How to do Things with Videogames (book)

In How to do Things with Videogames, author, professor, and game designer Ian Bogost refutes the many negative generalizations concerning video games and their impact on society. He does this by simply explaining the many facets of games, and how they are utilized to document, socialize, and educate.

This book is organized into twenty short chapters, each an essay that revolves around an area of general interest that video games have impacted, such as music, work, branding, and electioneering. The first chapter, simply titled “Art,” delves into the basic question that every media critic has wrangled with: “Are videogames art?”  Bogost provides the best non-answer answer to this, which in turn serves as a great introduction to the rest of the book: “Forget games, art doesn’t have any sort of stable meaning in contemporary culture anyway.” Bogost then goes on to explain the diverse nature and evolution of what has been called art in the past, and compares this to the power that video games have to connect their players to important social, political, and emotional issues.

Each consecutive chapter builds on this main argument, and culminates in a fairly hefty conclusion titled “The End of Gamers” in which Bogost argues that video games will become so enmeshed with society that playing them will be as common in the future as watching television was twenty years ago. Essentially, the social identity of “the gamer” will disappear, for the better or worse. The title of this chapter alone brings to mind the recent and horribly handled #Gamergate controversy, even though the sentiment from the movement’s followers is slightly different, being generally much more negative and whiny (if you don’t know anything about it, I recommend staying far away from either side of the #Gamergate movement, which you will inevitably disobey now that I’ve said it).

At any rate, this is a great book to wave at people who think your interest in gaming is useless and stupid. It’s also a fun read!


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