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Et Cetera: Steven Poole's nonfiction choice - How to Do Things With Videogames

By Steven Poole
The Guardian

Bogost_HowFrom the mind behind satirical Facebook game Cow Clicker comes a collection of essays on videogames that confirms Bogost as one of the most penetrating, erudite and original thinkers around on the topic. Two species of "meditation" coexist here slightly uneasily: the first examines videogames' formal aspects, beautifully interpreting the experience of (say) "transit" or "reverence" for architecture in games. He rigorously defends an animal-shooting game endorsed by the National Rifle Association, on the way to the normative conclusion that "we should simulate torture". (He has reasons, but his rhetoric certainly counts as the kind of "incendiary provocation" he disdains in his conclusion.)

The second kind of essay examines how games (small, often bad) are made as commercials or marketing tools. Bogost argues that you can tell how "relevant" a medium is by the variety of such uses to which it is put, but this grants too much to the market-oriented philistinism of cultural "relevance", which is the only sense in which music, for instance, could be thought the more "relevant" thanks to the existence of jingles or ringtones. But overall, this is a fascinating book, and often very funny. On 1980s Atari porn games: "Another was Burning Desire/Jungle Fever, in which a naked man/woman flying a helicopter must ejaculate/lactate out a fire that risks devouring a man/woman tied to a stake." Come on, we've all played that.

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