C.ARA: Cara Ellison’s Book Embed With Games

Update: bad thing/good thing has happened. The ebook’s delayed til November cos it’s found a publisher and is now coming out in paperback too. If you pre-ordered the price will be honoured but you have to wait ’til then. Sorry!

Former RPS contributor (unfortunately we had to fire her for excessive soup consumption during working hours) Cara Ellison is about to release her first book, Embed With Games. An ebook, specifically, but it’s got a cover and a pricetag and everything, and it contains some of her most heartfelt games writing as well as no small amount of travel journalism.

It’s an extended compilation of her crowd-funded Embed With series, in which she visits a selection of games developers from across the globe, and indeed across the spectrum of games, from mainstream to arthouse and the wide space in between, then offers exceptionally human documents of their work, lives, communities and artistic philosophies. The project left Cara sofa-surfing and without a home of her own for over a year, deeply uncertain of her future, and fired her rapidly into and out of other people’s lives, so it’s very much personal as well as investigative. It’s also funny and sad and fierce and sweet and a little bit gonzo, as is the Ellison style. The ebook edition offers a new concluding chapter, as well as an introduction about Cara and about games writing by Skaven-loving comics luminary Kieron Gillen, formerly of this parish.

Here’s an extract from Embed With Games:

“I stand on the platform and cry to Siouxsie and the Banshees. I hope some mascara is running down my face for Cities In Dust’s sake. I try to save my emotions for when I am alone, because it might be rude to be overwhelmed in someone else’s company.

Days later Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ comes on in the coffee shop where I sit. Three of the Old Guard flail their arms over laptops and sing about trembling like a flower loud over my complaints about game criticism, the economics of writing, dancing and the moonlight, and they all laugh. Cara, this is a microcosm of your problems, the Old Guard singing over your troubles!

And I laugh because, yes, it is, and, well, it’s funny. It’s funny. It feels good to laugh. It feels right, in a way, that they have security, and I am writing from my lap in parks and bedsits and outside under dripping air-conditioning units being bitten alive, because they seem so certain of who they are, and I am some sort of poltergeist trying to break through the windows of the internet, stuck in weird limbo between employed and unemployed, exploited and exploiting, out of the loop and so deep in the loop I want to run away. Perhaps someday someone will find me when I’m the hot messy heart of the internet, hyperventilating like a bird in a cat’s mouth, jagged with shards of games and bleeding into some sort of word gutter with a manic grin on my face, a grin of triumph, a euphoric cackle emanating from six thousand drunk arcade-adjacent selfies.”

Cara has since moved onto a steady gig in narrative design, so you probably don’t need to worry about her quite as much as that extract might imply, but you probably should read Embed With Games when it launches as an ebook on Amazon and Gumroad on Monday July 6, for around $7. You can pre-order it right now if you like. Cara’s also looking into getting a hardback version made at a later date.

Disclaimer: Cara used to write a lot of very good things for this website, including the S.EXE series, and the book has lots of very good things in it too.


  1. thedosbox says:

    If you need more encouragement to get this, one of Cara’s adventures features the custodian of the plushie bucket (Cassandra Khaw) having fun with arrows in a taxi.

  2. prof_yaffle says:

    I broke my general against preordering stuff for this book.

    So hopefully it won’t turn out to have a really bad frame rate or too many bugs.

    • Durkonkell says:

      I heard that the ebook port was outsourced, and not handled by the original developer.

      • Skabooga says:

        If it’s anything like their other ports, its turning rate will be capped at 30 pages per second.

        • MacTheGeek says:

          I’ve heard that the DRM was specifically put in place to prevent modding. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

        • noom says:

          I heard it’s really prone to micro-tearing if you try and turn the pages too fast

    • -funkstar- says:

      I also broke a general. Embedded journalism has never been so much fun!

  3. Jediben says:

    So. It’s kinda like a diary then?

    • Philomelle says:

      Travel diaries are, indeed, a hallmark of gonzo journalism.

      It’s always worth remembering that Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas actually happened.

      • Grizzly says:

        So did Heart of Darkness.

        • Grizzly says:

          Okay, mabye not as much as Fear and Loathing or generation kill, but it’s depressingly autobiographic.

      • P.Funk says:

        For those who don’t understand fully, fear and loathing only kinda happened. Its a very deliberately assembled false recollection of mostly true events where the aggregate of this falsehood leads to a truer narrative than if he’d been purely biographical, as is the purpose of gonzo.

        In a world consumed by objective truth its a very heady notion.

