1. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

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I don't have a fancy story for this one. I like Tom Bissell's work so I bought his book.

Few people write about video games the way Bissell does. He's not here to tell you whether a game is worth sixty bucks, nor is he here to discuss the latest trailers and screenshots. His thoughts on games are analytical, extended, and refreshingly thoughtful.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter approaches pertinent topics in society and gaming, and dissects them with examples from related video games. In chapter three, The Unbearable Lightness of Games, Bissell examines emergent narrative through the lens of Left 4 Dead. Valve's zombie shooter isn't often praised for its story, but the hectic co-op tale told by our author—in which he overcomes doubt and saves the day—shows us how gameplay can craft a story on its own.

Some people are okay with wading in the shallow end of the pool. That's perfectly fine. Really, it is. If you played Bioshock and came away saying “Wow, it's cool to shoot lighting from my hands,” that's great. If you played Dark Souls for an hour and said, “This game is hard just for the sake of being hard,” that's okay too. Maybe you don't know what a Humble Indie Bundle is. You're not a bad person. You're not even a bad gamer.

But there is so much more to experience, to learn, and to uncover, and this book is a great start. It will change the way you think about games.