Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published three widely acclaimed books before the age of thirty-four. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in front of his various video game consoles, playing titles such as Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Oblivion for, literally, days. If you are reading this flap copy, the same thing can probably be said of you, or of someone you know.
Until recently, Bissell was somewhat reluctant to admit to his passion for games. In this, he is not alone. Millions of adults spend hours every week playing video games, and the industry itself now reliably outearns Hollywood. But the wider culture seems to regard video games as, at best, well designed if mindless entertainment.
Extra Lives is an impassioned defense of this assailed and misunderstood art form. Bissell argues that we are in a golden age of gamingbut he also believes games could be even better. He offers a fascinating and often hilarious critique of the ways video games dazzle and, just as often, frustrate. Along the way, we get firsthand portraits of some of the best minds (Jonathan Blow, Clint Hocking, Cliff Bleszinski, Peter Molyneux) at work in video game design today, as well as a shattering and deeply moving final chapter that describes, in searing detail, Bissells descent into the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game whose themes mirror his own increasingly self-destructive compulsions.
Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading.
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"Starred Review. A scintillating meditation on the promise and discontents of video games... Bissell excels both at intellectual commentary and evocative reportage on the experience of playing games ... If anyone can bridge the aesthetic chasm between readers and gamers, he can." - Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week
"Bissell explores not just his own affection for video games but also the games themselves. What separates good games from bad? Where do video games fit on the sliding scale of art? ... Not just for gamers, the book should also appeal to readers who have some serious questions about the nature and impact of video games." - Booklist
"More a collection of profiles and game reviews than a focused thesis, this little book never answers the question implicit in its subtitle - best appreciated by serious game junkies." - Kirkus Reviews
"Bissell successfully dissects key aspects of the medium with razor-sharp sense and artfully crafted analysis. A thought-provoking, thorough, and ultimately personal study of the industry and its denizens." - Cliff Bleszinski, design director, Epic Games
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Tom Bissell is the author of Chasing the Sea, God Lives in St. Petersburg, The Father of All Things, Why Video Games Matter, Magic Hours: Essays On Creators and Creation (2012) and Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve (2016). He also co-authored The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room (2013) with Greg Sestero. A recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bay de Noc Community College Alumnus of the Year Award.
Tom Bissell is currently based in Los Angeles, California.
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