Contemporary art curator. Student. Book addict. Art lover. Geek. Dreamer. Curious about everything. Check out my website http://thecuriouscurator.com/
One might argue that critical writing about games is difficult because most games are not able to withstand thoughtful criticism. For their part, game magazines publish game review after game review, some of which are spritely and sharp, but they tend to focus on providing consumers with a sense of whether their money will be well spent. Game magazine reviewers rarely ask: What aesthetic tradition does this game fall into? How does it make me fell while I'm playing it? What emotions does it engage with, and are they appropriate to the game's theme and mechanics?
Due to my Master thesis' theme - games and gamification in the context of contemporary art museums - lately I've been reading a lot about games and, specifically, videogames. In fact, I've read so many books of varying quality that touched upon many of the same ideas, that I admit I may be getting somewhat jaded and difficult to please. Maybe that explains why I was disappointed by this book.
The problem with Extra Lives is that it doesn't deliver on what it promises. The book's subtitle, "Why Video Games Matter", is completely superfluous, since that theme is hardly touched upon. The quote that I included above promised a book filled with thoughtful videogame criticism, but that too was misleading. The chapters were mostly personal anecdotes sprinkled with a bit of criticism. I normally don't mind when authors get personal, unless it veers dangerously close to being narcissistic, and after a while, that's exactly what this book felt like.
Still, the book has interesting parts, and it's always nice to see attempts at videogame criticism.