Book: This Gaming Life

By Jim Rossignol on April 23rd, 2008 at 8:46 am.


This Gaming Life is to be published towards the end of next month, and that means my first proper book on videogames is now available to order from both American and British varieties of Amazon. It’s as close to RPS: The Book as you’re going to get for a while, so if you’ve enjoyed what we’ve done here then please grab a copy. (That said, I haven’t limited myself to PC games, despite the major Quake and Eve Online touchstones that provide the backdrop for much of the book’s discussion.)

After the link I talk more about the idea behind the project and the long process of putting the beast together.

So, This Gaming Life, has almost arrived. It’s a book about how games change people’s lives.

The 220-page beast will be released in the US on the 26th of May, and is available via Amazon throughout the rest of the world. I doubt this will be the last tome-sized transmission from me, either. I’ve now got a taste for the strong stuff… Anyway, let me tell you something of the nature this initial excursion into bookishness, and of how it all came to be a real, printed wad of paper, sitting right here on my laminate Ikea desk.

The challenge, laid down by the University Of Michigan, was to write a book that in some way encapsulated and extended what I did with my essay on Korean gaming culture, published in 2006. I jumped at the chance, and begun to throw down ideas about what I wanted to do. The things that came up were all similar to that Korea piece: the interactions I’d had with gamers and the various exploits of gamers that I had spent so much time reporting on in the past few years. This was what interested me: gaming as part of life – my life and the lives other others.

The subjects include:

- How games make gamers. I look at how games have influenced the direction specific lives.
- Boredom: Are games simply a sophisticated response to an underexposed facet of modern life?
- Propaganda. Games as politically and socially-loaded cultural objects.
- Creative symbiosis: how games develop in response to the demands and needs of players.
- The future of gaming: just how much can we know about where all this is going?

There’s loads of other stuff too. I talk about running a Quake team, running an Eve corporation, meeting hardcore gamers in Korea, Reykjavik, London, and the rest of the world. The book is, fundamentally, as much about people as it is about games. Without all the people I have conversed with, interviewed, or simply listened to in the past decade, none of what I have written would have been possible. That, I think, is true of much of what I do. To paraphrase a famous mathematician rather horribly, I would say that writers are devices for turning tea into literature. But writers tend to require something that mathematicians do not: people, and reports of people’s experiences. My output is only a factor of my input, and so on. In some ways, therefore, this book is a “Rossignol’s Greatest Hits”, as it allowed me scope to rifle back through the past decade or so and fish out the things that were really important. The defining conversations, the vital moments, the significant games, and the most interesting people have all been heaped into the tome. This is a project in which I was I finally had enough room to begin to set out my long-in-the-collecting stall of ideas, as well as investigate a few things that have begun to obsess me as a writer and a gamer. Quake, Eve Online, boredom, education, purpose, purposelessness, philosophy, and the meaning of games.

So yes, it’s something of a safari, with me taking ill-advised pot shots at wild topics as they roam in the ungoverned outback of journalism. “Travels In Three Cities” became the subtitle. Like games, serious books have to have a secondary, explanatory clause. “BOOK THE FIRST: THE ENBOOKENING” and other far less worthy titles were sensibly rejected by my editors, and so we came up with something that connected what I was doing with greater, cleverer works of journalism. (I hope I can capture a fragment of the documentary insight that gave my namesakes their successes.)

There was also this idea of travel: that examining gaming culture was nothing without a sense of exploration, both physical and virtual. It could easily have been “Travels In Three Cities, In A Spaceship, and On The Back Of A Wolf God,” but instead I divided it up broadly between real-world experiences related to London, those defined by my encounter with Seoul, and those which wind their way back to my favourite Viking outpost, Reykjavik. These in turn became loose divisions: discussing what defines gamers and how gamers define themselves; how gamer cultures have grown and evolved, complete with their own politics and propaganda; and how games and the people who play them have become interwoven, with human imaginations and digital game-systems all becoming part of the same chunky soup of ideas. Yes, it’s a fun time.

(Well, it’s a fun time now. As anyone who knows me will testify, it’s been a long journey. And I’m all too aware of the flaws in my arguments, and of the descriptive and analytic holes that will require another book to patch up. I suddenly have greater respect for anyone who embarks on a project that takes months and years, rather than days or weeks. Nevertheless I’m enormously proud of this book, because it allowed me to do something new, and will give me the confidence to attack even larger subjects in the future. The next book is already gestating.)

Compared to the instant gratification of blogging, or the gradual monthly climax of a magazine deadline, working on a book is a remarkably slow, isolated experience. Isolating, even. Receiving several waves of edits from experienced editors, however, is enormously encouraging. Magazine editing won’t usually stretch much beyond a quick chat or an email asking “Are you /sure/ you mean X?” While life online tends to see you having to correct your own semi-colons, and getting a few sharp comments about your use of verbs. But for the book I received a huge amount of support and advice, as well as essential grammar-revision, without which I would have looked utterly foolish. The people who helped me get through all this have my intense gratitude. As will you, if you buy the thing.

