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Book: This Gaming Life

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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Jim Rossignol

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