Extra lives : why video games matter / Tom Bissell.

by Bissell, Tom, 1974-Looking glass.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, [2010]Description: xiv, 218 pages ; 22 cm.ISBN: 0307378705; 9780307378705.Subject(s): Video games -- HistoryLooking glass | Video games -- Social aspectsLooking glass
Fallout -- Headshots -- The unbearable lightness of games -- The grammar of fun -- Littlebigproblems -- Braided -- Mass effects -- Far cries -- Grand thefts.
Note: Includes index.
Item type Home library Collection Class number Status Date due Barcode Item reservations
Long loan Central Saint Martins
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Printed books 794.8 BIS (Browse shelf (Opens below)) Available 54133812
Long loan London College of Communication
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published three widely acclaimed books before the age of thirty-four. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in front of his various video game consoles, playing titles such as Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Oblivion for, literally, days. If you are reading this flap copy, the same thing can probably be said of you, or of someone you know.
Until recently, Bissell was somewhat reluctant to admit to his passion for games. In this, he is not alone. Millions of adults spend hours every week playing video games, and the industry itself now reliably outearns Hollywood. But the wider culture seems to regard video games as, at best, well designed if mindless entertainment.
Extra Lives is an impassioned defense of this assailed and misunderstood art form. Bissell argues that we are in a golden age of gaming--but he also believes games could be even better. He offers a fascinating and often hilarious critique of the ways video games dazzle and, just as often, frustrate. Along the way, we get firsthand portraits of some of the best minds (Jonathan Blow, Clint Hocking, Cliff Bleszinski, Peter Molyneux) at work in video game design today, as well as a shattering and deeply moving final chapter that describes, in searing detail, Bissell's descent into the world of Grand Theft Auto IV , a game whose themes mirror his own increasingly self-destructive compulsions.
Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading.

Includes index.

Fallout -- Headshots -- The unbearable lightness of games -- The grammar of fun -- Littlebigproblems -- Braided -- Mass effects -- Far cries -- Grand thefts.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Author's Note (p. xi)
  • 1 Fallout (p. 3)
  • 2 Headshots (p. 17)
  • 3 The Unbearable Lightness of Games (p. 33)
  • 4 The Grammar of Fun (p. 49)
  • 5 Littlebigproblems (p. 67)
  • 6 Braided (p. 91)
  • 7 Mass Effects (p. 105)
  • 8 Far Cries (p. 129)
  • 9 Grand Thefts (p. 159)
  • Appendix: An Interview with Sir Peter Molyneux (p. 185)
  • Acknowledgments (p. 203)
  • Index (p. 205)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Grand Theft Auto IV is both a waste of time and "the most colossal creative achievement of the last 25 years" according to this scintillating meditation on the promise and discontents of video games. Journalist Bissell (Chasing the Sea ) should know; the ultraviolent car-chase-and-hookers game was his constant pastime during a months-long intercontinental cocaine binge. He's ashamed of his video habit, but also ashamed of being ashamed of the "dominant art form of our time"; by turning the eye of a literary critic on the gory, seemingly puerile genre of ultraviolent, open-ended "shooter" games, he finds unexpected riches. Bissell bemoans the "uncompromising stupidity" of their story lines, wafer-thin characters, and the moronic dialogue, but celebrates the button-pushing, mesmeric qualities and the subtle, profound depths these conceal-the catharses of teamwork and heroism in the zombie-fest Left for Dead, the squirmy moral dilemmas of Mass Effect, the "mood of wistful savagery" suffusing the rifles-and-chainsaws-bedecked denizens of Gears of War. Bissell excels both at intellectual commentary and evocative reportage on the experience of playing games, while serving up engrossing mise-en-scene narratives of the mayhem. If anyone can bridge the aesthetic chasm between readers and gamers, he can. (June 8) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Although this is not a scholarly book per se, its subject is certainly one of interest in the academy. A contributing editor for Harper's Magazine and an award-winning author, Bissell (who also teaches fiction writing at Portland State Univ.) offers a belletristic defense of video games as an art form. The book is worth reading for the prose alone, a crisp mashup of styles that invokes the best of both The New Yorker and Wired. Bissell interviews game designers, reports on industry shows, visits the BioWare and Ubisoft studios in Canada, and explores ontological questions about what makes video games unique through comparisons with cinema, literature, and other expressive media. In so doing, he reflects on such aspects of video games as dialogue, character believability, interactivity, game mechanics (i.e., rules and procedural operations), cinematographic effects, and platform genre. Bissell's many examples include a range of famous game series--"Fallout," "Grand Theft Auto," "Gears of War," "Mass Effect," "Resident Evil." The overall results are fun, challenging, a bit random, and thoroughly enjoyable in a smart way. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division and upper-division undergraduates; technical studies; professionals; general readers. N. A. Baker Earlham College

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Tom Bissell (Xbox Live gamertag: T C Bissell; PlayStation Network gamertag: TCBissell) is the author of Chasing the Sea , God Lives in St. Petersburg , and The Father of All Things . A recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bay de Noc Community College Alumnus of the Year Award, he teaches fiction writing at Portland State University and lives in Portland, Oregon.

Other editions of this work

No cover image available Extra lives : by Bissell, Tom, ©2011