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Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

by

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter Cover

 

Staff Pick

If you've ever said to yourself (or your significant other), "as soon as I finish this level, I'll go to bed," you have to read Extra Lives. It's not so much a defense of video games as a willingness to explore the impact they have, for good and ill, in the author's (and by extension the reader's) life. Gamers and non-gamers alike will be engrossed by Bissell's self-deprecating sense of humor, as well as his compelling narrative skills.
Recommended by Gerry, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Like many otherwise functional adults, Tom Bissell is addicted to video games, spending hours a day neglecting work and social engagements in favor of Oblivion, Left 4 Dead, and Grand Theft Auto IV. In Extra Lives, Bissell examines the question that haunts him every time he turns off his consoles: Why on earth does he keep playing?

Extra Lives is a shrewd, cutting, spirited, highly personal, and very funny inquiry into what makes video games so habit-forming and compelling — and how, as creative artifacts, they fall short. He describes the pure plotless joy of Left 4 Dead, the mind-bendingly awful dialogue of Resident Evil, the beautiful but heartless chaos of Far Cry 2, and the peerless cinematic characterization of Grand Theft Auto IV — a game whose charms escort Bissell to the point of near ruin. Alongside the book's critical project, Bissell candidly examines his own emotional connection to these games, which shifts over time from carefree escapism to bitter and self-destructive compulsion.

Combining personal experience with interviews of some of the leading game designers at work today, Extra Lives is an insightful — and highly entertaining — appraisal of this ubiquitous form of popular art. Even those who don't play video games will, after reading this book, acknowledge their creative and artistic legitimacy.

Review:

"'Grand Theft Auto IV is both a waste of time and 'the most colossal creative achievement of the last 25 years,' according to this scintillating meditation on the promise and discontents of video games. Journalist Bissell (Chasing the Sea) should know; the ultraviolent car-chase-and-hookers game was his constant pastime during a months-long intercontinental cocaine binge. He's ashamed of his video habit, but also ashamed of being ashamed of the 'dominant art form of our time'; by turning the eye of a literary critic on the gory, seemingly puerile genre of ultraviolent, open-ended 'shooter' games, he finds unexpected riches. Bissell bemoans the 'uncompromising stupidity' of their story lines, wafer-thin characters, and the moronic dialogue, but celebrates the button-pushing, mesmeric qualities and the subtle, profound depths these conceal — the catharses of teamwork and heroism in the zombie-fest Left for Dead, the squirmy moral dilemmas of Mass Effect, the 'mood of wistful savagery' suffusing the rifles-and-chainsaws-bedecked denizens of Gears of War. Bissell excels both at intellectual commentary and evocative reportage on the experience of playing games, while serving up engrossing mise-en-scne narratives of the mayhem. If anyone can bridge the aesthetic chasm between readers and gamers, he can. (June 8)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"The last thing I ever thought I'd do in this life is read a book about video games. And yet Extra Lives is sharp, critical, very funny, and Tom Bissell's description of killing zombies in the first iteration of Resident Evil is simply a tour de force. If you've ever wanted to know what Grand Theft Auto actually is, and why a highly intelligent person would be interested in it, and whether it is in fact "art," you will really like this book." Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

Review:

"Not just for gamers, the book should also appeal to readers who have some serious questions about the nature and impact of video games and their increasing popularity." Booklist

Review:

"Bissell successfully dissects key aspects of the medium with razor sharp sense and artfully crafted analysis. A thought provoking, thorough, and ultimately personal study of the industry and its denizens." Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director, Epic Games

Review:

"More a collection of profiles and game reviews than a focused thesis, this little book never answers the question implicit in its subtitle — best appreciated by serious game junkies." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"The best long-form writing about games I've read. No one has written an experiential consideration of games that so carefully and lovingly examines their blossoms and warts. No one has written an astute personal account of the push and pull of games, both in terms of their meaning in our lives and in the many ways they infiltrate our consciousness and drive us bananas. No one has given me more reason to believe I'm not crazy when I say I cherish — and I don't casually use that word — the experiences video games have given me." Michael Abbott, brainygamer.com

Synopsis:

Combining the author's personal experience with interviews of some of the leading game designers at work today, Extra Lives is an insightful — and highly entertaining — appraisal of this ubiquitous form of popular art.

Synopsis:

Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading.

Synopsis:

Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published three widely acclaimed books before the age of thirty-four. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in front of his various video game consoles, playing titles such as Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Oblivion for, literally, days. If you are reading this flap copy, the same thing can probably be said of you, or of someone you know.

 

Until recently, Bissell was somewhat reluctant to admit to his passion for games. In this, he is not alone. Millions of adults spend hours every week playing video games, and the industry itself now reliably outearns Hollywood. But the wider culture seems to regard video games as, at best, well designed if mindless entertainment.

 

Extra Lives is an impassioned defense of this assailed and misunderstood art form. Bissell argues that we are in a golden age of gaming—but he also believes games could be even better. He offers a fascinating and often hilarious critique of the ways video games dazzle and, just as often, frustrate. Along the way, we get firsthand portraits of some of the best minds (Jonathan Blow, Clint Hocking, Cliff Bleszinski, Peter Molyneux) at work in video game design today, as well as a shattering and deeply moving final chapter that describes, in searing detail, Bissell’s descent into the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game whose themes mirror his own increasingly self-destructive compulsions.

