A Moment For Gaming Literature

Books innit? In between writing about games, listening almost exclusively to gaming soundtracks and reading about games on the Internet we occasionally find the time to actually play some games. Rarer still, we find time to pick up a game related book and give it a bloody good read and now is a good a time as any to be reading about games. This time five years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find any gaming based literature in your local book shop. Now, for the discerning reader, it is hard not get buried by it.

Jay the editor of videolamer is a ninny
First up, we've been reading The Second Life Herald: the virtual tabloid that witnessed the dawn of the metaverse by Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace. This book is 3 years old now but charts the early days of the growth of things like The Sims Online and Second Life and where interesting stuff happens with emergent behaviours in games. If you completely missed this chunk of gaming history but want to know more about why people bother with second life, what the Upskirt Museum is, the Shadow Sim Government and the infamous Evangeline, then it is well worth picking up. Be warned though! Ludlow talks about himself as the person behind the avatars in various virtual worlds as that avatar's typist. It may be me but this twee little distinction really grates by page 200. Also, despite the ballsy title the interesting virtual world stuff is nowhere near as succinctly parceled up as in Jim Rossignol's This Gaming Life or Tim Guest's Second Lives and the need (in 2007) to keep explaining frames of reference can detract from the flow of the book. Our interest in this kind of discourse really starts to wane when an interesting philosophical problem is turned into a mountain of a life-or-death situation. Ludlow's railing against EA and Maxis here is as tiring as all the Linden Lab-Stockholm syndrome love/hate prissiness that used to run through the pages of sites like Terra Nova before Second Life bottomed out. Along the way, Ludlow does occasionally overstate the case and anytime all that Bill of Avatar Rights guff comes up, we tend to skim read. Interesting yes, quite so fundamentally life changing? Not-as-much as is made out here. Not as much as the academics keep telling each other. Worth a read certainly if your interest in games runs beyond your dps or kpd.

Jay the editor of videolamer is bentNext up we have our freshly delivered copy of Replay: the History of Video Games . We have a number of history of video games volumes but as far back as 2006 we've been complaining that most of them were americacentric and mostly about boring hardware. However, a glowing recommendation from Rock Paper Shotgun secured our copy. We haven't read it at all yet so here's our preview of the box art alone: It is a hefty volume. The finish on the cover is very nice even if we aren't too keen on Mcauleyauley Kalckin mug gooning at us from the front cover. Also, we noticed it has a forward by Richard Garriot.

Jay the editor of videolamer has FIVWe also ordered Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter largely because of the title of the book. This book is written by Tom Bissell who by total coincidence was also on the Brainy Gamer podcast we were listening to when this book arrived in the post. For those of you who don't know, Tom is that tosser who kept going on about playing GTA whilst on coke. We've played Shadow of Memories whilst high on mixed herbs but we don't keep going on and on and on about it*. People go into Tescos bogs all the time to shoot up but I doubt they write edgy pieces of 'journalism' about it. Some might say tosser is a bit harsh but having heard him get fellated by Michael Abbott here we can confirm he sounds tosser-ish but at least knows a thing or two about talking bollocks believably. We reserve final judgement until we've read it.
Jay the editor of videolamer is really unskilled in first person shooters Lastly, and we don't normally proudly count strategy guides as 'books'. In fact we keep them in a different room to the video game books. But we selfishly spoiled ourselves and bought Pokemon: Heart Gold Version Soul Silver Version: The Official Pokemon Kanto Guide and National Pokedex. Our long term reader knows that 66% of TGAM is good-sense-gay about Pokemon and so we indulged. Early Christmas present from us to us. It's so big and thick. Sometimes I just sit and stroke the cover of the book. After a long day at work I press the cool spine against my cheek and hum spanish lullabies. On occasion, when the wife is out, I take the phone off the hook, close the blinds and have a look inside. Annoyingly, the book points out at every instant that I'm nowhere near finishing Pokemon Soul Silver at all and just how massive these handheld games are. It does fuel the mystery as to why Nintendo keeps so much of the game completely hidden unless you religiously navigate Serebii or purchase Strategy Guides too. Bizarrely, in the sections about training up Pokemon (dubbed the 'metagame' by the online Pokemon community) the guide still doesn't go the whole hog and describe the mathematics behind the game that every dedicated trainer learns and applies. It's fair to say that delving into the mechanics in detail may confuse the younger readers but this book half goes into some detail about effort values and the importance of breeding anyway but then bottles using the real statistics and discusses generic and confusing 'base stats'. Ranking each statistic out of 6 instead of using the known numerical values. Which, if anything, to the uninitiated is more confusing and vague than explaining the precise and exact system in full. Sadly, this means you'll still have to keep that Serebii link close to hand.

There we go, reading. Ain't so bad after all.

*We mentioned it once, here


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