Paperback Writer

By Jim Rossignol on October 21st, 2009 at 7:51 pm.


A while back I wrote a book that I’m rather proud of. Although its net was cast wide to take in the whole spectrum of videogames, it was me writing it, so there’s an inevitable focus on PC gaming. Topics include Korea, China, Quake, Eve, human computation, modding, persistence, community, evolution, science fiction becoming reality, and all the other stuff about PC gaming that has kept me interested over the years. This Gaming Life was a partly travel book, a partly of kind of philosophy of fun, and mostly an examination of the relationship between gamers and the games they play. The hardback version of the book was lavish and, well, expensive. The considerably cheaper paperback version is out in the US now, and you can get it here. Frustratingly, the paperback has yet to be released in Europe, but this site will be distributing it when it is. More thoughts on all this below.

I’m just about young enough to have essentially grown up on the internet. Electronic media has been there with me for most of my life, and I rely on it heavily every day. It’s cheered me up to see that there’s an extensive digital preview of the book just here. It does not start at the beginning, annoyingly, and omits numerous pages, but it gives you a good amount of the full thing to read through. One of the things about paper books that has long annoyed me is that lack of Ctrl+F to get to that particular phrase or passage you’re looking for.

Anyway, writing This Gaming Life proved useful to me not simply in terms of making my mum feel proud, but also in making me realise that blogging and magazine articles weren’t the limit of what I could or should say about games. The book format, seventy thousand words or more, allows you to start figuring out things on a bigger canvas. Rather than trying to encapsulate something in a 400 word article or a 1000-word blog post, you’re able to create something sustained, something that encompasses more of what your chosen topic is actually about. I’m not an overly academic writer, so the book came together from quite a fragmentary, personal perspective. It was my experiences, the experiences of people I’d met and talked to, things I’d read, or played, or conversations I’d had with friends. Exposing that material to the concerted effort of building a coherent manuscript really illuminated and connected it all, especially when it had to be processed and understood by an editor who had none of the specialist understanding of the gamers I usually write for.

The book ended up being a kind of testament to a particular point of view on gaming – a point of view that is also reflected in this website. It’s omnivorous, and excited about gaming, but also at odds with itself – aware that there are tensions within gamers. Tensions that arise from the incompleteness of our hobby, from its constant state of flux, from its commercialisation, and from the fierce demand for things to be new and interesting. I try to talk about that stuff honestly and from experience, and I think that the book captures some of what it means to be a gamer in the 21st century. It’s a product of a particular time and place in which I am an enthusiastic participant-observer. And that’s why I’m proud of it.

The things I started to explore in This Gaming Life – the significance of gaming, and of boredom, and escapism – are now giving rise to another book, which I’m beginning to work on now. Hopefully I’ll soon be able to post with news on that project. In the meantime, however, I hope you’ll continue to get something out of this one.

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89 Comments »

  1. Mungrul says:

    Is there an ebook version of it Jim?

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    I signed off rights for the ebook, but I don’t have any details for what/how/when. “Soon” is all I know. I’ll probably mention it when it happens.

  3. ChaosSmurf says:

    I want to buy it in paperback, really I do.

  4. Railick says:

    I'm afraiad to read your book because you've lived the life I wanted to live but didn't , it may make me a sad panda when I compare your life to mine so directly over a long peroid of time. I wanted to be a writer,vidoe game designer,programer, ect but ended up being nothing professionally ( but I am a daddy so it's not a total waste, maybe my kids will do better than me)

  5. Mike says:

    Are you able to release a chapter of it for free? Ben Goldacre did that for Bad Science, and I think it’s good for people who read the book.

    For what it’s worth, it’s an excellent book that I recommend anyone who reads this site to purchase. It’s got some very, very interesting stories and people inside.

  6. Jim Rossignol says:

    Mike: see the Google link. More than a chapter in there.

    • Mike says:

      Ah, you’re quite right. That’s actually one of my favourite bits, too.

  7. Vinraith says:

    I shall place it on my Christmas list, despite that PR agent crack earlier.

  8. dhex says:

    i picked it up last year when it came out, and recommended it. it’s an interesting memoir-formatted take on games, and as always your stories about eve online are fascinating, despite the fact that i’d never actually play persistent games.

