POWER PLAY by Asi Burak


How Video Games Can Save the World
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When trouble comes calling, hit the joystick: an insider’s view of the good things that can emerge from being glued to a screen.

Many of the objections to the supposedly enslaving, attention-robbing powers of the video game, write digital developer Burak and tech journalist Parker, echo those leveled at comic books back in the day. Now comics are socially acceptable—the authors open with a sideways look at Art Spiegelman’s Maus, for which he won a Pulitzer—and video games seem poised to follow a similar trajectory, though the latter have spread throughout popular culture much more quickly. There are good reasons for this, and good results are possible in the bargain. For instance, Burak and Parker highlight former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s initiative to improve civics education in the United States after leaving the bench, an effort helped along by interactive technology. With a range of exercises and problems to solve, iCivics, says one booster, provides “a way to help kids find a fun way to connect with democracy.” Just so, new virtual reality technology allows boys to see the world through a girl’s eyes and vice versa, offering in turn a way to “promote empathy and eliminate gender and race bias.” The authors’ approach seldom goes much deeper than the human-interest story, but they range widely, from developers’ labs to efforts to teach youngsters how to code, all of which have combined to produce a massive library of institutional and independent games. That human-interest approach also introduces readers to some fascinating characters, among them Anna Anthropy, who took a childhood fascination with Ms. Pac-Man to homebrew a popular game about gender identity disorder, which “has long been held as a leading example of games’ ability to explore marginalized issues with emotional depth.”

A rejoinder to the anti-technological and a solid piece of pop-culture/business journalism.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-08933-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2016


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