Trigger Happy Happy

Real-world grown-up critic Steven Poole (who probably even has his own room and big boy pants and everything) has put up his columns which he wrote for grown-up big-boy pants games magazine, Edge. Poole’s probably best known for his book from the same period, Trigger Happy. Which looked like this in its first edition, which is most attractive.

Seriously, worth getting.

(More on Poole and why you should be excited to read his columns beneath the cut, methinks.)

Trigger Happy, when it came out was an inspiring book, not least because it was an serious, accessible book on videogames where no one else had published one. Back when it came out, I tended to bitchily describe it as “the best book an intelligent guy who doesn’t know enough about videogames could write”, out of clear jealousy that only non-games-specific writers got to write such stuff. Things have changed on that count since, and I’ve got over my early-twenty-something elitist bullshit self a fair bit. While it’s increasingly showing its age – even when it came out, there was a little back from the cutting edge on a few issues – it’s still the single best primer on the form for anyone. It won’t teach you everything, but it’ll teach you enough to play the game of thinking about games. It’s still available in the UK and one in the states.

While Trigger Happy was as brave a debut and statement of intent into the field as anyone had seen, his ongoing column in Edge are where he really engages in with the form. Dry, funny, human, accessible, he deals with all the big topics and while many of the details have dated, the general points ring true. To choose a not entirely typical example, here’s Poole on violence.

“Well, I like killing in games. Executing a perfect headshot, and watching the blood fly, is a lot of fun. And it’s not as much fun without the blood. Not just because I can navigate by old bloodstains, but because it’s exciting in itself. I like to shoot men in black suits with shades. Or men in combat fatigues with night-vision goggles. I like to tease them by shooting them in non-fatal areas when they can’t see me. Then I like to spray their brains over the walls. If I only get robots to shoot (C12: Final Resistance), or if the men in shades give way to poorly imagined aliens (Perfect Dark), it’s just not the same. And detonating someone’s flesh into a shower of florid gibs in Quake III Revolution is qualitatively better than merely bouncing them off the ground in TimeSplitters. The lack of blood, in fact, is TimeSplitters’ one serious aesthetic flaw. Bring on the gushing red juice, Mr Designer.”

It’s worth noting to our American readers that Edge isn’t some minor Magazine, but a long standing organ with a respectable circulation. I’d argue Poole’s continued column did more to raise the standard of discourse than anyone else. I mean, I’ll have been using words like “discourse” without Poole, but I suspect even more people would be laughing at me. (Randomly, and completely off topic, his last paragraph in this review of Paul Morley’s Words and Music is my favourite defence against the use of the word “pretentious” as a pejorative ever).

In short, Poole’s a smart one. He’s well worth reading. Do so.

EDIT: Corrected links. Seems that it is available in the UK.


  1. Meestercat says:

    Poole’s columns were always the first thing I turned to in Edge. Its not been quite the same since he finished writing them (Even the combined power of Mr Biffo, Jeff Minter and Tim Guest doesn’t equal one Steven Poole).

    And the book is a corker (if in need of an up to date reprint).

  2. Dan Amrich says:

    Glad to see some love for Poole. I was introduced to him here in the US through Trigger Happy and it’s still a book I shove down people’s throats. I found his perspective very refreshing and constantly said “I wish I’d said that!” when reading his stuff.

  3. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Human, accessible”?

    Stephen Poole?

    Are we talking about the same Stephen Poole here? I’ve never in my whole life had to spend so much time running back and forth between the book I was supposed to be reading and the fucking dictionary. There’s much to commend about TH, but its humanity and accessibility damn sure aren’t it.

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    Hey, this is Kieron linking.

  5. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    True. And I do like now being able to quote RPS on “pants games magazine Edge”.

  6. Steven says:

    Thanks Kieron! :)

    Stew: he’s talking about the column being, ahem “human and accesible”, not the notoriously robotic and forbidding book.

    May I point out that you can still buy the updated US paperback edition at (No – Ed).

  7. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Y’know, Stephane, you’re quite right. And skipping lightly over the issue of whether the columns actually ARE any less stuffed with “rebarbative”s and “chthonic”s, I am nonetheless Professor McChumpy,

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Odd – it wasn’t there when I looked for it. Will fix story in morning.


  9. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: PC Gaming’s Beadiest Eyes » Blog Archive » Trigger Happy For Free says:

    […] more comments on Poole’s fantastic work, and his freely published Edge columns, check out Kieron’s previous post on the matter. And you can read the entire book with whichever pdf app you like the bestest, with […]

  10. The Unshaven says:

    ….WOAH. *Snaffle*

    I’m lecturing a second year university paper on videogames in about six weeks, and Trigger Happy was going to be a source of at least one major reading. It was also a significant starting point for my masters thesis, and my current PhD.

    So a CC copy is… glorious. Plus, I really dig the Creative Commons, and I’ve been teaching students about it as well.

    *Salutes Kieron and Mr Poole*

  11. essell says:

    “…out of clear jealousy that only non-games-specific writers got to write such stuff.”

    I’d be really interested to see a post on here as to why that was the case, and whether RPS still think it is today, etc…

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    No, I don’t think it’s the case anymore – Jim’s got a book coming out next year, for example.

    Why WAS it the case? Snobbish elitism (i.e. Who would write about games full time?) on the publishers side and a tendency towards self-hatred on the writers.