  9. Railick says:

    But certainly you make money doing something you enjoy where as I make money doing something other people enjoy. I'd REALLY love to make a living off writing but I don't so there. No one's fault but my own really, I didn't even try and that makes it all the more depressing when you realize your dreams were never realized because you didn't even try. Then again I'm only 27 it isn't like it's to late for me to try something.

  10. Kurtis says:

    As much as I would love to read your book, is it possible to attain in Canada?

  11. Railick says:

    I'm going to get this , after reading the first 4 pages on the google link above I'm hooked only I want to read it in my hands not on a web page (Though I may go back later when work is slower and read more of it)

  12. eot says:

    I’ll get it for the EVE stuff lol

  13. Richard Clayton says:

    I am reading it at the moment, Jim. Infact it is sitting next to my laptop as I type. I ordered a hardback from one of Amazon’s sellers it turned out to be an American copy rather than a UK one so the spelling’s all up the swanny (US!). Any other differences in there or just the kooky spelling?

    By the way I am finding it a very interesting read indeed. I am delighted you are working on another: put me down for one!

  14. Jim Rossignol says:

    All the versions are US spelling as it was proofed and published by University Of Michigan.

  15. Kadayi says:

    When I have some spare pennies I shall endeavour to purchase a copy of your fine tome Jimbo. Though the pile of shame of unread/unfinished books I own is considerably larger than the pile of unplayed/unfinished games I possess……

    *shakes fist at interwebs for stealing his life away

  16. Railick says:

    BTW your last sentence in the post contains

    "I you'll continue to get " I'm guessing you meant to put "I hope you'll continue to get" :P

    If you want you can add the Hope then delete my post so no one else has to know, it can be our little secret lol.

  17. Railick says:

    @Kadayi I read your last comment as "undead / unfinished books"

  18. clive dunn says:

    Aaaaargghh, not the dreaded zombie books. Do they make your brain grow so proper zombies have more of a meal?

    • Railick says:

      Just don’t be surprised if you go to read a book and you find the zombie book has already eatten all it’s pages.

      You can tell a zombie book from a normal one because it’s spine is broken , it’s cover has been turn off a bit and is covered in mold and when you open the book all the pages have the word “Paper!!! PAPPER!!” written all over them in red ink over top the existing words.

  19. Jack Monahan says:

    Can’t believe this one slipped past me as a hardcover, I remember thinking “What! Nobody’s already written a book like this?” because it’s such a clever, blurb-worthy setup. Hats off. In any case, my oversight has been corrected and a copy is on its way from amazon.

  20. Ian says:

    How about an audio book? READ BY A ROBOT!

  21. Clovis says:

    Sweet, the US even gets exclusive access to a book written by someone from RPS. Seriously, living here is awesome. Want to know how much I pay for gas?

    And thank goodness for the spelling. I couldn’t get through the book seeing “colour” and such. That would be as bad as having to watch the original version of The Office.

    In all seriousness though, this is good news and I’ll be buying!

  22. AtkinsSJ says:

    Bah! I had a read of some of the book on Google, and I’d really like to have a read of it when I have a bit more cash lying around. But right now, £20 is rather a lot for a book. :/

  23. Mr Pink says:

    I just want to say that I really enjoyed this book. And I also blame it entirely for my current Eve habit. That and the RPS corp anyway.

  24. Gassalasca says:

    Well, I know what I’m geting myself for Christmas.

  25. Lambo says:

    I bought the expenso-hardback off amazon, had it shipped from UK to myself in Ireland and it arrived on the day you announce cheaper soft copies are in the works some time back. Excellent book, but the sting of that extra tenner will haunt my empty wallet for a good while.

    I’d recommend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in games gamers and gaming. I also think its a wonderful book to show people who are either curious or slightly fearful of the PC gaming phenomenon, seeing as it has some wonderfully positive things to say in the first “City” if memory holds true.

    … *mutters* the friggan DAY the book arrives… *goes off to count his meager stack of pennies… again*

  26. Alexander Norris says:

    I bought the hardback from amazon.co.uk and have yet to finish reading, since I sort of got sidetracked with exams and graduating and being incredibly broke because it’s impossible to find a job that isn’t stacking shelves in this sort of economic climate and with the sort of degree I have; but I haven’t got much else to do these days, so I should probably finish the damn book.

