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Review: Death by Video Game

Video games, as an expressive medium, has always inspired other forms of media. From music concerts to massive online forums to dedicated video streaming sites, there are many vibrant communities of gamers whose passion for games transcends the game itself. That said, there don’t seem to be very many books written about games, and most of those aren’t very good.

Thankfully, Death by Video Game is an excellent book and well worth the read.

The title of the book comes from a series of incidents involving video games that ended in the deaths of a couple of gamers. The internet cafe and gaming marathon phenomenon seems most prevalent in Asia, though there are similar levels of gaming obsession and excessive bingeing wherever games are being played. Like the gaming violence controversies of the 90s, the immediate reaction is to condemn games as corruptive and immoral.

Death by Video Game presents a much more complete view of video games as a powerful and impactful, yet nuanced and personal medium. From game development as therapy, to how game design elements evoke certain emotions, to the economics and politics of virtual worlds, to the aforementioned addictive qualities of gaming as an escape, Death chronicles the sheer breadth of video games and its effects on players. The range of case studies makes a strong claim, that games are just as legitimate as any other medium of expression.

Even as someone who reads a lot about games and plays them a fair amount, this book showed me just how much video games impact their players’ lives and the degree of their cultural significance. It comes down to how folks think about games; I hadn’t realized the diversity of thought and action associated with my favorite hobby. That alone makes me heartily recommend Death by Video Game.

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