I'm going to wander a short distance away from gaming for a moment. Please bear with me.
If you follow my twitter feed at all, you'll have seen - in and around the "Gamethyme Played X" and the "NEW BLOG POST: BLAH" tweets - that I've started sharing occasional snippets from books that I'm reading (or have read). I enabled this on my Kindle several years ago when I got my DX, and have enabled it on my other Kindles, too. It's just not a feature I've used much, because normally I'm not a social reader. I'll discuss books I've read with friends, and will make recommendations to a few of them, but that's not why I read. I read for me.
Twenty years ago, I read The Player Of Games. It was my first - and, until very recently, only - experience with Iain M. Banks' "Culture" series. It's a bunch of books that are only loosely connected - they take place in the same setting, but there is little or no crossover of characters from book to book. Really, you can read them in any order and it won't hurt things at all.
And - until recently - it's been a significant gap in my SF reading history. It's one of those contemporary pieces that SF junkies discuss at conventions and that are written about by scholars. In many ways, the series is a touchstone of modern SF. It's often credited for reviving the Space Opera subgenre, in fact.
As I said: I read The Player Of Games more than twenty years ago. Closer to 30 than 20, truth be told. And then I didn't read another Culture book until 2011, when I read Consider Phlebas (which my adult and more jaded tastes found ... mediocre).
I'm glad I decided to re-read The Player Of Games, however. Because some of its unspoken assumptions about the Culture amuse and interest me. The main character is famous because he is good at games. Very good at a wide variety of them, in fact. That is his sole claim to fame.
Not sports. Not politics. Not acting. Games. Board games. Card games.
There are a few people on the planet who are famous because of games. Bobby Fischer. Garry Kasparov. Boris Spassky. Interestingly, these are all Chess players. In Asia, Go players have similar levels of fame. But it's mostly limited to aficionados of the game in question.
It sounds like a form of Paradise to me.
If you read SF - specifically of the Space Opera variety - and are at all curious about this series, start with this one. As I said: The series is only loosely tied together, and you can read it in any order without creating major problems for yourself.