Saturday, March 21, 2009

Possibilities for being entertained

About nine years ago I played in a Team Fortress Classic team. TFC was a PC game with a large community of competitive leagues. Our team would meet online to practice and plan tactics, and then compete with other teams in our league. The only difference from a sport was that we weren't getting any excersise out of it. But it was hard, fun, and social.

While I was playing TFC, Jim Rossignol was coaching players in Quake 3, another first-person shooter. He did it so obsessively that it cost him his job, which got him started on a career in gaming journalism. Today he's an editor of the excellent PC gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and has written a smart book about online gaming culture.

This Gaming Life is about the social aspect of computer games. Rossignol believes that games are a waste of time, and that's a good thing. They prevent boredom, one of the major challenges of a leisure-based culture, and they give rise to interesting new forms of social interaction.

Rossignol writes about nationally televised Starcraft championships in South Korea, where gaming is part of the mainstream youth culture. We hear about corporate backstabbing in EVE Online, a space adventure MMORPG with its own functional economy, and about the mod community, where fans create their own variations of commercial games.

Unusually for a non-fiction book about a hypable cultural trend, Rossignol's tone is that of a calm and reasoned essay, providing genuine insights into gaming culture. More of that!

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