While I was in college I had thought to write my thesis about narrative in video games against a backdrop of narrative convention, but I focused on a creative project instead. Knowing what I do now, I sometimes wish I could go back and work on the narrative project instead, but I realize I probably didn’t have the focus to do that sort of paper justice and, more to the point, games were still too much of a playtime hobby for me.
Over the course of the past year I’ve gotten more and more interested in the serious criticism surrounding games and gaming. There isn’t much, and a lot of what’s out there is dated – some of it is decades old, which for this industry might as well be a millienium – and nearly all the rest is written by people who haven’t seriously played video games.
I did tell Santa about one book, though: ‘Extra Lives’ by Tom Bissell. Bissell is a journalist and author with a pretty impressive resume who also happens to be a serious gamer. As he mentions in the opening chapter of the book, he spent more than 200 hours playing Oblivion, and not for study. Bissell loves games and gaming, but he also has the tools necessary to write about them in meaningful ways.
I’m at the halfway point of ‘Extra Lives’ and though I’m not exactly sure where he’s taking things, I’ve enjoyed it immensely. It’s refreshing to read someone who can intelligently talk about video games without condemning the players and the developers and the entire industry to some special hell reserved for people with too much free time on their hands.
If you’re looking for a new read, consider it. I’d love to hear what you guys think about the book.