Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities is a rumination on the personal, sociological and even political impact of videogames — written, thank god, by a gamer, not an academic. Which is not to say Rossignol’s book isn’t peppered with its share of bell-ringing insights: that by defusing boredom, games that portray violence may actually prevent real violence; that games can improve not just tactical understand or motor skills, but our sense of humanity — our souls — as surely as any other form of expression; that while almost everyone now games, there will always be “gamers,” self-identifying fans whose habits are saturated with their preferred method of play.
The opening chapters of the book are Rossignol’s own story, a finance reporter on a grey train through a listless career who found a spark in the arena of online, competitive Quake playing. That obsession led to writing about games — and an escape from drudgery. (And almost certainly an escape from financial stability.)
As a gamer, Rossignol reports from the inside — every gamer is an embedded journalist — detailing epic betrayals in EVE Online (my favorite game to read about but never, ever play) or the jingoist propaganda fields of America’s Army. The book’s lack of an overarching Gladwellian thesis could be a weakness, but is also a strength: In the welcome post-hyperbolic mode of modern games journalism, the ability to make sweeping proclamations about gaming’s hypothetical effect on society fade to more subtle, even murky reports of the real lives, relationships, and opinions forged and shattered by videogames every day. Whether you’re a passionate gamer or a dabbler, This Gaming Life serves as an attentive guidebook through some the most interesting landmarks of gaming’s recent journey.
This Gaming Life [Amazon Pre-Order]