Mark's Reviews > Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Extra Lives by Tom Bissell
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Dec 01, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: literary, memoirs
Read from November 05 to 15, 2010

I'm a gamer, plain and simple. And what I find funny and part of the reason why I wanted to read this book is that, unlike movies and books and music, I can very seldom find myself in a position to have a conversation about games without feeling like a child or just plain awkward. For the life of me, I really don't know why. I have played games which have entertained and moved me just as deeply as some movies, books, and music. So why are Video games still the bastard child of entertainment?

Extra Lives attempts to touch upon this question as well as analyze the media's strengths and weaknesses in character design, narrative, etc. in comparison to the other medias. The writing is very analytical and intellectual, giving me flashbacks at times to my days as an English Major, reading through literary journals for paper ideas. The book does a great job of introducing concepts to readers who have not played alot of games, so anyone interested in the topic can walk away with something, regardless of background knowlegde. But what I think I was most impressed with is Bissell's ability to help me look at games I have played in a brand new way. Many of the games he discussed in the book I have played, and he brings up so many fascinating questions that have really changed how I look at some of the experiences.

In the end, I am really glad that I read this book and am glad that books like this are simply out there. Video games are really the weird kid in the class when it comes to respected medias and it really shouldn't be the case. Just like there are mindless movies and mindless books, there are, ofcourse, mindless games. But also just like books and movies and music, there are real things that can be taken away from video games. Because it's still a relatively new media, this idea really isn't understood by the masses. But as the gamers of old become adults and the media continues to become more widespread, I think a time will come where a conversation about Animal Farm will be just as respected as a conversation about Bioshock. And it will come thanks to books that point out the importance of the media, just like Bissell's extra lives.
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Eric Ryckman Well said. I agree with you completely.


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