Last July, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow came out, a novel set in and around the games industry. The book follows three aspiring game developers from their time as kids to their careers in the industry, in part detailing the games they make along the way, and found itself on several best seller lists on its release. Over the weekend, veteran game dev Brenda Romero called out the novel for excluding her from the acknowledgments, despite the similarity, confirmed by the author elsewhere, between Romero’s board game Train and an in-book video game Solution.
On Twitter, Brenda Romero said “I find it hard to believe that “Solution” is not inspired by my game Train”, and pointed out that “the only Romero in the book text is John,” her husband who’s best known for his work on Doom and Quake. An irony for a book that is, in part, about the work of women in the games industry going uncredited.
The novel’s acknowledgments section is otherwise scrupulous, and gives credit to several games, game developers, and authors who inspired the book as a whole, or individual games within it. It’s easy to think that maybe the similarity between the two games was a coincidence, but Zevin admits the inspiration that Train had in an interview with Wired. “It is a take on Train, certainly,” she said, before detailing her own experiences with gaming and her boredom with cutscenes.
So what are the similarities between Romero’s Train and Zevin’s Solution? Train is a board game that Romero first presented at MIT, where players load miniature figures onto a train and ferry them to their destinations, eventually discovering that those destinations are concentration camps. Romero’s website describes Train as a game that “explores complicity within systems.” In Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow the character Sadie develops a game called Solution, a Tetris-like puzzler set in a factory, for an MIT class. In exchange for a lower score, players can choose to learn more about the factory, discovering that it supplies parts for the Nazis. The comparison is very easy to make.
Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow partly explores how women are often uncredited, and sometimes forgotten in the games industry, so it’s a little ironic to see the situation repeated outside the book, even if by mistake. Romero’s been in the games industry for decade, so maybe the upcoming paperback edition will add-in an extra shout out for her.
We’ve reached out to Penguin Publishing for a comment regarding Brenda Romero’s acknowledgement.
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