Recommended Reading: Maria Konnikova on “flow” and first-person shooters.
Ever thought that writing a novel was like a video game you just couldn’t win? In the new video game The Novelist, players count pages not bodies as they try to help the protagonist balance writing with his family life. “There’s no winning or losing,” designer Kent Hudson said. “[M]y hope is that as you’re presented with the same fundamental question … over the course of the game, that you start to learn about your own values.”
I knew all this on that January day when I picked up Grand Theft Auto. I knew I was dooming myself to months of stagnant development. As I went back to my apartment, I thought of my father, circa 1997, rattling off a list of things I could learn if I stopped playing Mario. I could learn to play baseball, he said. I could learn to speak German or French. I did none of those things, and because of that I came to believe, as my father did, that games were a waste of my time. I came to regard them as relics of a self-hating era. If I were to pick them up again — especially with a thesis to finish — all it would do is negate my own better instincts.
But then, as the weeks wore on, I began to notice something strange. The more time I spent in Liberty City, the better I seemed to write. My antics in the game were helping me write my novel.
Boss Fight Books is a new series in the mold of the classic 33 1/3 model. In lieu of covering music albums, however, each Boss Fight book “will take a critical, creative, historical, and personal look at a single classic video game.” The first titles in the series will investigate Earthbound and Galaga, and they should be out by next December and January, respectively.
"I like listening to people talk about video games. Not those conversations about who scored a sick no-scope head shot, or which character’s passive ability allows them to farm the most efficiently, mind you, but about why video games can be meaningful and why they matter." Our own Janet Potter on Austin Grossman’s You.
StoryBundle, a new service that lets you pay as much (or as little) as you want for preselected bundles of ebooks, announced on Wednesday that their latest bundle is a collection of writing about video games. Among other things, it includes two books by Jordan Mechner, the man behind Prince of Persia, as well as two issues of Kill Screen.
But no experience is wasted on a writer who is a compulsive memory-miner, and Rushdie put his video-game expertise to good use in the two children’s novels he wrote for his sons, though the second, Luka and the Fire of Life, is more directly indebted to Mario and Luigi than the first. The first, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, was dedicated to Zafar and written during the fatwa years, investing it with an immediacy that gave it a haunting power. Easily the most enchanting of Rushdie’s many novels, this allegorical tale about the war between Storytelling and Silence was an acutely topical portrayal of the synchronous real-world battle between free speech and fanaticism. In the novel, one of young Haroun’s tasks is to rescue the talkative and tuneless Princess Batcheat (baatcheat is the Urdu word for conversation) from Khattam-Shud, the emperor of Silence. Was the chatterbox Princess a reincarnation of the “insufferably pink Princess Toadstool?” And did Mario inspire the character of the mustachioed water genie Iff, who uses his plumber’s wrench to turn on and turn off the faucet through which the Stream of Stories flows via “a P2C2E” (Process too Complicated to Explain)?
George Plimpton seriously did try everything.