Book asks why do video games matter?

Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:47pm EDT
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By Mark Egan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Video games almost took over Tom Bissell's life, thrusting him into an intoxicating months-long, cocaine-fueled binge playing Grand Theft Auto.

But like any good writer, he got a book out of it -- and possibly a new career direction.

Bissell's book, "Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter," was published this month by Random House's Pantheon imprint and is part criticism of video games as an art form, part social commentary and part memoir.

His research took him so deep into the world of video games -- from playing them to talking to the world's leading game developers -- that his next job is writing a video game.

"I am going to start writing at least one game," Bissell, 36, said. "I am beginning to understand why so many video games are so badly written, because writing for them is really hard and really weird."

Bissell, known for his high-brow, offbeat travel books, expects more literary writers to follow suit.

"Literary writers used to go to Hollywood to make money," Bissell said. "People my age and younger are going to go into video games."

Bissell's resume to date gave few hints that he might have a future in video games. He has written a short story collection, "God Lives in St. Petersburg," a travelogue about the Vietnam War and his father, "The Father of All Things," and a book about Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan called "Chasing the Sea."   Continued...

<p>An advertisement for the "Grand Theft Auto 4" video game sits on display at a store in New York in this April 28, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>