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This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities [Hardcover]

Jim Rossignol
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 July 2008
This book offers an insider's view of online games and how they change us. "In May 2000 I was fired from my job as a reporter on a finance newsletter because of an obsession with a videogame. It was the best thing that ever happened to me." So begins this story of personal redemption through the unlikely medium of electronic games. Quake, World of Warcraft, Eve Online and other online games not only offered author Jim Rossignol an excellent escape from the tedium of office life. They also provided him with a diverse global community and a job - as a gaming journalist. Part personal history, part travel narrative, part philosophical reflection on the meaning of games, "This Gaming Life" describes Rossignol's encounters with gamers in three unique gaming cities: London, Seoul, and Reyjkavik.From his days as a Quake genius in London's increasingly corporate gaming culture, to his encounters with Korea's high stakes, televised professional gaming culture to his adventures in Iceland, the national home of his ultimate obsession, the idiosyncratic and beguiling Eve Online, Rossignol introduces us to a still emerging and largely undocumented world of gaming lives. Torn between unabashed enthusiasm and optimism about the future of gaming and lingering doubts about whether games are just a waste of time, "This Gaming Life" also raises important questions about this new and vital cultural form.Should we celebrate the "serious" educational, social, and cultural value games, as academics and journalists are beginning to do? Or do these high-minded justifications simply perpetuate the stereotype of games as a lesser form of fun? Could it be that the true value of games lies in their ability to stave off boredom? In this beautifully written, richly detailed, and inspiring book, Rossignol brings these abstract questions to life, immersing us in a vibrant landscape of gaming experiences.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Michigan Press; First Edition edition (15 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472116355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472116355
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 15.1 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 978,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"We need more writers like Jim Rossignol, writers who are intimately familiar with gaming, conversant in the latest research surrounding games, and able to write cogently and interestingly about the experience of playing as well as the deeper significance of games."
---Chris Baker, "Wired"

About the Author

Jim Rossignol is a habitual gamer who grew up in a tediously middle-class village in the south of England. He is also a world-renowned games journalist who currently writes for Wired, The BBC, PC Gamer, and many other media outlets. His populist group-blogging project continues to expand its cult popularity. He lives in Bath, England.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of"This Gaming Life" 15 July 2008
Not a great gamer myself but bought this book as a present for some computer techi friends. Always have a quick browse of a book before giving it and I was hooked. Now I understand why some of my friends rush home from the pub or refuse a night out on the town to join their virtual community on line to organise space trading empires - to be part of a team of international players.

It's not only that Jim Rossignol has looked how gaming is played and affecting society all over the world but especially London, Seoul and Reykjavik. He has investigated academic research that has sought to ascertain the effects of gaming on ours and different cultures. He puts together his thoughts, arguments and comments, in an engaging and entertaining style. Truly a man of our time, proving that computer and console gaming has become part of world culture.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - accessible and thought provoking. 28 Sep 2008
I was cautiously optimistic about this book; I had heard good things and had read articles on gaming sites that had been written by the author. The book did not disappoint in any way.

This is an ambitious book that raises such questions as what gaming is, how it meshes with human nature as a whole and how gaming differs in different cultures. The author obviously displays a thorough knowledge of games and gaming but he also conveys relevant and interesting observations about the people he meets and the places he visits on his extensive travels.

The book is extremely well written. The author subscribes to the philosophy that it is best to present complex ideas in simple terms. It makes the text a pleasant and satisfying read. The author uses plenty of quotes and they are pertinent and excellently sourced, coming from industry luminaries such as Will Wright.

I would recommend this book to anybody. It is thoughtful, well observed and beautifully written. As an introduction to the subject or as insider reading, it is essential.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the first book about games and games culture that I have read, and I must say that it was both entertaining and informative. Gaming is becoming one of the main entertainment media of this generation and future generations and I'm surprised by the lack of academic interest in it. Or rather, the lack of coverage that gaming receives in the mainstream that takes it seriously.

Rossignol structures his book around his travels in Korea, England, and Iceland. In each country he meets gamers and game developers and examines the differences in games and their associated culture. The Korea section is particularly fascinating, with his examination of the effect gaming has had on youth culture in Seoul, where it's more common for youngsters to visit gaming cafes (baangs) than go out and obliterate themselves with booze.

These travel segments and broken up with short sections about games as propaganda, emergent gameplay, and other topics. These analysis sections serve as palate cleansers between locales and they suit the pacing of the book very well. Rossignol's thoughts about the importance of gaming as a tool to limit boredom were pertinent and made me realise that, as a gamer, this is generally the place they fill in my life. Sometimes entertainment serves for entertainment's sake. Play has been an important learning mechanism for humanity (and indeed much of the animal kingdom) and computer games are an-often elaborate and thrilling-extension of this.

Rossignol's writing is crisp and comprehensible throughout. The text rarely provides a paragraph with too much information to require more than one reading.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the effect of gaming on society, the motivations of gamers, and some of the reasons why we play games.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For Gamers and Non-Gamers alike 12 July 2009
An incredibly articulate, thought provoking read, whether you are new to games culture or not. The section on Korea was really quite astonishing, and the EVE anecdotes comparably eye-brow raising.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PC Gaming and its Cultural Context 13 July 2008
By David Berck - Published on
This book is a basic overview of different aspects of gaming. It discusses some cultural differences in the way Westerners game vs. those from the East (with the possible general exception of Japan). It is interesting to note the difference not only in game style preferences, but the way gamers are perceived in Western vs. South Korean culture, specifically.

