The Rough Guide to Videogames, ed Kate Berens & Geoff Howard

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The Independent Culture

Although they are the product of a $42bn industry, which means that their sales outstrip global cinema box office receipts, for example, videogames continue to exist on the periphery of the cultural mainstream. One of the reasons why is that there isn't any good writing about them. Try naming a single videogame critic. No one has yet found a really satisfactory way to describe the distinctive pleasures of gaming, perhaps partly because the primacy of the player in the development of a game's narrative means that you'd need to understand post-structuralism, and which student of French philosophy is going to admit to having completed Resident Evil 4 on the hardest setting?

Alongside a brief history of the videogame and some sidebars about the quirkier aspects of its development, this book has a page or two about each of the 74 games which it collectively describes as "The Canon". The writing isn't interesting enough that you'd want to do much more than flick through it, and perhaps track down a game or two you hadn't heard of. But establishing a canon is always the first step towards developing a new critical discipline; the good writing will follow.