Extra Lives 01/16/21

I started reading Tom Bissell’s Extra Lives last night. It’s a compelling read, and I blasted through the Fallout 3 and Resident Evil chapters, forcing my eyes to stay open. Bissell’s style can occasionally be a bit up its own ass, but it feels nice to read a writer somehow…unpretentiously up his own ass?

What it’s about: Tom’s addiction to video games. More than that, it attempts to address what it is about video games that is unique from a storytelling perspective. Here’s the article from The Guardian (now ten years old) about GTA IV and cocaine addiction that got me interested in the book in the first place.

Bissell asks some compelling questions about Fallout: why, in a world that is so painstakingly rendered, is the dialogue so stilted, so corny? He wouldn’t make exceptions for this if he was watching a film. Is the interactive element of the game so compelling that we are willing to forgive? He brings up a similar point regarding Resident Evil, the original game for the Playstation. The opening cutscene…we all remember how silly that was.

I have a thought about this that I’d like to flesh out at a later time, but it deals with David Lynch’s hyperreal dialogue and video game narrative clunkiness. My thought is that, whether the developers realize it or not, it’s not a bug, but a feature. A part of that “vivid and sustained dream” I’ve been going on about.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a quote from the Fallout chapter that I loved:

“Storytelling…does not belong to film any more than it belongs to the novel. Film, novels, and video games are separate economies in which storytelling is the currency.”

See you tomorrow!

1 Comment

  1. Jim Rickets says:

    Interesting, I’ve been examining the capabilities of games as literature; adds new dynamics to storytelling, e.g., implementing a choice-consequence function to characters developed by the reader/viewer, which makes the simulated world appear interactive. Where as, in say a short story, your consciousness is at the whim of a closed world generated by another mind where you’re playing by the physics of THEIR hyperreal dream logic – if you’re lucky, you make it out with a piece of yourself intact.

    Also, I’ve been really into Surrealist Games, lately. Figure, that’d be something worth pairing with your current musings. As Breton would say, “poetry is a hairless cat that plays the dulcimer”.

    Liked by 1 person

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