hristmas is coming, and those stocking aren’t going to stuff themselves! So in the spirit of giving, I want to point you towards seven things that would make excellent gifts for seven specific people in your lives. Most of these are books, and all of them are worth your time. Personally, I recommend buying all of these for yourself too, just to be sure your friends will enjoy them!
1. For the skeptic
Tom Bissell got everyone’s attention a few years ago when he told the world all about what it was like to be addicted to Grand Theft Auto and cocaine at the same time. He demonstrated fully that he was a voice to be heeded in the world of videogame criticism when he released a book called “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter.”
The book is an excellent personal and critical work that takes videogames seriously, asking questions about what they are and what they are becoming. Though it ultimately asks far more questions than it answers, the book stands as a landmark in games’ criticism. If you know someone who has a hard time looking at videogames as anything more than a “toy,” you would do well to buy them this book.
2. For the creator
A year ago, knowledge of who Anna Anthropy and her being transgender would have shocked me, mostly because my fairly sheltered upbringing did little to prepare me to relate to someone who self-identified as a “queer.” Now, thanks to Anna’s game “Dys4ia,” I have a better idea. Empathy has replaced shock. Love has replaced judgment. That happened because she made a game that told a part of her story, and because I played it.
You can do that too, says Anna in her book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters. It’s a compelling and passionate work; a manifesto for the potential of videogames as an emerging expressive medium. She argues with insight and clarity that there is perhaps no better medium than videogames for telling our own stories, and that we are now living in a time where practically anyone can make such a game.
3. For the theologian
There is currently only one book that I know of on the market on the subject of Christianity and videogames. That book is Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games With God, edited by Craig Detweiler. It is a thoroughly thought-provoking collection of essays on topics of faith and gaming. Is it okay for Christians to play videogames? Is it possible to turn Bible stories into good games? Why (spiritually) are we so drawn to play?
It would be a good idea for any Christian interested in videogames to pick up a copy of this one.
4. For the critic
This is the second time in two weeks that I’ve mentioned Killing is Harmless by Brendan Keogh. That means I really think you should buy it. As mentioned last week, the book is a level-by-level, “critical reading” of this past summer’s Spec Ops: The Line.
5. For the player
Gamers want to have fun. We get that. That’s why we don’t only want to give you and your friends a massive reading list; we want to help you play! One of the best ways you can do that (other than buying the blockbusters, and lets be honest, those guys don’t need our publicity) is by purchasing the “Bundle in a Box” for yourself and a friend. This is a collection of some lovingly crafted indie-games, all in one pay-what-you-want bundle!
A portion of all proceeds will go to charity and to a fund for indie game innovation. That means you get new games and good feels.
6. For the idealist
Most Christians believe that reality is broken. We call it sin. Dr. Jane McGonigal might not use the same terms, but she’s noticed it too. That’s why she wrote a book called “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change The World.”
If you can’t tell from the title, Dr. McGonigal is a bit of an idealist, and this is not a bad thing. She’s done her research on how playing games has been proven to improve people and communities in certain ways and she is more than willing to share her ideas with you.
7. For the visionary
2012 has been the year of kickstarting videogames. Some amazing projects have gone through, as millions of dollars have been raised by people like you and me who were intrigued enough by the promise of a new game or approach to gaming to pledge support. This Christmas, what better way to give than by pledging to support a new game? You or a friend can receive the game, and the satisfaction of helping someone’s dream come true.
We’ll get back to our regular linklisting next week, so let me know if you come across anything you would like to see featured. I love doing this for and with you all!