    Although I have to say, at least after reading the first part, I sort of felt disappointed that I agreed with and/or knew about 95% of what the book was on about.

  27. Clovis says:

    Hey, Jim, are there any other books on gaming that you would recommend? Maybe I’ll go on an Amazon-books-on-gaming buying spree!

  28. Jim Rossignol says:

    The second half of the book is, I think, where the really interesting stuff for dedicated gamers/readers is. The first half covers quite a lot that you will already be familiar with, but it was necessary to do it.

  29. Pantsman says:

    Paperback? Bah! True RPS devotees will get the hardcover like I did, as it is luxurious and oh so worth the price.

    I very much liked the book of course, and I look forward to the next one.

    • futage says:

      Stop reviewing reviewers. Postmodernity will collapse in on itself.

    • futage says:

      For some reason that reply attached to the wrong post.

  30. Sal Paradise says:

    I was able to find Mr. Rossignol’s book in the local branch of my public library. It’s really a must-read for anyone who think they know about video game culture.

    Now if only they would do the same thing for PC games…

  31. Psychopomp says:

    Ordering a copy, ASAP.

    Haven’t read a book since I read Dune again, a few years ago >_>

  32. Tim James says:

    How many times do you mention STALKER?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      There’s only one mention of Stalker.

    • Matt Spence says:

      A quick ctrl-f later you mean ;)

      You talked about this before in one of the RPS casts (slightly ironicly while i was standing in a station WHS looking at the books) didn’t you? Either way this has reminded me of it and I’ll try and again and remember to seek out a copy once its out here in the UK.

      Also *shakes fists at the US proofing* there better not be one mention of the word colour in the book and the majority of ‘Z’s should be referring to that bitmap bros game and not replacing the good old letter S.

  33. Railick says:

    How does this book compare to Liberty & Tyranny? The last non-fiction book I read and enjoyed was by Steven Colbert "I Am America and So Can You"

  34. Rogue_Outcome says:

    Jim is my favourite RPSer. When I was young(er) I liked Kieron the most. Jim is by far the most balanced however. I bought his book in hardback. It’s pretty good.

    That was my contribution to RPS. Hope you all enjoyed it.

    • Premium User Badge mickiscoole says:

      Not to start a flame war, but I disagree.
      Kieron is the best. He made my life better with his PCG Deus Ex review which convinced me to buy it.

    • TeeJay says:

      Ironically I bought Deus Ex after wandering into a PC World and liking the artwork and blurb on the box. It was the first PC game I bought and I had never read a single games review.

  35. Gassalasca says:

    “There’s only one mention of Stalker.”

    :-/
    I expected more from you, Mr Rossignol.

  36. The Pink Ninja says:

    Ace, I’ve wanted this book for ages but I was deterred by the price-tag.

  37. Railick says:

    I like each of the RPSers for diffrent reasons. I like KG because he's slightly insane. I like Jim's writing. I like Alec's Gravatar :P John is like the fall man for RPS , I like him as well.
    Also, don't take this wrong way, but Jim is the best looking out of them all. KG looks as insane as he writes based on the about page. John looks a bit like me but better looking by far and well, Alec's picture is fakish so I dunno.

    Shadowcat “It hammers at my retinas like an evil woodpecker of pure energy”

  38. TooNu says:

    I have a wishlist on Amazon, your book is not on there because I did not want my mother choosing to pay £18 for a book like this, academic books fine, but not a book like this. So I check every now and again if This Gaming Life is out in paperback yet, I did that just last night and today you post this update. Sad there is no EU release which is the one I need. Waitwaitwait….its like the last few days before Recon V finished.

  39. A Delicate Balance says:

    I’m ashamed I still haven’t bought it.

    It’s now on my List of books to read, which means it will get purchased.

  40. Mister Hands says:

    Bought it in hardback just last month, and it’s a truly wonderful read. And, as Pantsman said, it was worth every cent to have the extra hardbacky goodness.

    Whatever happened to Transmissions From Imaginary Places, by the way? It’s unavailable everywhere.

