You might not know this about me: I’m a gamer. I played Ghosts and Goblins on a neighbour’s PC when I was four years old and (apart from a few years during uni when I was taking myself way too seriously) I’ve been playing ever since. I play just as much as I read: a lot.
Games were a huge part of my childhood. I built lasting friendships through the joy of competitive play; escaped into their bizarre, expansive worlds when I needed to be alone. They challenged and entranced and obsessed me; fired my imagination and unlocked my creativity. They taught me patience, persistence and lateral thinking. For a kid who was no good at sport, they gave me the same feelings of power, mastery and triumph. My parents, of course, viewed them with suspicion – like most parents of the 80s and 90s I guess – but they never stopped me playing.
I’ve long fancied the idea of writing a gaming memoir – a paean to this most powerful but misunderstood artform – but Michael Clune has beaten me to it.
We don’t have any games in common; where I spent most of my childhood blitzing through fast and frenetic competitive arcade-style games, Clune spent his lost in the primitive but vast worlds of computer RPGs. But games were, I think, similarly central to our upbringings.
Clune uses his book not only to pay tribute to the games that shaped him – titles like Elite, Wolfenstien, Might and Magic and Pirates! – but to show how they informed, illuminated and illustrated his life. They were an escape when his parents divorced and a lifeline when he moved away from his friends.
Some chapters work better that others – he draws some long bows between the games he’s playing and his personal experiences – but Clune is a fine writer who capture perhaps better than anyone before him the talismanic power and magic of gamelife.