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.