The author also examines what he calls emergent gaming. These are methods of gaming and actions within the game that the designers did not anticipate. He goes on, at length, about the evolution of EVE Online and how it is the players that have largely driven that change rather than developers. He also waxes philosophical when it comes to what games mean in a larger context. Are games merely a waste of time and energy better spent on other endeavors or do they ultimately represent something else? This discussion is not very deep, but he does give reference to some other works that delve deeper into this debate.

Besides the few annoying grammatical errors, the tone is kept fairly light, yet you can tell Jim Rossignol is passionate about his current chosen focus in life. There is some good information here, but it really is best for someone who is looking for a PC-gaming biased overview of what gaming has been, is in its current state, and could possibly be. Console gaming is touched upon, but not discussed in any great detail. Those looking for minute detail and insights into the gaming industry won't find them here. But he does point the way to others who discuss his more philosophical points at length. This Gaming Life is certainly worth a read if you're interested in gaming no matter what level you wish to explore, unless you've already delved into this field.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book 16 Sep 2010
By theman - Published on
I'm a gamer and I found this to be a unique global view on gaming and its culture from a very good writer. Sure, not for everyone, but for gamers that like to read, I'd say this is one of the best books out there.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Look At The Gaming Culture 17 Jun 2009
By T. Quiring - Published on
There is much about this book which I liked, particularly the fairly in-depth look at the Korean gaming culture and how it differs from that in the west. It was also interesting to read about the political movements within games and how they have been used as protest platforms. I feel that as a person who is both a gamer and a person who works in the gaming industry, This Gaming Life brings to light many of the reasons why people play video games - for the challenges, social experiences or to simply escape the stresses of every day life. One of the other reasons given by the author is that gamers game to stave off boredom.

Jim Rossignol raises some very valid points on how the activity of playing video games has grown to become a central part of today's culture, such as the social components in today's games and the scientific studies being conducted to better understand the effect of video games on the human countenance. He examines at length the pros and cons of becoming engrossed in games, as well as some of the educational aspects. Topics also covered are the varying levels of importance some game development studios put on gamer interaction with development through gamer-made mods or playing the game in ways not expected by the developers. This is something which I have heard discussed at many game development conferences - that gamers will always find some way to play the game that was outside of the project vision.

The one aspect of this book which I didn't enjoy was the amount of time spent discussing the game play and player experience in EVE Online. In some ways I felt that due to this, the book became more about EVE than about the lives of gamers on a whole. While the book is meant to speak about Mr. Rossignol's own experiences in the game world, the first chapter or so of This Gaming Life leads the reader to believe that the book will look at the inner psyche of the gamer community. In this aspect I was somewhat disappointed in the book's content, as there was so much material left uncovered.

All in all, though, this is still a book I would recommend, particularly to those who are or want to be game developers. Through the coverage of such topics as Second Life and the EVE Online convention in Iceland, This Gaming Life does bring to the forefront the importance of games to the people who play them. Also of importance are the possibilities of becoming involved in the game development industry by beginning as a modder, an activity which carries its own importance within the gaming community, and which Mr. Rossignol demonstrated through the founding and growth of the UK studio, Splash Damage.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Step Forward in Writing about Games 5 Aug 2008
By Travis Hawks - Published on
Rossignol has crafted a nice little book that exudes the feel of a series of expanded magazine articles. The stories he tells of his travels related to gaming and how these stories address his larger theses and sub-theses are engaging and insightful. Even though many "gamers" of today's ilk think more of the living room console when they consider their beloved activity, This Gaming Life centers on PC gaming. This is a fair enough choice as these are the experiences Rossignol has the largest revelations about and they do drive the points home.

The way the book is promoted makes one think that it will be an autobiographical look at one person's adventures with games, but really the personal tales are just a nice starting point for his larger arguments. The book is well written and enjoyable. It is quite an easy read and its short length keeps it from really losing any punch as you continue through it.

The only quibbles I have with the book are largely technical ones. As the book progresses and it begins to refer to its own previous sections, the choice was made to place parenthetical references back to those sections. Although this doesn't sound like a big issue, it is quite the distraction and somewhat insulting. An additional technical gripe is the misuse of the phrase "begs the question." This is a common mistake, but it shouldn't show up in a book from a professional writer, reviewed by professional editors. It just looks sloppy and detracts from Rossignol's authority. The concluding bits of the book are a tad meandering and don't really tie together the previous sections that were overall well thought out and almost poignant.

All in all, this is a good read for anyone who enjoys gaming or tech and pondering the effect they have on our lives. There isn't an "inside baseball" feel to the book that should scare off non-gamers, but it is still unlikely that many who aren't gamers will pick it up and read it. This is another book, like Chris Kohler's Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life, that is working to create a discourse on games beyond screenshots and history lessons. This Gaming Life is a fun step in the right direction.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but not particularly enlightening. 3 May 2013
By Generic Man - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book should say from the get-go: Here are the stories of the hard core of the hardcore PC gamers in Britain (competitive shooters), Korea (Internet cafe culture), and a smattering of international enthusiasts (playing the massively multiplayer online game Eve Online).
Entertaining in places, but fails to scratch the surface of the digital diaspora of gamers--Xbox/Playstation users, mobile gamers, etc.
Curious, since Rossignol's gaming experiences reach beyond niche PC games.
For travel journalism and cerebral video game analysis, it's above average. For an enlightening overview of gaming culture, it's lacking. Bottom line though: he's charming, funny and, in this case, worth a read.
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