Book of the Month: Gamelife

A new addition to the growing canon of gaming literature, Gamelife is a memoir of childhood told through seven different video games. For everyone who was glued to a computer growing up, it will prove impossible to resist…

9781925240252Video games have been a staple of childhood for decades – for many people the enjoyment and reward of playing has followed them into adulthood.  Gaming has become an enormous part of popular culture, and a hefty topic for literature in recent years. There are books about gaming history; about the technical side of game creation; about gaming as a business and about politics in gaming culture. And to add to this growing canon, this November we have Michael W. Clune’s Gamelife, a memoir told through seven different video games.

You might have come across Clune before; his first book, White Out, about overcoming a heroin addiction, was internationally praised; his writing was described by the New Yorker as “dreamily exact…sensual and hilarious.” An English professor, critic and writer, Clune’s work has appeared in McSweeny’s, Granta and Harper’s, among others. Readers of White Out are likely waiting in anticipation for his next book.

Published by Text, Gamelife shows the impact computer games had on Clune’s childhood. After uprooting from Ireland to America, he found adjusting to his new environment difficult. He was bullied at school, and started suffering anxiety after the divorce of his parents. Clune found refuge in video games. Not only did the games he played help him deal with his problems, they also proved educational; through them, he learnt about history, capitalism; even how to make friends. Looking back as an adult, Clune examines the effect gaming had on him. He also talks briefly about how, after a serious heroin addiction, games helped him to rebuild his life.

The narrative is told through seven chapters, each one focusing on a different video game. From playing Suspended in 1983 to Sid Meier’s Pirates! in 1986 and beyond, readers will find Gamelife packed with nostalgia. Diehard video game fans (especially those who grew up in the ‘80s) will find Gamelife thoroughly relatable and younger gamers will find much of interest too; as well as being a personal story, Gamelife is also a fascinating history of video games that shows how they have changed over the past thirty years.

An early version of Pirates! that’s bound to give readers a heavy dose of nostalgia

Clune describes the days when games were stored on floppy disks, when rudimentary imagery and text helped transport players into another world. He talks fondly about the joys and frustrations of early role playing games, the likes of which now showcase some of the most impressive technology available and are played by people of all ages across the globe.
The public interest in gaming can’t be underestimated; major reviews of the book have already appeared everywhere from the New York Times to Slate to the New Republic, who have called the book a “spectacular accomplishment.” On reviewing the U.S. edition of the book (published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux), The Paris Review has produced a review in the form of a 80s-style video game, which you can play here.

In the run up to Christmas, we can expect Gamelife to attract even more attention and become a first choice for the UK’s millions of gaming fans. It will also be prove popular with those who have read –  or even read about – White Out; Clune’s  striking prose style and knowledge of his subject has already won him a readership, one we can only expect to grow with Gamelife.

Gamelife is published by Text and will be available in the UK from November 26th, priced at £12.99.

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