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.
(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.