The Culture of Video Games: A Reading List

Videogames fascinate me. I’m not very good at the majority I’ve tried to play, but, like kickball and baking, I still play, because they’re fun, and I don’t have to be good at everything. (Except Pac-Man World 2 for PS2. I rule that. Especially the ice-skating levels.) Friends have helped me play Bioshock Infinite and introduced me to Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? I like to read How Games Saved My Life. In these voices, I hear passion. Not defense or argument, but thoughtfulness and joy. It’s the same joy I express when I rant about a particular book or marvel at a stunning piece of longform journalism. I am not going to be the person who ranks media’s promise or power or worth, who turns up her nose at YA literature or One Direction or Zelda.

1. “Video Games: The Addiction.” (Tom Bissell, The Guardian, March 2010)

Don’t let the cliched title fool you. This isn’t an indictment of video games. Tom Bissell is a fantastic writer, whose pieces I’ve included in the past, but his past includes a cocaine addiction and a Grand Theft Auto IV addiction. “Any regrets? Absolutely none.”

2. “30 Years Later, One Man is Still Trying to Fix Video Games.” (Simon Parkin, Kotaku, December 2013)

Chris Crawford has been building videogames since the ’80s. But his passion for relationships and storytelling, rather than, say, graphics, has resulted in failure, over and over. As he ages, he hopes his life will be a bridge for indie game designers.

3. Leigh Alexander

I admire Leigh Alexander so much. Being a woman in the tech world is hugely difficult, and the gaming world is a microcosm of that. Here are two pieces she wrote for The New Inquiry: “Playing Outside,” which is about the promise of indie game design, and “A Game is Being Beaten,” regarding the potential for consent in video games.

4. “No Girls Allowed.” (Tracey Lien, Polygon, December 2013)

How did video games come to be marketed virtually exclusively to men? A history of design and marketing, and hope for the future.

5. “Dad? Where’s Mom? I Can’t Find Her in This Videogame.” (Nina Freeman, Kill Screen, August 2013)

How parenting, especially mothering, influences video game design and vice versa. (This is a good follow-up to #4; the author references several of the female game designers in “No Girls Allowed.”)

Photo: JD Hancock