Tom Bissell's "Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter" discusses advances in videogaming and explores the meaning and future of this exploding medium. Bissell discusses his book Thursday at Seattle's University Book Store.
‘Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter’
by Tom Bissell
Pantheon, 218 pp, $22.95
The video-game industry, writes Tom Bissell in “Extra Lives,” began “as an engineering culture, transformed into a business, and now, like a bright millionaire turning toward poetry, (has) confident but uncertain aspirations toward art.”
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Bissell believes it’s time that this art form, however nascent, answered some big questions: Can games offer profound aesthetic experiences? What compels a person to spend hours engaged in shooting, bludgeoning, road-killing and pretty much making a bloody mess of things on-screen?
If your last contact with a video game was “Pong,” you’ll be staggered by how far the medium has advanced.
Yet this book won’t get you to care enough to buy an Xbox. Passages explaining a particular game’s characters and levels become tiresome, and Bissell’s interesting ideas feel haphazardly arranged.
Still, for anyone who has spent a weekend thrilled by the prospect of beating a game, “Extra Lives” will cast the addiction in a new, cerebral light. Bissell’s reflections on how he has been affected by his play, especially when it was paired with his once-endless craving for cocaine, add an unexpected poignancy. But like a player encountering the “Game Over” screen, the reader is left sighing for more.