 

Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading.

About the Author

Tom Bissell (Xbox Live gamertag: T C Bissell; PlayStation 3 gamertag: TCBissell) has written three previous books. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and GQ, among many other publications, and he is a contributing editor to Harper's Magazine and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches fiction writing at Portland State University.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780307378705
Subtitle:
Why Video Games Matter
Author:
Bissell, Tom
Publisher:
Pantheon
Subject:
Video games -- History.
Subject:
Video games -- Social aspects.
Subject:
Video & Electronic - General
Subject:
Popular Culture - General
Subject:
Television & Video
Subject:
Popular Culture
Subject:
Games-Video Games
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20100608
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.48x6.28x1.00 in. .96 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Computers and Internet » Computers Reference » History and Society
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Hobbies, Crafts, and Leisure » Games » Video Games

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.95 In Stock
Product details 240 pages Pantheon Books - English 9780307378705 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

If you've ever said to yourself (or your significant other), "as soon as I finish this level, I'll go to bed," you have to read Extra Lives. It's not so much a defense of video games as a willingness to explore the impact they have, for good and ill, in the author's (and by extension the reader's) life. Gamers and non-gamers alike will be engrossed by Bissell's self-deprecating sense of humor, as well as his compelling narrative skills.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'Grand Theft Auto IV is both a waste of time and 'the most colossal creative achievement of the last 25 years,' according to this scintillating meditation on the promise and discontents of video games. Journalist Bissell (Chasing the Sea) should know; the ultraviolent car-chase-and-hookers game was his constant pastime during a months-long intercontinental cocaine binge. He's ashamed of his video habit, but also ashamed of being ashamed of the 'dominant art form of our time'; by turning the eye of a literary critic on the gory, seemingly puerile genre of ultraviolent, open-ended 'shooter' games, he finds unexpected riches. Bissell bemoans the 'uncompromising stupidity' of their story lines, wafer-thin characters, and the moronic dialogue, but celebrates the button-pushing, mesmeric qualities and the subtle, profound depths these conceal — the catharses of teamwork and heroism in the zombie-fest Left for Dead, the squirmy moral dilemmas of Mass Effect, the 'mood of wistful savagery' suffusing the rifles-and-chainsaws-bedecked denizens of Gears of War. Bissell excels both at intellectual commentary and evocative reportage on the experience of playing games, while serving up engrossing mise-en-scne narratives of the mayhem. If anyone can bridge the aesthetic chasm between readers and gamers, he can. (June 8)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "The last thing I ever thought I'd do in this life is read a book about video games. And yet Extra Lives is sharp, critical, very funny, and Tom Bissell's description of killing zombies in the first iteration of Resident Evil is simply a tour de force. If you've ever wanted to know what Grand Theft Auto actually is, and why a highly intelligent person would be interested in it, and whether it is in fact "art," you will really like this book."
"Review" by , "Not just for gamers, the book should also appeal to readers who have some serious questions about the nature and impact of video games and their increasing popularity."
"Review" by , "Bissell successfully dissects key aspects of the medium with razor sharp sense and artfully crafted analysis. A thought provoking, thorough, and ultimately personal study of the industry and its denizens."
"Review" by , "More a collection of profiles and game reviews than a focused thesis, this little book never answers the question implicit in its subtitle — best appreciated by serious game junkies."
"Review" by , "The best long-form writing about games I've read. No one has written an experiential consideration of games that so carefully and lovingly examines their blossoms and warts. No one has written an astute personal account of the push and pull of games, both in terms of their meaning in our lives and in the many ways they infiltrate our consciousness and drive us bananas. No one has given me more reason to believe I'm not crazy when I say I cherish — and I don't casually use that word — the experiences video games have given me."
"Synopsis" by , Combining the author's personal experience with interviews of some of the leading game designers at work today, Extra Lives is an insightful — and highly entertaining — appraisal of this ubiquitous form of popular art.
"Synopsis" by , Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading.
"Synopsis" by , Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published three widely acclaimed books before the age of thirty-four. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in front of his various video game consoles, playing titles such as Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Oblivion for, literally, days. If you are reading this flap copy, the same thing can probably be said of you, or of someone you know.

 

Until recently, Bissell was somewhat reluctant to admit to his passion for games. In this, he is not alone. Millions of adults spend hours every week playing video games, and the industry itself now reliably outearns Hollywood. But the wider culture seems to regard video games as, at best, well designed if mindless entertainment.

 

Extra Lives is an impassioned defense of this assailed and misunderstood art form. Bissell argues that we are in a golden age of gaming—but he also believes games could be even better. He offers a fascinating and often hilarious critique of the ways video games dazzle and, just as often, frustrate. Along the way, we get firsthand portraits of some of the best minds (Jonathan Blow, Clint Hocking, Cliff Bleszinski, Peter Molyneux) at work in video game design today, as well as a shattering and deeply moving final chapter that describes, in searing detail, Bissell’s descent into the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game whose themes mirror his own increasingly self-destructive compulsions.

 

Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading.

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