      • darkath says:

        Also Call of Cthulhu

        … oh wait

        • Philomelle says:

          My internet sarcasm detector is apparently broken today.

          Are you being tongue-in-cheek or are you seriously implying that Fear & Loathing isn’t actually a true story?

    • disconnect says:

      What did you expect? Flowers to womans?

  4. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    Buying this on Gumroad has the advantage that Ms Ellison sees more money from that (just in case someone can’t decide where to buy).

  5. derbefrier says:

    nice and congratulations Cara! looks like a good read.

  6. jrodman says:

    I patreoned up a storm with Embed. The book should be smashing.

  7. Grizzly says:

    Can you post up an announcement if/when Cara does the hardcover version? I like hardcover stuff.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Yeah ebooks are alright for casuals I guess.

    • X_kot says:

      Personally, I’m looking forward to the remastered HD version, which includes all DLC and maps.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      Perhaps we could have a Collectors Edition with a replica can of pea soup, a wee soup mug keychain and a soup recipe booklet collating contributions from all the Embed subjects.

      • Apocalypse says:

        But will the collector’s edition be featuring a hardcover? Not a fan of digital collector’s editions and bad ports to cheap paperback pages is not my thing either.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Seconding this, would totally buy a hardcover copy of the book.

  8. Turin Turambar says:

    Pretty good cover!

    • bit.bat says:

      I agree! Reminds me of Moebius.

      • AriochRN says:

        Has there ever been a game in the art style of Moebius? I’ve recently been reading the Incal series and I’m quite in the mood for something with the look.

        • Jekhar says:

          Check out the Panzer Dragoon series from Sega. The first one was very much inspired by Arzach and benefitted from a direct collaboration with Moebius.

  9. mpk says:

    Would preorder, but worried that the pages will fall out on release day.

    Will wait til after first patch.

    • Vandelay says:

      But you will miss out on the pre-order bonus chapter! I mean, it will still be in the book of you buy it later, but it will be in invisible ink, so you won’t be able to read it until the modders work out how to crack it.

      Then again, we may be better off waiting for the BOTY edition.

      • Apocalypse says:

        I simply gonna pirate it now and get the GOTY later in a steam sale.

  10. AshRolls says:

    Awww no hard copy yet.

  11. Not_Id says:

    Very positive article about an ebook and quite positive comments too.
    Good job everyone.

    • GWOP says:

      RPS has yet to be consumed by entropy.

      • Not_Id says:

        *Should I type what I really think about this article? Nah, I’ll bite my tongue and just post my thoughts. I wonder if Alec and various commenters are going to Kickstart CaraFest. It’s got to happen after reading that self indulgent nepotismaic (*is that a word? Not sure, but it sounds right.*) drivel. Did he really write all those words about an ebook written by someone wot done work for RPS? Mmm, nothing wrong with that. It’s their blog. If they want to use it to promote things done by themselves and others wot done work for RPS then leave ’em to it. Still, funny taste in my mouth.*

        • khamul says:

          Dude: not liking Cubism? That’s cool – it’s not for everyone. Choosing to go to a modern art gallery, even though you don’t like Cubism? Also cool – there’s plenty more on offer. Going into the clearly marked Cubism hall, even though you didn’t have to? Well, your choice, fair enough. Complaining audibly, in the Cubism hall, in a modern art gallery, that you just can’t see why they put Guernica on the wall, because it’s just *too* Cubist? Makes you look a bit of a cock.

        • GWOP says:

          *Should I type what I really think about this article? Yeah, I guess I should, but in a smarmy passive aggressive way that insists I’m really not. Something something ethics in video games journalism.*


          (You are the chaos I speak of.)

  12. crinkles esq. says:

    Sad to see she no longer passes through the RPS turnstile. What is narrative design? Is that a newfangled job in the game development world? I’d like to follow her like a clumsy water skier is pulled behind a sleek little speedboat, but this article is rather vague on details of her whereabouts. You might’ve well said, “Cara is currently building an underwater base in the Pacific”, or “Cara is currently attending tram school.”

    • Philomelle says:

      Cara’s current whereabouts have been reported on some weeks ago. She’s currently in Arkane Studios, doing some writing for Dishonored 2.

      Embed With Games is more or less a travel diary written in typical gonzo journalism style. If you enjoy that genre and Cara’s writing, then you’ll likely enjoy it as well.

  13. JaminBob says:

    If its anything like this article link to eurogamer.net it will be self indulgent ‘my life is better than yours, look at all this cool stuff I’m doing’ drivell. Honestly that was one of the worst (gaming) things I’d ever read in my life.

