Extra Lives

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Extra Lives

Extra Lives - Why Video Games Matter - Paperback - USA.jpg

Paperback - USA - 1st edition.

Author Tom Bissell
Published 2010-06-08
Type Non-fiction
Genre Educational, Memoir
Themes Video Games
Age Group Adult

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter is a book about video game culture and memoirs of Tom Bissell, published on 2010-06-08.

In the book, Bissell argues that video games deserve to be treated as a form of artistic media on par with films or books. He explains the similarities between video games and other artistic mediums, but also point out unique aspects of video games which can't be replicated in any other medium and describes how game developers have been using these aspects to create an all-new artistic medium. Bissell does this primarily be describing several games he is intimately familiar with and how they affected him emotionally while playing them, and sometimes even changed his life.


Read?Audiobook read by Tom Bissell.

Since I'm not just an avid gamer, but also one who appreciates gaming as a culture and art form, I was eager to read this book. I ended up really enjoying it.





  • Bissell is a skilled writer. He uses an extensive vocabulary which doesn't feel forced, and he makes good use of simile and metaphor. Everything about the writing style feels professional.
  • In order to prevent the book from being too dry, Bissell changes styles throughout the book, even incorporating second-person narrative.
  • I like his observation that most video game genres are extensions of existing media genres from books, film, and traditional games, but the platformer is one of the first genres that was and is truly unique to video games. This is debatable, but it's important to point out that fundamental differences do exist.


  • Although Bissell is quick to note that he is not a historian, I wish he would have put forth more effort into researching the history of video games so he wouldn't have made basic errors. Pretty much every game he cites as the first of a genre is not the first, but rather one of the first extremely popular game in that genre. For example, he claims that Resident Evil was the first survival horror game, but there are many progenitors in the genre, and, even if you impose unnecessary criteria like, it has to use a 3D engine and use weird fixed camera angles, Alone in the Dark preceded it by four years and was popular enough to warrant two sequels, which were also released before Resident Evil.
  • Most of the games Bissell chooses to focus on are 3D shooters. I also enjoy the genre, so I'm not bothered by the dearth of other genres, but I still would have preferred more variety.


  • Nothing.


  • "More than any other form of entertainment, video games tend to divide rooms into Us and Them. We are, in effect, admitting that we like to spend our time shooting monsters, and They are, not unreasonably, failing to find the value in that."
  • About what he would tell his kids he was doing when President Obama was inaugurated, "...at the moment America changed forever, your father was wandering an ICBM-denuded wasteland, nervously monitoring his radiation level, armed only with a baseball bat, a 10mm pistol, and six rounds of ammunition, in search of a vicious gang of mohawked marauders who were 100 percent bad news and totally had to be dealt with. Trust Daddy on this one."
  • "As incomprehensible as it may seem, I have somehow spent more than two hundred hours playing Oblivion. I know this because the game keeps a running tally of the total time one has spent with it. I can think of only one personal activity I would be less eager to see audited in this way, and it, too, is a single-player experience."
  • "This is one of the most suspect things about the game form: A game with an involving story and poor gameplay cannot be considered a successful game, whereas a game with superb gameplay and a laughable story can see its spine bend from the weight of many accolades—and those who praise the latter game will not be wrong."
  • "I have had moderately meaningful relationships in which I invested less time than what I have spent on some BioWare games."
  • "[he] was slender in the way that writers and musicians are sometimes slender: not out of any desire or design but rather because his days were spent being consumed rather than consuming."
  • "There are not many mediums whose Dantes and Homers one can ring up and talk to. With games, one can."
  • "When I read a novel I am not only surrendering; I am allowing my mind to be occupied by a colonizer of uncertain intent."



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