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Is it time for us to hit 'reset'?

The author wrestles with video games' significance in society, and whether they are indeed an art form.

June 13, 2010|By Abigail Deutsch, Special to The Los Angeles Times

But love has driven people to more extreme gestures. (Think "Anna Karenina.") In the end, one remembers the passion, and passion provides this volume with many enlightening and expansive moments. Here Hocking wonders if the odd bedfellows of game and story will someday find chemistry: "The question is, can we go … to completely different realms, using tools that are inherent to games? To let the player play the story, tell his own story, and have that story be deep and meaningful?" Hocking doesn't know, and neither does Bissell. Their uncertainty feels thrilling, testifying to a sense of possibility — and of risk — alien to more established creative forms.

The book's final chapter explores not only the nature of games, but also the nature of Bissell. He writes that he started playing the game Grand Theft Auto IV at the same time that he started using cocaine. His first drug-fueled joyride lasted 30 hours. He no longer uses the drug, but he plays video games constantly, preferring them to the books that were once central to his life. Now, he writes, he finds that "the pleasures of literary connection seem leftover and familiar"; now that games have overtaken his once-bookish existence, he has "no firm memory of who, or what, I once was." Perhaps Bissell has suffered a grand theft of his own: a loss of his previous life in favor of the "extra lives" onscreen. His love has proven dangerously intoxicating.

Deutsch is a writer from New York. Her work appears in the Village Voice, Bookforum, n+1, Poetry and other publications.

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