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Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Summer Learning Track: Games & Gamers

This year's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) has wrapped. Gamers can pause their salivating over the coming year's releases and try out some fiction and nonfiction that will transport them into gaming worlds just as well as their 1080p, 60fps escapes. Several of these titles are also available in ebook and audiobook formats.

Below are recommended reads, including these depictions of gaming gone wrong:

  • Ready Player One
  • REAMDE
  • Eye of Minds
  • You
  • Level Up
  • As well as these nonfiction accounts of the world of game creation and culture:

  • Console Wars
  • Smartbomb
  • Reality Is Broken
  • Extra Lives
  • Hyrule Historia
  • Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
  • There are plenty of options for gamers to play in the library, including these opportunities:

  • Regular gaming hours in the Teen Center at Richland Library Main: 2:30-5:30 on the PS3/4, Xbox 360/One, and Wii U (ages 12-18 only)
  • Tabletop games in the Teen Center Creative Lab at Richland Library Main
  • Gaming on tabletops, Xbox 360, and Wii at Richland Library Northeast's weekly Wednesday Entertainment Nights starting at 6:00
  • Family Game Night at Richland Library Eastover, June 14 at 2:00

  • Amazon Says: Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published three widely acclaimed books before the age of thirty-four. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in fron more...
    Amazon Says: Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published three widely acclaimed books before the age of thirty-four. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in front of his various video game consoles, playing titles such as Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Oblivion for, literally, days. If you are reading this flap copy, the same thing can probably be said of you, or of someone you know.   Until recently, Bissell was somewhat reluctant to admit to his passion for games. In this, he is not alone. Millions of adults spend hours every week playing video games, and the industry itself now reliably outearns Hollywood. But the wider culture seems to regard video games as, at best, well designed if mindless entertainment.   Extra Lives is an impassioned defense of this assailed and misunderstood art form. Bissell argues that we are in a golden age of gaming—but he also believes games could be even better. He offers a fascinating and often hilarious critique of the ways video games dazzle and, just as often, frustrate. Along the way, we get firsthand portraits of some of the best minds (Jonathan Blow, Clint Hocking, Cliff Bleszinski, Peter Molyneux) at work in video game design today, as well as a shattering and deeply moving final chapter that describes, in searing detail, Bissell’s descent into the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game whose themes mirror his own increasingly self-destructive compulsions.   Blending memoir, criticism, and first-rate reportage, Extra Lives is like no other book on the subject ever published. Whether you love video games, loathe video games, or are merely curious about why they are becoming the dominant popular art form of our time, Extra Lives is required reading. less...
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    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
    Amazon Says: At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love more...
    Amazon Says: At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.   For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.    A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready? less...
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    Amazon Says: Following the success of The Accidental Billionaires and Moneyball comes Console Wars—a mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, s more...
    Amazon Says: Following the success of The Accidental Billionaires and Moneyball comes Console Wars—a mesmerizing, behind-the-scenes business thriller that chronicles how Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the juggernaut Nintendo and revolutionized the video game industry.In 1990, Nintendo had a virtual monopoly on the video game industry. Sega, on the other hand, was just a faltering arcade company with big aspirations and even bigger personalities. But that would all change with the arrival of Tom Kalinske, a man who knew nothing about videogames and everything about fighting uphill battles. His unconventional tactics, combined with the blood, sweat and bold ideas of his renegade employees, transformed Sega and eventually led to a ruthless David-and-Goliath showdown with rival Nintendo.The battle was vicious, relentless, and highly profitable, eventually sparking a global corporate war that would be fought on several fronts: from living rooms and schoolyards to boardrooms and Congress. It was a once-in-a-lifetime, no-holds-barred conflict that pitted brother against brother, kid against adult, Sonic against Mario, and the US against Japan.Based on over two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, Console Wars is the underdog tale of how Kalinske miraculously turned an industry punchline into a market leader. It’s the story of how a humble family man, with an extraordinary imagination and a gift for turning problems into competitive advantages, inspired a team of underdogs to slay a giant and, as a result, birth a $60 billion dollar industry. less...
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    Amazon Says: What started as a game of Pong, with little blips dancing across a computer screen, has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that is changing the future, making inroa more...
    Amazon Says: What started as a game of Pong, with little blips dancing across a computer screen, has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that is changing the future, making inroads into virtually all aspects of our culture.Who are the minds behind this revolution? How did it happen? Where is it headed? In Smartbomb, journalists Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby take the reader behind the scenes at gaming conventions, into powerhouse think tanks where new games are created, into the thick of the competition at cyberathlete tournaments, and into the homes of gamers for whom playing a role in a virtual world has assumed more relevance and reality than life in the real world. less...
