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Games people play,
This review is from: Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (Hardcover)
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The subtitle of Tom Bissell's Extra Lives is "Why Video Games Matter", which naturally made me wonder, do they really matter? Sure, Bissell would try to explain his view, but would it be like an explanation of astrology: no matter how logical you'd try to be, you'd still be working on a foundation of hooey.
The astrology analogy, imperfect as it may be, does provide another similarity to video games: both generate lots of money. Spending money on a horoscope may be a waste, but can the same argument be made for video games? Maybe not, if you consider video games a form of art, in which case, spending money on them is little different than buying movies or books. In fact, Bissell's argument falls much along this line, and much of Extra Lives is dedicated to the artistic aspects of video games: the execution of stories, the development of game worlds, etc.
Bissell's focus is on violent adventure games such as Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, so discussion of puzzle like games (Tetris, Bejeweled and so forth), sports games and other video game genres is very limited. He does give the reader a behind-the-scenes look at the developers of these games.
Personally, I rarely play these types of games, with most of my experience limited to that early first-person shooter, Doom. It's not that I have an aversion to such games, it's just that I know if I start playing them, they'd quickly consume my leisure time, time I'd rather invest in reading, movies or other forms of entertainment. These games are addicting, as Bissell aptly demonstrates: he is an addict to these games. On a related note, he also admits to being a cocaine addict and though he may be clean at the moment, he gives off the vibe of someone who could fall off the wagon again pretty easily.
Does Bissell make his case? Do video games matter? I think he does, but I'll leave it to each reader to make his or her own opinion. More importantly, is he a good writer? Not so much. He's okay, but I often found that the book rambled too much and though the individual chapters are interesting, they don't come together into a coherent whole as well as they should. This is an okay book, but little more than that; if you have an interest in the topic, you might get some insights, but don't expect too much.