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Customer Review

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, informative, surprising, July 16, 2011
This review is from: Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us In and Hold Us Spellbound (New Directions in Media) (Hardcover)
The authors did a good job with this book. I like the fact they make a non-gamer reader feel included by explaining gaming-specific items rather than leaving the reader feel clueless. On this particular topic, I had scant knowledge before reading this book. To me, the very limited time I have on this earth means I am just not going to do some things. Long ago, I put video games in that box of what I am not going to do.

But like any choice, this one means I am giving up something. As games have greatly evolved since their early days (when I made that choice), that "something" has become fairly significant. Video games do offer benefits beyond what we non-gamers typically know about. And, of course, they have their drawbacks. The authors explore both of these areas, while explaining what makes video gaming so compelling to so many people.

The authors also explore the hyperbole, disinformation, and denials about game content. Some fascinating reading, there.

So if you're not a gamer, is this book a waste of time to read? I don't think so. For one thing, you probably know (and misunderstand) someone who spends a fair amount of time with video games. And video gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry. Its market goes well beyond the original demographic (school children), to include all ages and most walks of life.

Most of us are aware that the Space Program has produced benefits in mainstream society (Tang not withstanding). Gaming shares such a legacy.

For example, as I type this I am viewing the text on a monitor that incorporates features originally developed to improve the video game experience. I remember when a 16-bit video card was a big deal, too. The video card that drives this monitor's display runs on a special bus and has so many bits I can't remember them all. :)

So, extremely sharp display with no refresh issues or redraw ghosts. If not for gaming, neither this monitor nor this video card would exist.

None of this convinces me to get into gaming. I simply don't have the time, and I get the benefits (which the authors identify) via other means.

Some of the benefits touted by gaming advocates do not exist. The authors explore this and debunk some misconceptions. They also look at nontransferable skills gained in gaming. I was surprised that they didn't assess the brain plasticity related benefits that gaming probably produces.

While the authors, who are gamers themselves, do give an overall positive impression of gaming, they were careful not to dismiss its darker side out of hand. Nor do they use the "salesy" tactic of addressing objections or concerns with false arguments. Their approach seemed honest and genuine, and they backed their statements with research. This required, of course, acknowledgement of the addicts in the gaming world. They actually discussed a couple of case histories indepth.

I think it would be difficult to write a balanced book on this topic, but the authors fairly well pulled that off. I mean if you're not a gamer, then obviously you have a lower opinion of gaming than a gamer does.

And I think there's not much middle ground in terms of how people see gaming. The reason is similar to that of any "extreme" activity. You don't dally around with it. You're either committed, or you don't participate. Consider dance. I took dancing lessons and enjoyed the activity. But continuing forward would have been too much of a time commitment so I quit. I think gaming is like that.

I don't mean to say gamers have no life outside of gaming. That would be a false assertion, though there are gamers who fit that description. But then, you find fanatics in all kinds of hobbies and fields of interest. We all know at least one sports fan who seems to live for that particular sport or, as a spectator, a particular team.

The authors draw on their own experiences in game development and game playing, experiences of specific gamers, and a staggering amount of literature and research relevant to the topic. On this last item, fact-aholics will be happy to note that many of the sources are primary sources. As someone who is quick to shoot down ill-researched opinion posing as non-fiction, I believe the authors endeavored to make this book as accurate as possible.

The authors also chose a writing style that's conversational, yet authoritative. That's a good tone for this kind of work, in my opinion. It makes the book highly readable, without any "dumbing down" being evident.

A final observation about the writing. The trend in recent years has been to reduce publishing costs by cutting back on, or eliminating entirely, the proofreading process. This book does not appear to have suffered from that. The text is really clean. That, to me, scores big points.

So, that's my overall view of this book. I won't get into the details of what the authors conclude, because the most accurate way to understand the conclusions is to read the book.

This book consists of nine chapters occupying 173 pages, with the research notes presented as back notes at the end of each chapter. It also has a well-written introduction and an extensive index.
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