Splash Damage lurking within Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life

June 23, 2008

We don’t often hoot and holler about books about games, mainly because they don’t crop up with any great frequency and few of them are very good when they do. They seem doomed to only spring from the pen of writers who don’t understand games, or gamers who can’t write. So we’re happy to tip our hat to Jim Rossignol’s This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities, which is very good.

We’ve known the wretched beast talented journalist that is the Rossignol for a while, from his scribblings for RockPaperShotgun, Wired and PC Gamer, but also from wayyyy back in the day when he and some of our number were heavily implicated in Quake III Arena clans and leagues, which didn’t seem to do any of us any harm. Who among us indeed would not warm to TGL’s opening paragraph: “In May 2000 I was fired from my job as a reporter on a finance newsletter because of an obsession with a video game…It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

In TLG, Rossignol flits about the globe to investigate key aspects of games culture and practice in three cities: Seoul, Korea where he examines the uniquely Korean games culture based around PC Baangs and catches up with some Lineage luminaries; Reykjavik, Iceland where he examines his near-unholy love of EVE Online and – goodness me, London, UK, where he interviews Splash Damage’s very own Paul ‘Locki’ Wedgwood on how he was able to take a similarly dayjob-consuming passion for games, get paid for it, and then set up a company to pay other people to be passionate about them too (and thereby, of course, hangs a Splash Damage).

In case that just sounds like a standard set of interviews and profiles, TGL is a lot more than that. It does a far better job of explaining what being into games is like than I ever have, which is why I’ve just ordered multiple copies for my parents and siblings to act as advocates to explain what the hell it is that I do and why it’s fun. Rossignol manages the rare trick of understanding what’s great about games and being passionate without losing all perspective or control of his bladder. He looks beyond the standard games myths and stereotypes to the much much stranger real-life behaviour we often exhibit. It’s the most honest essay I’ve yet read about what being into games is really like, their costs and compensations, and the uses (rational and otherwise) we gamers make of them.

Congratulations to the otherwise lamentably talentless even-a-stopped-clock’s-right-twice-a-day Rossignol for having written such an entertaining, informative and perceptive book about a subject dear to our hearts but still largely poorly covered and misunderstood. Well worth checking out. Should you care to sniff it more closely, it can be procured in the UK here and in the US here (other vendors are available, your mileage may vary, some settling may occur in transit, online experience may vary).