2016 Books About Video Games

The New York Times recently published an article about three different video game books that came out this year. They also published a list of graphic novels that included one about Tetris. Those books are listed below.

Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games

by Ian Bogost, Basic Books

Ian Bogost is known for his academic articles on video games as well as creating Cow Clicker, a satire of video games that eventually spawned an entirely new genre.

The New York Times review by Ethan Gilsdorf says:

Indeed, Bogost tries to disabuse us of what he perceives as the false gods of fun, ranging from the “spoonful of sugar” advice of Mary Poppins (“I dare you to try to follow this advice”) to the decluttering mantra of Marie Kondo and the entire field of “happiness science.” But games do combat “the fear of ordinary life,” the feeling of “our minds flip-flopping between heartfelt commitment and sorrowful disdain,” ­Bogost writes. “Games aren’t appealing because they are fun, but because they are limited. Because they erect ­boundaries. Because we must accept their structures in order to play them.” Fun is therefore “the feeling of finding something new in a familiar situation.” Hence, Pokémon Go, which, like soccer and other video games, is another “deliberate, if absurd, pursuit,” as Bogost might call the smartphone game known for sending millions on quests to capture creatures named ­Venusaur and Muk virtually lurking in city parks and on your front lawns.

The Tetris Effect: The Game That Hypnotized the World

by Dan Ackerman, PublicAffairs

Ackerman covers the life of Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov as well as Henk Rogers, the man who brought it to Nintendo.

While I’ve personally only read a third of the book, I can say that it takes a narrative approach that tries to represent the characters’ backgrounds before navigating the details of Russia’s misguided deals with Nintendo and Atari.

Death by Video Game: Danger, Pleasure, and Obsession on the Virtual Frontline

by Simon Parkin, Melville House

Parkin’s book takes a detailed look at video game addiction and obsession.  Gilsdorf writes:

Parkin, a gaming and gaming-culture journalist, has more interesting ideas than Ackerman, and more of a literary eye for scenic and investigative detail than Bogost.

Tetris: The Games People Play

by Box Brown, First Second

Brown wrote a nonfiction graphic “novel” about the history of Tetris. According to a separate review by NY Times reviewe Douglas Wolk, Brown:

It’s a twisty, digressive tale, beginning with the Moscow computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov thinking about block puzzles in 1984, but also encompassing anti-gambling laws in 19th-century Japan, byzantine business deals, the thawing of the Cold War, an explanation of the particular psychological itch that Tetris scratches and a murder-suicide.

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featured image from the NY Times article by Spur Illustration and believed to be used in accordance with fair use

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