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

Gonzo travel

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.

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