Cheers!

Oh, and that cover in full:

__________________

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62 Comments »

  1. Uwe Boll says:

    Sell me the film rights to your book.

  2. Seniath says:

    Can’t wait, another thing to put on the list of post-exam goodness :D

  3. Michael Bay says:

    I’ll outbid you, Boll.

  4. Nuyan says:

    I’m looking forward to it. Can’t say I’ve read a book about gaming before actually.

  5. Smee says:

    Who designed the cover? It’s rather nice.

  6. Ging says:

    I’ll make the purchase once I’m sure that my rent is covered (though the temptation is there to just ignore rent and buy the book… hmm)

  7. FringeRock says:

    “Quake Genius”

    Love it. I think you wrote the blurb Jim. You did, didn’t you?

  8. Zerimski says:

    Preordered!

  9. phuzz says:

    You realise that bastard Gillen is getting rich off your back? Slap bang in the middle of the ‘Customers who shopped for *blah* also shopped for:’ is Phonogram: Rue Britannia. You ought to get a stop put to that sort of behaviour!

    j/k, although it either reveals something interesting about the RPS readership who’ve pre-ordered the book, or the amazon recommendations system is more all knowing than previously thought. (Quick! It’s becoming self aware! Shotgun to the face!).

    Also, for some reason, Mr R, your name always conjures up an image in my mind of a big top hat and a black waxed ‘tash.

  10. Ging says:

    I quite like the fact that the “customers who bought this also bought:” solely points to No More Heroes on the virus console.

  11. Jim Rossignol says:

    The blurb was mostly written by the publisher.

  12. Joonas says:

    Preordered, sounds like something I’ll enjoy. The cover is great.

  13. Chris Evans says:

    Order Date: 31 Mar 2008
    Items not yet dispatched:
    Delivery estimate: 2 Jun 2008 – 3 Jun 2008

    * 1 of: This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities
    Sold by: Amazon EU S.a.r.L.

    That my friends is HARDCORE! :D

    Really looking forward to this book Jim, shame it won’t arrive right after my last exam for this year, but as long as I get it then I am happy :D

    How many words did it end up being? Want to put my dissertation word limit into the perspective of pages in a book.

  14. ImperialCreed says:

    Well done Jim, good to see this is finally coming out. Colour me pre-ordered.

  15. Señor Spielbergo says:

    ¡No incomode con las ofertas de Boll/Bay!!! ¡Mi producción equivalente mexicana no sindical será más magnífica y más barata!!!

    ¡ahora hágalo!

  16. Optimaximal says:

    I whole-heartedly support Señor Spielbergo’s rights acquisition!!!

    On a more serious note, care to provide us (rights allowing) with an example page or two? Not criticising your style without reading it, but there are certain forms of writing that I just don’t get on with – gaming is a big hobby of mine, but I just can’t get on with books that are deliberately verbose/wordy just for the sake of sounding intelligent!

    £11 is a lot of money for me at the moment :)

  17. Pidesco says:

    I can’t wait so see Jim’s book be a huge success, so that it inevitably gets to his head, thus initiating a primadonna feud between all the RPSers over Rossignol’s new and unbelievably posh and pretentious smoking pipe. The huge battle that will ensue end in blood and tears. Also, gaming geeks’ gibs will be strewn across the RPS offices.

    It will be an epic struggle between men of indubitable virtual skill, and dubious hygiene habits.

  18. Butler` says:

    I wasn’t aware any of you RPSers were so ensconced in the world of competitive gaming/eSports.

    As on old time Quaker, I guess you’re from the same pool as Sujoy Roy and the like.

    I may well find myself reading your book on my summer holiday.

  19. Matt says:

    What’s the ratio content of mmo to other forms of gaming in this book? I personally find the competitive space (css, unreal tournamet, quake, starcraft, warcraft etc) to be more interesting than mmo interactions.

  20. Jim Rossignol says:

    There’s a large section on MMOs, but the first third of the book is about games generally, and particularly my Quake years.

  21. Jarmo says:

    Preordered it. I’ll try to give feedback after reading it.

  22. Cigol says:

    The cover is hellishly good, but if you’ve already written it why does it take so long to release? If I pre-order it now will I get into the beta of Team Fortress 3 or Twilight of the Somethings?

    NO?! Oh, you’ll just have to keep reminding me then :D

  23. Kismet says:

    Woot, it’s finally coming!

    My books pusher doesn’t let me preorder it yet, but I’ll definitely grab a copy when it will be available.

  24. UncleLou says:

    I’ll echo the comments so far – beautiful cover, really.

  25. Theory says:

    *tap tap click*

    I now feel slightly less guilty about blocking all of RPS’ ads.

  26. Chris Evans says:

    If you feel guilty about blocking the ads then just go and donate :D

  27. Dan (WR) says:

    Preordered.

