May 8, 2012
Here is a book that is impossible to review. It is impossible to critique, judge or score. It defies me at every turn.
Game designer Anna Anthropy’s debut book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, is a nonfiction manifesto, a rallying call in which she encourages everyone to create and make and, perhaps most important, disseminate videogames. It’s also a work of critical theory, all while moonlighting as a DIY how-to handbook. At times it becomes an autobiography.
It is unquantifiable.
What is this book, even?
And what’s a “zine,” anyway?
You’re right to wonder. Here, let me explain.
“Zines” were those little photocopied works of indie literature I wasn’t allowed to read when I was a teenaged girl.
I’d look up their titles in a magazine called Factsheet Five and choose the ones that most appealed to – or more likely, appalled – my polite Southern Baptist sensibilities. Then I’d send a handwritten letter and a couple of bucks to each fanzine’s author. Zines began arriving in the mail, and the whole thing was magical. My favorite was Artaud-Mania, an entire collated Xerox of hiss and spit, all stapled together, written by a college art student called Johanna Fateman.
These were no monetary transactions; they were social ones. The world, I soon discovered, is so small.
I got away with reading them, for a while.
Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Chapter One.
Anthropy’s real mission is only this: a more perfect world, one in which everyone can build a videogame. Maybe these games will be unedited and jejune and a little bit broken, as zines themselves often are, but that’s supposed to be the allure. The games will be authentic, these experiential snapshots, the works of diarists instead of artists and computer programmers.
Maybe an alienated teen in south-coastal Texas could finally discover something to which she can relate – or better yet, she might find something to which she cannot relate at all. Maybe she will eventually make a videogame of her own.
Ought a videogame become the equivalent of a Livejournal entry? Can we really all be memoirists?
Or! What if videogames together comprised a continuous, gapless fabric that documents the sum of human experience? The idea itself is poetry.
Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Chapter Two.
Suppose it were ridiculously easy to make a game, using an accessible human grammar instead of impenetrable, gnostic programming languages. Suppose it were hilariously easy to distribute those games.
Wouldn’t you want to?
Miss Anthropy is correct when she asserts the technological barrier of entry to gamemaking is so much lower than it once was. Case in point: I’m currently typing to you from a Wal-Mart laptop that cost under $300. I am in a position to become a guerilla filmmaker or self-published novelist if I want to, and in kind, I could make an object-based text adventure from right here in the local coffee shop.
Incidentally, that’s where I’m sitting now. I am struggling, in broad daylight and in public, to review Anthropy’s book. People keep walking past, picking up the book without asking, frowning at it and setting it back down.
“It’s pretty good,” I manage. I am extremely nervous when I say this. I don’t know why.
Read the rest of this fantastic review of Anna Anthropy’s Rise of the Videogame Zinesters at the Unwinnable website.