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Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Tom Bissell

Top 10 Best Quotes

“More than any other form of entertainment, video games tend to divide rooms into Us and Them. We are, in effect, admitting that we like to spend our time shooting monsters, and They are, not unreasonably, failing to find the value in that.”

“And so, my beloved Kermit, my dear little Hussein, at the moment America changed forever, your father was wandering an ICBM-denuded watseland, nervously monitoring his radiation level, armed only with a baseball bat, a 10mm pistol, and six rounds of ammunition, in search of a vicious gang of mohawked marauders who were 100 percent bad news and totally had to be dealth with. Trust Daddy on this one.”

“You have agency, yes, but what of it? It is just a game. But when a game does this well, you lose track of your manipulation of it, and its manipulation of you, and instead feel inserted so deeply inside the game that your mind, and your feelings, become as seemingly crucial to its operation as its many millions of lines of code. It is the sensation that the game itself is as suddenly, unknowably alive as you are.”

“I have had moderately meaningful relationships in which I invested less time than what I have spent on some BioWare games.”

“Hocking was slender in the way that writers and musicians are sometimes slender: not out of any desire or design but rather because his days were spent being consumed rather than consuming.”

“Final Fantasy VII awoke American gaming to the possibilities of narrative dynamism and the importance of relatively developed characters—no small inspiration to take from a series whose beautifully androgynous male characters often appear to be some kind of heterosexual stress test.”

“...the video-game form is incompatible with traditional concepts of narrative progression. Stories are about time passing and narrative progression. Games are about challenge, which frustrates the passing of time and impedes narrative progression. The story force wants to go forward and the "friction force" of challenge tries to hold story back. This is the conflict at the heart of the narrative game, one that game designers have thus far imperfectly addressed by making story the reward of a successfully met challenge.”

“This is one of the most suspect things about the game form: A game with an involving story and poor gameplay cannot be considered a successful game, whereas a game with superb gameplay and a laughable story can see its spine bend from the weight of many accolades—and those who praise the latter game will not be wrong.”

“There are not many mediums whose Dantes and Homers one can ring up and talk to. With games, one can.”

“The impulse to explain is the Achilles’ heel of all genre work, and the most sophisticated artists within every genre know better than to expose their worlds to the sharp knife of intellection.”

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Book Keywords:

why-video-games-matter, 10mm, viscous, gang-daddy, bat, trust, marauders, tom-bissell, extra-lives, video-games, baseball, pistol

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