    Are you planning on writing any more fiction? I used to enjoy the stories on Big Robot.

  28. Monkfish says:

    Preordered.

    Also, that cover would make a damned fine poster.

  29. Jacques says:

    Cigol, because publishers are arses and frequently like to make people wait for books.
    The newest SE book has been finished for about a year and it’s still not yet released.

  30. The Shed says:

    Mmm, looks mighty fine. Definately considering picking that one up. Nuyan makes a good pint; can’t say I’ve read a gaming book either.

    Would Monkfish be Paul? Only ever seen that screen name once, and it was a guy called Paul.

  31. Zuffox says:

    If it’s not too revealing, speaking in advertizing language, I’d think that posting the chapter names for your book would yield some more interest and purchases for the book.

    Maybe I’m the only one with an as-of-yet incomplete grasp of the topic, scope and direction of the book. :)

  32. Jim Rossignol says:

    @zuffox: I’ve added a bit more detail about some of topics it covers.

  33. Monkfish says:

    Would Monkfish be Paul? Only ever seen that screen name once, and it was a guy called Paul.

    Nope, sorry. Different Monkfish.

  34. Jim Rossignol says:

    Also, I’ll be posting an extract from the book a bit closer to release.

  35. Zuffox says:

    Great Jim, thanks.

    For buying the book, I greatly prefer Play.com Boodepository.co.uk. Assuming the lower prices don’t mean a lower cut for Rossignol.

    Both sites have no shipping fees, and I think Bookdepository (unlike Amazon.co.uk, whose stock is in USA and thusly risks you customs charges, if you live in Europe) won’t get your stuff nabbed by the customs. None of my ~ten books purchased have been charged at least.

    Summa summarum; Bookdepository preferably – particularly since I’ve experienced receiving my products merely 2-3 days after ordering.

    http://tinyurl.com/5ppw5k

    http://tinyurl.com/5vdwhe

  36. Jim Rossignol says:

    Worth pointing out that the book isn’t out til the end of May, so y’all won’t receive it for a few weeks where-ever you order it from.

  37. Leigh says:

    ZOMG congratulations, amazing.

  38. Paul Moloney says:

    Pretty good price at the Book Depository for us Irelanders as, unlike amazon.co.uk, it’s free delivery, but unlike play.com, they don’t charge in Euro at an artificially high rate. I’ll order from there if it’s OK with Jim. :)

    P.

  39. Buceph says:

    Are there other gaming books you read while writing it, or are there other gaming books that you feel inspired it. It’d be interesting to see a post on a collection of books that all have to do with gaming, yours on top, natch. Apart from the ones I find about Edge’s little piece on books, there aren’t that many that I know of.

    And post a reminder when it’s out.

  40. Zuffox says:

    Buceph: Take at look at this article of the 50 most important books as a game developer:

    http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3962&Itemid=2

    In the end I decided to concentrate on the one thing that binds us all together: the games themselves. What I’ve done is to assemble a collection of books that address the following questions:

    * What are games (and videogames)?
    * What has been the history of video games?
    * How are games related to other media, and what might we learn from those media?
    * How and why do people play games? And finally, how (in general terms) should we design and build them?

    I can’t claim to have read all these books, much less to own them all; but an informal survey of developers whom I respect has produced some great suggestions. I’ve organized the books roughly by topic…

    The topics are…

    1. Theory
    2. Design Practice
    3. Writing
    4. Graphic Design
    5. Music / Audio
    6. Online Community
    7. The History of Games
    8. Sociology
    9. People, Projects, and Businesses
    10. Other Media and Useful Disciplines
    11. Deep Background
    12. Inspirations

  41. Buceph says:

    Cheers Zuffox

  42. Zuffox says:

    Jesper Juul has a plethora of free publications at his site, but take a look at his masters degree thesis. He should be both intelligible and smart as heck. The thesis is also available in Danish, if need be.

    http://www.jesperjuul.net/thesis/

  43. arqueturus says:

    Do we get royalties?

    ;)

  44. Jacques says:

    Thanks zuffox, happy to say I’ve got one of the books from that list.

  45. RichPowers says:

    Preordered. And I agree with monkfish: that cover needs to be a poster. Now.

    I’m especially intrigued by the chapter on gaming as an answer to boredom. I can definitely relate to that.

  46. Podant says:

    I shall buy this soon.
    Also, Rossignol:

    “His colleague Alfréd Rényi said, “a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems”, and Erdős drank copious quantities. (This quotation is often attributed incorrectly to Erdős.)[4] ”
    -Wikipedia

  47. God says:

    Good work my son

  48. James says:

    Congratulations, Jim. Happy to see that it all worked out well for you. I’ll probably be picking this one up on release.

    Also, thanks for the reference to that list, Zuffox. I think I might look into buying a few of those too. I’ve been meaning to buy The Hero With a Thousand Faces for a few years now.

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