for anymore. We take them out easily and push onward. At some point, our other two teammates catch up with us, silent and focused.

No one’s laughing or trash talking now. Not with the shuttle—and a potential win—in sight. I can feel it in my gut. We’re close.

Knock knock knock.

“Josh?”

No, not now! I think at the door, like I can telepathically keep my dad from opening it. At my feet, Marvin sits up and growls. We’re finally turning this match around. I can’t leave! PunchyTime lands a crushing blow that glows purple with demon magic, clearing the way to the final stretch of the map between us and the escape shuttle. All four of us run together, as a team, dodging collapsing bits of roof.

The shuttle ramp descends, waiting to welcome us aboard. We’re so close.

Then the other team comes charging on-screen.

Knock knock knock.

“Josh, dinner. Open up.”

“I’ll be down in a few minutes, Dad,” I say, trying to sound bored, like it’s no big deal. Like I’m doing homework or something. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe he won’t open the door. If he sees what I’m doing, why I’m stalling, it’s gonna turn into a fight.

But I’m never lucky.

The door pops open, and my dad pokes his head into the room. Even from the corner of my eye, I can see how his whole body language changes.

“Josh, turn that off and get downstairs right now. Dinner is on the table.”

The laser force of his disapproval hits at the same time as a fresh onslaught from the other team, and my brain struggles to balance the two. Dodge the fireball, protect PunchyTime as she crushes the opposing healer, come up with something to put Dad off for a few minutes.

He just doesn’t get it. There are people relying on me. These are timed team matches and I can’t just walk away in the middle of it without letting everyone down. Not that it stops most people from dropping midmatch, but I like to think I’m not like most players.

“Josh, hit pause right now and be at the table in thirty seconds.”

I slam my finger repeatedly on the key to keep a protective bubble up around my team as we take the shuttle, then throw myself in front of a laser blast intended for StryderX. The shuttle countdown starts. Gotta save the others, gotta take the hits and buy them time. Gotta buy myself some time. My dad loves to ramble on about responsibility to your family and community, and this is my community, so maybe . . .

“Dad, there’s no pause in this game. This is happening live, and these are real people I’m protecting. If I leave now, the whole team loses. It’s my responsibility to at least finish out the match. There are only two more minutes left on the timer, and I promise I’ll be down as soon as it’s over.”

I risk a quick glance away from the screen to see my dad’s reaction, just in time to catch the SLAM of the door as he storms away. Not good . . . but that’s a problem for Later Josh.

Right Now Josh has a shuttle to capture.

“Thirty seconds to Blue Team liftoff,” the voice-over intones, and my heart pounds hard against my ribs. Only thirty seconds until victory is ours. We’re so close, and the other team knows it. With far more coordination than our team has shown so far, they meet up at the bottom of the shuttle ramp . . . then charge as one.

I can’t let them on board this ship.

The voice begins the final countdown and the shuttle rumbles to life as I meet the other team head-on. I slam my shield into their tank, knocking her off the side of the ramp, then swing around to throw a magical wall up between our two teams. They turn their weapons and magic on me, but it’s no use.

This is what I do. This is my kind of fight.

I absorb or deflect blow after blow, my shield flashing bright white with each hit. PunchyTime bounces around like some kind of demon rabbit, leaping from one enemy to another to interrupt their attacks before they can hurt us. OohShinee has actually decided to do his duty as healer, too. A bright green flurry of healing leaves rains down over our team, each leaf mending the damage done to us. Arrows and spells zing through the air, swords and fists fly, and the voice-over counts down ever closer to our win.

 

TEN! NINE! EIGHT!

 

StryderX flies backward, a bright bolt of electricity shorting out his nanotech armor. He falls to the ground.

 

SEVEN! SIX! FIVE!

 

PunchyTime throws herself at the other team’s healer, fists wreathed in purple fire.

 

FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE!

BLUE TEAM: VICTORY!

 

The words splash across the screen in bright letters as the shuttle lifts off. Our team is carried to safety just as the moon base crumbles with a final BOOM that makes the whole screen shake. I suck in a deep breath and shake out my hands with a wide grin.

We won.

Despite that awful start, we actually won!

I can’t believe it.

The match stats display over a faded-out version of the Affinity logo, and I grab a quick screenshot before the image times out.

“Yessss,” I hiss, pumping both fists into the air, then quickly putting them back down. My dad definitely wouldn’t approve or understand, but even he can’t kill my good mood now. Terrible teammates or not, I am now the number six tank in the entire game.

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