Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination



Sixteen leading video game creators and opinion makers on the state of video game culture.

The State of Play is a call to consider the high stakes of video game culture and how our digital and real lives collide. Here, video games are not hobbies or pure recreation; they are vehicles for art, sex, and race and class politics.

The sixteen contributors are entrenched—they are the video game creators themselves, media critics, and Internet celebrities. They share one thing: they are all players at heart, hand-picked to form a superstar roster by Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson, the authors of the bestselling Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus "Notch" Persson and the Game that Changed Everything.

The State of Play is essential reading for anyone interested in what may well be the defining form of cultural expression of our time.


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“If you want to explain to anyone why video games are worth caring about, this is a single volume primer on where we are, how we got here and where we're going next. In every way, this is the state of play.”

“Video games are now on the front lines of the culture wars. The State of Play gathers essential voices who are trying to make a more just, more true, more playful gamespace, one that's fun for everybody.”

The State of Play is an excellent primer on an emerging field of artists, writers, cultural critics, and independent game developers whose commitment to critical engagement with the content and culture of games and gamers (from identity politics to gender and race representation to sexuality and more) as video games have grown into a distinct field whose future is very much in debate ... A much needed alternative look at the state and stakes of video game culture today and tomorrow.”

“Editors Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson are interested in the way in which writing about the video game medium has grown from product criticism to social and political commentary. This broadening of scope is due not only to maturation, they argue. It is also the result of the democratization of game-making, which has allowed independent creators to release games on personal and seemingly noncommercial topics, in that way stimulating critical ­conversation.”

“We are past the era when it was surprising to learn that video games are more than just pleasurable power fantasies. Video games are emotional explorations of race, gender, sex and love. Video games give us intense experiences of being others, or finding ourselves, alone with the computer or surrounded by crowds, in physical or virtual spaces. The State of Play is a key collection of writings to understand why playing video games matters more than ever.”

“A ground­breaking anthology that all video game players should read and ponder.”

blog — December 22

What are We Playing At? Video Games and the Veil of Digital Ignorance

The Christmas season is here and for those of you with a millennial wo/man child or actual child in your life that may very well mean buying video games. I’m not going to help you pick out a game, we sell books here, maybe later we’ll help you pick out a book. If you’re interested in some best of 2016 video game lists check with these people. They’ll tell you what to buy the millennial wo/man child in your life.

This post is shameless log rolling for State Of Play, a collection of essays by some of the most insightful game commentators and journalists we could find. 2016 has been a turbulent year, one more than a little preoccupied by questions of identity, humanity, and artificial intelligence in politics and pop culture. As a performative and often social medium, video games can shed a revealing light on these questions and State of Play is a terrific primer on the subject.

Reading the book, I wondered with Cara Ellison and Brendan Keogh about the ease and pleasure with which I and so many dispense virtual violence on digital bodies. The question that emerges from their and other essays is less “does the violence we enact in video games make us more violent,” and more, “how do video games specifically and technology generally affect or warp our abilities to empathize.” How do you define or know another person when everything you see of them is digitized? If we are so dismissive of who is behind the digital curtain, can we really be surprised at the vitriol people are capable of leveling at others whom they perceive only in ones and zeros?

In another State of Play essay Katherine Cross wrote with Anita Sarkeesian, Cross describes the online stalking and harassment she faced playing World of Warcraft. Her female Night Elf character probably looked a lot like the passive, damsels in distress any gamer would be accustomed to rescuing in countless titles. Faced with a player character in a world where game characters are literally objects, some found it difficult to see the human behind the damsel.

In an episode of This American Life, one reformed troll admitted that, only after reading his victim directly address his abuse did “it finally hit me. There is a living, breathing human being who is reading this shit. I'm attacking someone who never harmed me in any way and for no reason whatsoever.”

Video games and the rise of the digital commons offer a tremendous opportunity to transgress and subvert. That sexy night elf lady you’re chatting up? He’s playing out a fantasy just like you. But technology is only as freeing as we allow it to be. Video games can create a world of learning and subversion or they can be just another closet.

I have a suggestion for pushing the needle in the right direction. Read. Consume critically, but not discriminately. Look at the world through a literary lens. There are videos that can teach you to do this too. Watch them. Even the most violent, corporate, capitalist, block buster hits have interesting subtexts, if you know how to look.

State of Play will help you look. If you’re a gamer or buying a gamer pair it with these essays. And please play responsibly.  

Some other reading on video games and play:

Eric Zimmerman & Heather Chaplin: Ludic Century Manifesto

Eric Zimmerman: Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games:
Four naughty concepts in need of discipline

Kieron Gillen: New Games Journalism Manifesto

Ten unmissable examples of new games journalism





Linus Larsson and Daniel Goldberg are two of Sweden’s best-known writers on new technology and the internet. They have been published in the Washington Post and American Computer World, among other places, and quoted by BBC News, the New York Times, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Their first book, Swedish Hackers, was published in 2011 in Sweden. Minecraft, their bestselling English language debut, followed that same year.