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Peter Rubin

Deeper Than Pixels: A Reading List on Video Games

The traces of a car's taillights driving into a surreal digital landscape
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Some childhood sense memories emerge unbidden; others resist excavation, no matter how hard you dig. And my first video game, whatever it is, lies safely interred in that latter category. Sure, I could tick off the titles I loved, the ones I tithed with whatever quarters I could scrounge — Centipede, Bump ’n’ Jump, Moon Patrol — even the smells and sounds of the arcades I played them in. But the origin point of my fascination is nowhere to be found. Not that it matters, at this point. Even if the bulk of my game-playing these days happens on my phone, the activity is one of the few true constants in my life. That hasn’t always been for the best, as anyone familiar with such attachments can tell you. Video games manage to be possibility and punishment, outlet and opiate, either or both. Thankfully, as games have evolved and grown — as experiences, as art, as a field — so, too, has the writing about them. Criticism, essay, profile; there’s no one type of story that feels particularly right for games, largely because games have drifted as far from their own origin point as I have from mine. The best writing about games is as vast and varied as games themselves.

If I had to, I could give you some contrived reason why now is the right time to compile some of my favorite pieces of writing about games. It’s the 40th anniversary of Tempest! Hey, when did we all get so old? But honestly, I’d rather do it just because. Because these pieces, from various points over the past decade or so, all moved something within me. Because they help underscore the fact that no other narrative media is quite as personal as a game. And because if we’re not thinking about games as a valid muse for joyous, staggering, important writing, then it’s no one’s fault but our own. Read more…