Good morning, ABC listeners! I’m still hanging around Seattle, one of the biggest hubs of game development in North America. If there’s one thing this trip has taught me so far, it’s that the video game industry is rich with things to talk about. There’s a wealth of stories, issues, philosophical questions and colorful characters all begging to be talked out, debated and disputed–and fortunately, some of those stories have made their way to audio book. Here’s a list of my favorites.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ready Player One is the quintessential gamer-lit novel. The idea of a fully-immersive virtual reality that people spend the better parts of their days submerged within opens the door for so many questions about philosophy, ethics, and sociology–the answers to which become more and more relevant as the reality of that idea creeps ever closer. It’s also doused in 80’s references, which will be either a good thing or a “meh” thing, depending on if you’ve got the appropriate nostalgia to back it up or not. If you’re looking for more game-inspired fiction, check out You, by Austin Grossman.
Jacked:The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner
There was a period of time when Grand Theft Auto was the game franchise most often cited whenever anyone wanted to decry how video games were destroying today’s youth. Violent and controversial, the series has flourished in the face of huge criticism and condemnation, and always pushed the limits on what was “acceptable” in games. This is an exhaustive look at the men and the story behind the game. The author, top game journalist David Kushner, also wrote an equally compelling book about the creators of Doom in his book Masters of Doom.
Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt
Dungeons and Dragons seems to be experiencing something of a second coming in pop culture lately, but many of the jokes and references are grossly misapplied. Of Dice and Men is a very funny, very clever, and thoroughly delightful memoir/long-form journalism piece about D&D, and it’s obvious that Ewalt just gets it. He’s not an outsider looking in; as someone who has played for years, he offers up anecdotes and information with the authority of someone who thoroughly knows the game, where it came from, and what makes it amazing. Players will love this book, and it should be required listening for anyone who wants to learn more about the D&D and role-playing games in general.
If you’re looking for another memoir steeped in reportage, Tim Bissell’s Extra Lives is a recollection of his life-long love of video games and a critique of the gaming industry as a whole.
Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
It’s a popular stance to take that increased time spent playing video games leaves players with poor social skills, low attention span, and a poor understanding of right and wrong. In Reality Is Broken, McGonical takes the opposite stance: she addresses how playing games can actually make us smarter, happier, and better global citizens. She offers case studies of games that are taking positive steps forward right now and discusses how the power of video games could be used in the future. It’s a refreshing point of view. If you love wrapping your brain around the ever-shifting concept of reality and technology and the corollary sociological ramifications, try Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson.
Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan
You can show a picture of Mario to almost anyone in the world, and even if they’ve never played a video game in their lives entire, chances are they’ll know who he is. Nintendo has some of the most popular and enduring franchises of all time–Super Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda–and has a long history deserves to be told. Jeff Ryan tells that story in this book, starting all the way back in the 1980’s and documenting all the innovative and industry-changing moves Nintendo has made since then.