What video games mean and why they matter.
Swedish technology writers Goldberg and Larsson (Minecraft: The Game that Changed Everything, 2011, etc.) gather a selection of “New Games Journalism” pieces, representing a recent development in writing about video games that focuses not on the technological or entertainment aspects of the medium but on the cultural, social, and political contexts in which the games exist. A focal point for this new approach has been the distressing “Gamergate” scandal, which found women who questioned sexist elements of games—or who created their own alternatives or merely presumed to make their voices heard at all—on the receiving ends of a massive torrent of online threats of sexual assault and murder from frustrated male gamers. Gamergate has inspired much insightful consideration (including Dan Golding’s essay, “The End of Gamers,” included here), but this book also includes thoughtful considerations of race, gender, sexuality, mental illness, and violence in gaming. Evan Narcisse writes of his frustration with the lack of acceptable representations of black people in games, while Hussein Ibrahim examines his ambivalence as an Arabic man killing scores of Arabic enemies in military shooter games. Developers like Merritt Kopas, Zoe Quinn, and Anna Anthropy recount their struggles to create games that meaningfully confront topics such as depression and sexuality, while other writers examine pervasive tropes and their larger meanings—e.g., the popularity of apocalyptic settings and the masochistic anti-pleasures of maddening time-wasters like "Flappy Bird." The essays are uniformly well-written, full of personal passion and journalistic rigor, and they fully convince readers of the relevance and urgency of this new form of criticism.
A consistently engaging and insightful reckoning with the serious implications of the ascendant entertainment medium of the 21st century.