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    Reamde by Neal Stephenson
    Amazon Says: “Stephenson has a once-in-a-generation gift: he makes complex ideas clear, and he makes them funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling.”—TimeThe #1 New York Times bestse more...
    Amazon Says: “Stephenson has a once-in-a-generation gift: he makes complex ideas clear, and he makes them funny, heartbreaking, and thrilling.”—TimeThe #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Neal Stephenson is continually rocking the literary world with his brazen and brilliant fictional creations—whether he’s reimagining the past (The Baroque Cycle), inventing the future (Snow Crash), or both (Cryptonomicon). With Reamde, this visionary author whose mind-stretching fiction has been enthusiastically compared to the work of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace—not to mention William Gibson and Michael Crichton—once again blazes new ground with a high-stakes thriller that will enthrall his loyal audience, science and science fiction, and espionage fiction fans equally. The breathtaking tale of a wealthy tech entrepreneur caught in the very real crossfire of his own online fantasy war game, Reamde is a new high—and a new world—for the remarkable Neal Stephenson. less...
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    Amazon Says: Dark Horse Books and Nintendo team up to bring you The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, containing an unparalleled collection of historical information on The Legend of Zelda more...
    Amazon Says: Dark Horse Books and Nintendo team up to bring you The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia, containing an unparalleled collection of historical information on The Legend of Zelda franchise. This handsome hardcover contains never-before-seen concept art, the full history of Hyrule, the official chronology of the games, and much more! Starting with an insightful introduction by the legendary producer and video-game designer of Donkey Kong, Mario, and The Legend of Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto, this book is crammed full of information about the storied history of Link's adventures from the creators themselves! As a bonus, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia includes an exclusive comic by the foremost creator of The Legend of Zelda manga — Akira Himekawa! less...
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    The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
    Amazon Says:    From James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series that's soon to be a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox, comes an all-new, more...
    Amazon Says:    From James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series that's soon to be a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox, comes an all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure. The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.   Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?   But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.   The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.Praise for The Eye of Minds, Book One in the Mortality Doctrine series“More realistic and addictive than any video game—The Eye of Minds sucked me in from the very first page. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets The Matrix in a vividly rendered world of gamers, hackers, and cyber-terrorists. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!”—Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures and author of Unbreakable   “A gripping page-turner, Dashner’s latest is sure to please.”—BookPage   “Full of action [and] a rather surprising twist that will leave you flipping pages.”—fanboynation.com    “An adrenaline rush.” —School Library Journal “In typical Dashner style, this is quick and involving, with the main frustration being the wait time until the next book.” —Booklist “High on concept, this is an intriguing read for the digital generation.” —Kirkus Reviews"Dashner once again creates a dystopian world in which nothing is what it seems."-VOYAA Junior Library Guild Selection less...
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    You by Austin Grossman
    Amazon Says: When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers more...
    Amazon Says: When Russell joins Black Arts games, brainchild of two visionary designers who were once his closest friends, he reunites with an eccentric crew of nerds hacking the frontiers of both technology and entertainment. In part, he's finally given up chasing the conventional path that has always seemed just out of reach. But mostly, he needs to know what happened to Simon, his strangest and most gifted friend, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit. As the company's revolutionary next-gen game is threatened by a software glitch, Russell finds himself in a race to save his job, Black Arts' legacy, and the people he has grown to care about. The deeper Russell digs, the more dangerous the glitch appears--and soon, Russell comes to realize there's much more is at stake than just one software company's bottom line. less...
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    Amazon Says: An amazing journey through the thriving worlds of fantasy and gaming. In this enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former Dunge more...
    Amazon Says: An amazing journey through the thriving worlds of fantasy and gaming. In this enthralling blend of travelogue, pop culture analysis, and memoir, forty-year-old former Dungeons & Dragons addict Ethan Gilsdorf embarks on a quest that begins in his own geeky teenage past and ends in our online gaming future. He asks, Who are these gamers and fantasy fans? What explains the irresistible appeal of such "escapist" adventures? And what could one man find if he embarked on a journey through one fantasy world after another? In Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, Gilsdorf crisscrosses America, the world, and other worlds--from Boston to Wisconsin, France to New Zealand, and Planet Earth to Middle-earth to the realm of Aggramar. He asks D&D players, LARPers, medieval re-eanctors, World of Warcraft players, Harry Potter fans and convention goers--old, young, male, female, able-bodied and disabled--what attracts them to fantasy worlds, and for what reasons. What he discovers is funny, poignant, and enlightening. less...
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