The series begins six months after aliens show up at Earth. The robotic Enforcer fleet abolishes all crime, solves poverty, and hands out Capsules that individuals can use to log in to the Game. Alan is told at first that the Game was built by the Precursors as a virtual reality substitute for war, as attacking and controlling a planet in the Game gives control of that planet in real life. However, Alan begins turning up clues that this explanation is a lie, and the real purpose of the Game is a dangerous secret.
The Gam3 is presented as a Video Game RPG writ large, with a lot of emphasis on game mechanics, abilities, and levels. There is also frequent discussion on the 'reality' of the game, both in terms of how detailed of a simulation it is, and how a player's actions in the Game will have a far greater impact on the real life of a planet than anything that happens outside the Game.
Has a sequel called New Gam 3+.
This series provides examples of:
- Academy of Adventure: New players can pay to attend academies, which power level them until they can be competitive in the Game. The original and most prestigious is just called The Academy, and takes up an entire solar system. Alan is lucky enough to be granted access to the academy through the Black Rose Guild yet the book ends before he enters.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Oh yes. Eve and Titan are bad enough, every other AI in the Game seems to have its own agenda, and that's not even including the integration of viruses or (possibly) the Game itself.
- The Alcatraz: That'd be the Abyss, sitting within what's probably most of the central planet of one of the biggest empires in the universe.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: Alan's AI Eve is dedicated to this, constantly scanning everything in the surrounding environment for threats and guiding Alan during combat. She typically expresses her observations to Alan as probabilities of different events. In many cases is effectively Prescience by Analysis.
- This becomes problematic when it turns out that using an AI as a crutch means that your own personal skills depreciate in rapid order. It then boomerangs when Alan's taught to do so himself.
- Bad Liar: Once Lambda gets past its initial script, it turns out that it's really not all that great at dealing with people. Especially people who already have reason to distrust it.
- Bag of Spilling: When a player dies, they drop all of their unbound items above a very low rank — and all of their bound items at rank A or above. Those bound items can't readily be equipped by other players without a severe penalty, meaning they can potentially be ransomed back to their owner. Because the vast, vast majority of players rely on specialized gear instead of straight skills, those ransoms usually get paid.
- Character Class System: All players have one or more classes, which opens paths to further specialized abilities.
- Each player is offered a game-chosen class following the tutorial, or may make their own choice of class (which is very expensive).
- Each class has a selection of Major Abilities, effectively sub-classes that further specialize the player. Only one may be chosen by a player.
- Access to additional classes is possible, and we do not yet know how common it is.
- Advancement in a class occurs not by levels, but by developing class-specific abilities and by completing sidequests assigned by your class mentor, a stronger player who has chosen to guide your advancement.
- Character Level: Each player has a level, gaining levels grants points to spend on abilities or stats. Alan's starting level is 3. The average and median levels of publicly listed players is given as 3460 and 1337. There is no level cap.
- Continuing is Painful: Despite being virtual reality, dying in-game is serious business due to a huge list of penalties. Includes: Loss of all credits the player had at the time, loss of levels, permanent decrease of all stats, decrease in skill proficiency for all skills, and the chance of unlearning abilities. Powerful items also tend to drop when a player dies, and memory loss has been mentioned.
- Cyberspace: Most hacking now relies upon a visualization of what's going on, rather than an actual look into the fundamental process. When Alan starts to actually program alongside Lambda, things get even more esoteric. Alan at first expresses interest in learning the actual fundamentals, but is reminded time and again that he'd have to study for at least a couple decades.
- Death Is Cheap: Dying in the Game is never the end, you respawn back in your Home some hours later.
- Easy Exp: Literally everything a player does can result in experience gain or learning or improving an ability. Alan has gained experience for, among other things: bartering with a shopkeeper, decorating his Power Armor, meditating, and running on a treadmill until he passed out.
- Experience Points: Discussed Trope, in-game notifications explicitly mention experience gain, and guides for new players explain the best ways to gain experience.
- Equipment-Based Progression: A player's equipment contributes as much, or more, to their combat ability than their attributes or abilities. It is discussed that a level 1 player with good enough equipment could fight evenly with a level 1000 player with poor quality equipment. This makes collecting and protecting your gear critically important, and losing your best items when you die a real penalty.
- Great Big Library of Everything: The Archivists, a faction of the Revenants, maintains a special, tightly guarded archive. Each book corresponds to a 'version' of the Game, and contains entire libraries of data about that time period. The earliest volumes are kept locked away even from the rest of the highly-secure archive.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The Revenants use this to help hide their identities. If a player outs someone as a Revenant, but the Revenant kills them within a day or two, they will forget that player's Revenant affiliation.Sidestep: "Well, they’ll still remember how they died, so you have to be subtle, but they’ll forget the Revenant part.”
- Level Grinding:
- A large part of Alan's time is spent doing repetitive or unusual activities with the explicit purpose of gaining experience or abilities. He isn't treated as unusual in this regard, as nearly every player shown is desperately trying to become as powerful as they can.
- This is also the purpose of in-game academies for new players.
- Level-Locked Loot: Most weapons and armor we see the description for have a list of abilities required to use the item, effectively preventing a new player from finding the Infinity +1 Sword and becoming god. Some also have a second list of recommended abilities, which unlocks extra uses of the item or makes the item more effective.
- Locked Out of the Loop: When asked about the deeper nature of the Game, several players have indicated that they know the answers, but won't share them with Alan because You Are Not Ready. Two of them even said that the knowledge was dangerous, and could result in Alan's real-life death or even the destruction of Earth. Lambda knows these secrets too, and tells Alan it isn't the other players keeping secrets, but the Game itself. It can literally prevent other players from answering Alan until he meets the Game's built-in requirements for learning the truth. They couldn't even tell Alan about the restriction without the Game blocking them, Lambda circumvents it because he is an AI designed for machine-player communication.
- Next Sunday A.D.: An exact date is not given, but everything we see of Earth is compatible with the year 2015.
- Precursors: The Game was created by the Predecessors and the Lords of Life as the culmination of their galaxy-spanning genocidal war. The Predecessors are still around, and are the strongest individual players in the game. The Lords of Life have barely been mentioned beyond their name.
- Role-Playing Game: The Game is one of these, and the story focuses on it a great deal. The in-universe text for many abilities and items is shown, and we periodically get to see Alan's Status Screen.
- RPGs Equal Combat: The majority of players are specialized for combat in some way. Justified as the entire game is a war simulation. However, 30% of players gain a non-combat class, such as technician, inventor, or laborer.
- Stat Grinding: A player's stats can be increased by spending points from leveling, however it is more common to raise stats through training or as part of a reward when learning a new ability. These don't necessarily have to be trained through combat either, Alan gains +10 Charisma for learning the ability Fashion Sense (Basic).
- The Trickster: It's been implied that Lambda might well be this, as while it doesn't seem to wish any of the players actual harm, it's been implicated in the death of many senses of humor.
- Wild Card: Alan has managed to be this to a lot of governments and groups, much to their stern disappointment. The only group he's shown a clear and consistent allegiance to is the Black Rose guild, and only because they haven't tried to stab him in the back... yet.