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Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (Vintage)by Tom Bissell
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.
"Tom Bissell has played a lot of video games over the course of his life. Luckily, this obsession has clearly not hurt his writing or sense of humor. Throughout Extra Lives, Bissell ably intertwines intellectual questions and uproarious anecdotes from his experiences playing video games and his interactions with those who make them. The result is an in-depth look at the struggles that go into both developing and playing these games (which are taking up more and more of our leisure time — and income), as seen through the eyes of someone who has an appropriately uneasy relationship with his own particular version of this obsession." Nathan Weatherford, Powells.com (Read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
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 out-earns 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.
"Tom Bissell is a Renaissance Man for our out-of-joint time...His descriptions of simulated gore and mayhem manage to be clinical, gripping, and hilarious all at once. He transmits to the reader the primitive, visceral excitements that make video games so enticing, even addictive, to their legions of devotees. One can almost understand why an intelligent, cultured man such as Bissell has been driven to dedicate large chunks of his adult life to bouts of gaming." The New Republic
"Even if Extra Lives wasn't the only book to deal with the future of video games in a serious manner, it would probably still be the best one." Newsweek
"What should video game criticism look like? Bissell's book offers plenty of tantalizing possibilities...A deeply personal work, as entertaining as the video games it profiles...It’s also the first book about video games that non-gamers can actually enjoy." Entertainment Weekly
"For anyone who has spent a weekend thrilled by the prospect of beating a game, Extra Lives will cast the addiction in a new, cerebral light." Washington Post
"Bissell has written the finest account yet of what it feels like to be a video game player at 'this glorious, frustrating time,' a rare moment when humanity encounters, as he writes, 'a form of storytelling that is, in many ways, completely unprecedented.'" New York Times Book Review
"Fantastic...I wish, someday, to play a game that will stay with me as long as this book about games."Farhad Manjoo, Slate
In Extra Lives, acclaimed writer and life-long video game enthusiast Tom Bissell takes the reader on an insightful and entertaining tour of the art and meaning of video games. Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is a milestone work about what might be the dominant popular art form of our time.
About the Author
Tom Bissell (Xbox Live gamertag: T C Bissell; PlayStation Network gamertag: TCBissell) is the author of Chasing the Sea, God Lives in St. Petersburg, and The Father of All Things. A recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bay de Noc Community College Alumnus of the Year Award, he teaches fiction writing at Portland State University and lives in Portland, Oregon.
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