A memoir about coming of age with video games, in which the author finds a reality more real than the outside world.
Having written a well-received memoir of heroin and recovery (White Out, 2013), Clune (English/Case Western Reserve Univ.) illuminates a different and perhaps more powerful addiction. The author makes no pretense of academic objectivity toward his gaming experience or even older-and-wiser distance from it. “You think I wrote a book about computer games for fun? If I want fun, I’ll play a computer game,” he writes, after postulating a theory about how “the history of computer games is also a philosophical encyclopedia containing every important truth available to our species.” The ideal readers for this book are those who are as immersed and invested in gaming as the author is (or has been; the narrative only offers a few fleeting glimpses into his post-adolescence). But many of the issues that it raises—the plight of the boy at the dawn of the Internet, trying to process suburbia, divorce, and alienation from would-be friends—have wider resonance. Clune never treats games as an escape but rather an entry into a heightened reality, an education, a creative stimulus, and a portal for self-discovery. “It isn’t easy to grow away from the people,” he writes. “You need imagination. My imagination was as weak as a baby’s arm until computer games trained it.” He writes of games as a means of bonding with kindred spirits, though the memoir ends with him on the outside looking in, very much alone. The author also flashes forward to the years when he was pursuing his doctorate and had apparently kicked the habit: “My professors and so-called friends had broken me. They’d convinced me that…computer games were sucking my life dry instead of nourishing it. Deadening my brain instead of illuminating it.”
Ultimately, Clune remains unconvinced and unrepentant, offering his rebuttal in this provocative book.