  41. OctaneHugo says:

    I’ll have to pick this up! I love reading about the community aspect of games – to me, a game with a mediocre community and great gameplay is not worth as much as a game with a great community and average gameplay. I love reading about the SOCIAL aspect of these things.

    Also, crazy that I was singing The Beatles’ son in my head when I clicked my bookmark and glanced at the screen to be met with this. Just one’a those things.

  42. Rogue_Outcome says:

    Railick: You are right. I’m concerned that the other RPSers will be slightly hurt that I reserved my much sought approbation for Jim. All the RPSers and other contributors are veritable TITANS of games journalism. In fact, they pretty much constitute good games journalism such as it is.

    Let us all abandon our inhibitions and celebrate all RPSers! Even John.

  43. Railick says:

    It is kind of crazy I’ll be reading about a game on Wikipedia or in some other publicaton and it says stuff like “Alec Meer said X and Kieron Gillen said Y” Like their the final word on the subject and no other reviews are given :P I’m suprised how many times I’ve been reading about a game I’m interested in on a non-RPS-o-related-o sight and they refer to one of the golden four’s previous written or spoken statments about that game as the truth as if there were no other opinions (And lets be honest there are only two opinions about any game. RPS’ opinion and the wrong opinion)

  44. tom@nullpointer.co.uk says:

    Read it and reccomend it to my students, I know theres some deeper stuff up Jims sleeve too so I look forward to the next tome. Its hard to measure gaming books up as there are some real academic theory ones… Salen & Zimmerman -Rules of Play etc which can come across as pretty dry and then some real fanboi ones too. Somehow I feel that games writing should at least try and contain some of the fun and wonder that games themselves have. One of the reasons I liked Jims stuff is also that is has a wider cultural feel than more academic works.

    Id also reccomend
    Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun for games design,
    Id second Juuls Half-real
    I really enjoyed T.TL.Taylors – Play between worlds (its kinda old now but has a lovely feel to it)
    I also reccomend Pooles – Trigger Happy to my students (again kinda old now)

    We do need more stuff out there on wieghty brain paper, helps to persuade the fuddy fuddies that we are old enough to read :) ps witness my bad writing in a comment about good writing….. sigh

  45. Big X says:

    I’m not sure who my favourite RPSer is. Probably Walker. I can emphasise with Jim and his quake 3 addiction, Alec is funny and smart, Keiron is very good at swear words and Walker likes before hates, much like myself. Though to be honest (I actually typed that in full) Quinns is probably the best as it was the Pathologic articles that got me here and the Void review was the best in a while, but he doesn’t count.

  46. Premium User Badge Dolphan says:

    Jim – You're the philosophy graduate out of the Hivemind, right? Do you keep up with it at all?

  47. Rogue_Outcome says:

    It is not really their opinion I value. They are at the mercy of their own, frequently perverse, passions (KG). They succeed consistently in making games worth reading about and enjoyable to read about.

    This is a not inconsiderable achievement and is not often emulated by their peers.

  48. Lilliput King says:

    John is my /favourite/. Jim is a close second. Kieron and Alec are too snarky! For me.

    In any case, blatant blag accepted Jim! Your book is on my christmas list.

    I’m not sure why I haven’t heard of it earlier, but I suppose advertisement for any other book than the latest Dan Brown is probably not on the cards.

  49. RagingLion says:

    I think I literally had a fleeting thought today about when your book was coming in paperback – so this is a happy coincidence, tempered only by the knowledge that the european release is yet to emerge though imminent.

    I think I will get this at some point. I remember reading one of your articles a while back (maybe about visiting Korea? – not sure) when fairly new to RPS and I had one of those cool moments that generally only happen around 2am where you think about the nature of humanity and our deeper motivations and things like that which stemmed out of reading your philosophical musings around the subject of gaming. So since there’s probably more of that in your book which will stimulate my brain I probably be grabbing a copy (or getting someone else to buy it for me).

    Good luck with your current project. Sounds interesting.

  50. Railick says:

    I almost got this when you posted your long series of stories about State Corp (it says a lot that I can remember a detailed history of a online gaming guild/clan/corp thing when I never played the game at all) But could not at the time bring myself to spend that much money. I'm almost certainly going to get this along with Torchlight and indulge myself for several days in my two favorite pass times (reading and annoying my wife by playing video games) I hope my wife doesn't read this.