cover image Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games

Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games

Edited by J. Robert Lennon and Carmen Maria Machado. Graywolf, $18 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64445-261-5

In this insightful anthology, novelist Lennon (Subdivision) and memoirist and short story author Machado (In the Dream House) bring together reflections on video games from such writers as Hanif Abdurraqib, Alexander Chee, and Vanessa Villarreal. In “This Kind of Animal,” novelist Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah discusses how selecting the personal qualities (e.g., composure, empathy, endurance) of the detective protagonist of 2019’s Disco Elysium prompted him to consider the “pieces and parts that combine into what I and others think of as me.” Memoirist Elissa Washuta likens her struggle to identify the cause of her medical condition to the plight of The Last of Us’s Ellie, a 14-year-old who travels across the U.S. so doctors can unravel the medical mystery of why she’s immune to a fungal virus that has turned infected humans into zombie-like creatures. Though most of the contributions praise the artistic merit of the games discussed, novelist Eleanor Henderson expresses ambivalence about the long hours her sons spend gaming instead of reading, while suggesting that their investment in the games connects “them to their most empathetic selves.” The diverse entries highlight the ways in which the far out plots of video games can change how players understand themselves and the world around them. Gamers with a literary bent should take a look. (Nov.)