Videogames and Society

Staff Picks

Videogames and Society

Videogames have become giant players in the entertainment industry. Video game revenue exceeds that of streaming video services and of global film box office revenue. Like television and film, games have become important part of cultural life as entertainment, business, community and art. The books below all touch on pieces of how digital games intersect with our everyday lives and how they came to do so.  

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Shcreier
Most people engage with games as final products, without much understanding of the people and the work they do to create these products. Jason Schreier uncovers the stories behind the development of some of the most successful and acclaimed games of the times, sharing with readers the pressures, challenges, and victories along the way to development. The chapters on each game are engaging, in-depth, and bring into fuller appreciation not just the games that we play, but how they came to be that way.  

Marx at the Arcade by Jamie Woodcock
A pop academic text using a Marxist lens to explore the contemporary video game industry.  Author Jamie Woodcock unveils and analyzes the hidden exploitation that it takes to release contemporary blockbuster games in the notoriously opaque video games industry. Woodcock also makes the connection that the history of the technology used to create video games has always been connected to the American military industrial complex, a nexus where the interests of state and capital meet. As a growing industry that forms a new bedrock for derivative industries, Woodcock also explores how the growth of the gaming industry parallels changes in broader political economy.  

Console Wars by Blake Harris 
Console Wars is a fictionalized telling of the history of the rise of Sega and its competition with the previously seen as unstoppably dominant Nintendo in the early 90s. A history written as novel, the book introduces us to the people behind the corporations like Sega execs Tom Kaliniske and Hayao Nakayama, their relationships with each other, and the processes they took to steer their scrappy company and the burgeoning gaming industry into a new decade. It offers behind the scenes decision-making of new products and marketing decisions, how the two companies responded to calls of violent content in their games, and how Sega's failed collaboration led to the success of the Sony Playstation and the beginning of non-gaming companies getting into market we know today.  

Crash Override by Zoe Quinn
Zoe Quinn, prime target of the #gamergate controversy, wrote this book to chronicle her experience and discuss the broader issues of online harassment. A first hand account of what is was like to be the target of harassment both online and off, Zoe helps readers understand that gaming communities may not only be about playing games. She also includes thoughts on how to make changes to the gaming that that would to make it safer and more accountable. To hear more about Quinn's story, see her appearance at the XOX0 Conference. 

Super Better by Jane McGonigal  
After surviving a severe concussion that left her unable to work, Game designer Jane McGonigal decided to apply the neurological and psychological insights from decades of research on games to “gamify” her path to wellness. Super Better chronicles her recovery, and the applied science of how to turn the skills, practices, and capacities that digital games develop into resiliency boosting and focused motivation for achieving goals in day-to-day life. Demonstrating how she did this for herself, she then provides exercises (“adventures”) to begin practicing ways to incorporate games and game mechanics  into reader’s individual goals. SuperBetter can be taken farther with an app that helps self-design challenges and rewards in personalized ways to gamify all sorts of goals. See McGonigal's TED talk about her recovery here. An anthology of essays from gaming personalities about various aspects of gaming industry and culture.

The State of Play edited by Daniel Goldman and Linus Larrson
An excellent choice to read in small chunks, The State of Play introduces and familiarizes readers to people with a pulse on the gaming world with criticisms and analyses that shape how games are made and what constitutes the communities of people who play them. Video games are not only about fun, but reveal and enrich understandings of social, political, and economic issues. This anthology delivers in expanding how we can use the lens of videogames to to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.