    And don’t you dare accuse me of *that*, I thought it’d been written by man until my mistake was pointed out to me in the comments.

    • Philomelle says:

      That article states that “it’s time to go full gonzo” within the first sentence. Therefore it is hardly surprising that it’s written entirely in gonzo style, IE more preoccupied with the writer’s personal experience while in contact with the game she’s reviewing than with raw objectivism.

      Why did you finish that article if you don’t enjoy gonzo? I mean, your overall comment implies that you don’t actually know what gonzo means, but I would like to imagine that someone would abstain from commenting on the quality of journalism while being embarrassingly uneducated on the subject. However, the other alternative is that you finished an article that explicitly warns about being written in a style you do not enjoy, just so you can complain about it.

      On top of all that, I’d like to note that if a stranger sharing the details of their personal life automatically makes you assume they’re showing off, then I suggest taking a long hard look at your life choices.

      • shevek says:

        Anyone else noticed it’s only women who get pop-up randos accusing them of “showing off” when they write?

        • Not_Id says:

          You have to admit shevek that the article JaminBob linked to is a total pile of crap. The comments absolutely nailed it though: So well done Eurogamer readers.

          • Philomelle says:

            None of us actually have to admit to anything. I can admit that you come off as a pompous buffoon who doesn’t understand the meaning of most of his own vocabulary, but I do so more out of a personal desire to observe something aloud rather than any sort of moral or social obligation.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            Oh crap, is it the day of reckoning already? In which case I have more important stuff to admit.

        • Apocalypse says:

          To be completely honest. No I did not notice this, because I tend to do attack male journalist quite a lot more often. John especially often. And I am not alone … John gets a decent amount of well-deserved (and undeserved) flack from the RPS readers ;-)

          What I did notice is that that kind of attack seems quite a lot more often baseless when used against females. In case of Cara? Care is special. Not getting her is the default for most of mankind anyway. Still enjoying her writing seems to be as well the default. *g*

        • Distec says:

          Honestly, I think most of the writers for RPS have a tendency to indulge in wordy roundaboutst, but Cara’s usually the apex example. It has nothing to do with her gender. It just is.

          Not starting a fight about it; I don’t care for the OP’s tone in his criticism. Just a style that doesn’t do anything for me, personally.

      • horsemedic says:

        If you, too, are embarrassingly uneducated about gonzo, Philomelle’s comment is sort of the opposite of gonzo, in that he’s slapped a coat of pretentious cliches onto an ad hominem attack to give his opinion the illusion of objectivity.

        • Philomelle says:

          I have done no such thing. I have simply called him a bloody idiot by exploring the many ways in which he is a bloody idiot. Full stop.

          And I’m not quite sure why you’re trying to use “well, your comment isn’t gonzo either” as an attempt to attack me, given that never have I claimed to be writing it gonzo style, nor can a comment on an internet discussion board classify as journalism. If you’re so thirsty for a stab at someone, at least try to frame it properly.

      • Synesthesia says:


    • odgaf says:

      yup i couldnt agree more, i would add that thx to her, young pc gamers got to talk about penises with a real female which proved incredibly popular for far too long for far too few and she also oversaw the complete fall from grace of the once mighty and popular bargain bucket, reducing it to a dozen word intro mostly taken up by yet another apology for a short article due to her international commitments, naturally while i wish her all the best, i wont be preordering any of her work, i like rps, but lately its trying to be too different, too funny, too eccentric with the convoluted and dramatic entrances into a news story, i often find myself skipping the first paragraph just to get to the story, i dont need to laugh 6 times per article, its becoming too much,

      • Synesthesia says:

        I can send you some cheap punctuation marks via mail, contact me through the forums.

        • odgaf says:

          look its the punctuation police,complete with terrible one liners
          good day to you young sir

          • GWOP says:

            “thx to her, young pc gamers got to talk about penises with a real female which proved incredibly popular for far too long”

            It’s hard to discern whether this is satire or not.

            I mean, complaining about mundane news articles entertaining you too much? People will complain about anything…

      • thedosbox says:

        she also oversaw the complete fall from grace of the once mighty and popular bargain bucket

        Ignoring your opinion of the bargain bucket, Cara and Cassandra are two different people. But I guess all women look alike to you.


  14. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    This is a good, entertaining read. Happy to have backed it on Patreon. Dumb question: if you cancelled your support after Embed with Games was done, do you still get the ebook? Don’t mind buying it if not, but just curious.

    • shevek says:

      I got my download link a couple of days ago, which suggests they were only sent out to current supporters.