Death by Video Game – a book that's hopefully not Death by Book.
Books are well boring. In the fast paced modern world of video games, books are about as relevant as Jimmy Stewart singing a Hanson song. Unless you’re my grandad (which, presumably, you’re not because all he cares about is Polos and Bargain Hunt) who even needs books any more? Like any millennial, I find the concept of words printed onto paper haunting, and prefer to read my content on the internet. If I can’t stare at something blankly on my iPhone when I’m supposed to be working, then it just isn’t for me.
Still, there’s something more tangibly academic about a book, isn’t there? Even today, where games writing is arguably at its peak, and online is a sensible home for a form of media reliant purely on technology, prejudices surrounding video games still exist.
This is especially true amongst the older generation for whom books are, wrongly, considered a more sophisticated medium. To publish a book about video games is, in one way or another, a perfect way of infiltrating that world. It’s a chance to inform, entertain and ultimately present the concept of video games to an entirely new audience in a way that is seen by society as more “acceptable”. Sure, it won’t get as many readers as your average IGN article, but it leaves a more permanent mark. It’s a physical, tangible, thing. It exists.
It’s also really hard to write over 150 pages about the history of Pong, so… no one really does it.
Simon Parkin, however, has fucking nailed it.
Death by Video Game is, on its surface, a book about addiction. “We play games to kill time”, reads the blurb, “But what does it mean when games start killing us?”. It’s an interesting hook. Everyone is surely aware of the spate of deaths in Taiwan over the years, young men playing League of Legends in dingy internet café’s until their bodies physically can’t cope any longer. To write a whole book about the issue of addiction (this real, terrifying, issue) is a bold move to make. I’ve seen many a report on the subject, but never have I read an analysis.
But, here’s the thing. Death by Video Game isn’t really a book about people playing video games until they die at all. I mean, it certainly talks about it, but it isn’t the crux of the book. Instead of focusing on the end result, Parkin focuses on what compels us to get to that point in the first place. Why do we keep playing? It’s a complicated question.
The answer is fascinating. Death by Video Game conveys what makes video games so unique through a handful of true stories revolving around the theme of extremism. It’s a very considered, un-biased analysis, and a compelling read throughout.
Books about video games are a rarity, but Death by Video Game may just be the best one. Written with both a passion for the medium and a careful understanding of what makes it so unique, this is a book that should be on every video game lover’s shelf. This is an important book, and I implore you to pick it up today.
Look, it’s four quid on the Kindle store. Just get on it, yeah?