In this installment of Insert Coin, Eoghain Meakin speaks with Zoe Jellicoe, editor of Critical Hits: An Indie Gaming Anthology, currently on target to meet its Kickstarter funding goal.
From remarkably humble beginnings video games have become, quite simply, the most important form of entertainment in the first world. With a growing demographic and an unwavering core audience gaming no longer competes with its less immersive cousins like film and television but sits apart as a fully-fledged and largely respected entity. As a market gaming is hugely lucrative and with the home console well into its eighth generation the industry also has a long and lustrous history. Perhaps of greatest importance is videogame’s rapidly developing respect as an art form; a highly malleable, in-depth, philosophical and cannibalistic movement manifested in AAA behemoths as well as bedroom-bit indie titles.
So with so much to discuss why is it that the literature, the academics about, behind and around gaming, are still so niche? The social impact, culture and architecture of gaming is oft commented upon but rarely expounded. Unless you frequent comprehensive websites like Kotaku or Polygon you’d be forgiven for thinking that game criticism isn’t far out of the ‘Dis Good-Dat Bad’ phase that does little to repudiate this all as cheap hour-filling entertainment.
Luckily change is afoot. While there have always been some willing to apply critical thinking to the deserving form, it seems a whole new generation of writers and thinkers have grown up and now want to give videogames the same robust treatment normally reserved for literature, film and art theory.
It’s about time, and seemingly leading the charge over here is Liberties Press Editor Zoë Jellicoe. She’s recruited an impressive crew of leading writers and creatives in the industry to literally put their opinions to paper. Providing a successful Kickstarter campaign the result will be an essential collection of essays under the title Critical Hits: An Indie Gaming Anthology. Most notable of the contributors is Cara Ellison; Scottish writer and narrative designer who frequently contributes to some of the most important websites and magazines in gaming, tech and culture.
“Cara Ellison was the first person I got in touch with. I sent her a fairly speculative email but she was immediately enthusiastic. I like her writing and her approach. She was just finishing her first book, but agreed to write a chapter and a foreword. I compiled my list of writers to approach through her own recommendations, research and word of mouth.”
Other contributors range from journalists like GiantBomb’s Austin Walker to designers like Holly Gramazio and will include some homespun thoughts from minds like Leo Devlin and Aidan Wall. The topics covered range from in-game architecture to real life curation and from software to the art of dating sims. Yet even when dealing with the very mechanics of videogames the book promises to be accessible to the general public, not just binary junkies and MMO still lifers;
“Each writer has been free to focus on anything they like, so long as they aren’t stepping on another contributor’s toes, and so long as it has something original to say about indie gaming culture, development or design. The book is a celebration of the innovation happening in independent gaming, and will appeal to someone with even a layperson’s interest in digital media, not just gamers.”
The point for Zoë is to capture some of the intelligent writing she saw online and bring it to print. “I decided to put the book together because nothing like it exists yet. There’s a lot of incredibly creative and insightful writing about video games online and in some print media, but there’s not a lot in the way of books aside from Minecraft guides. I came up with the angle because it was the sort of thing I wanted to read, and I figured that other people would too.”
If you’re one of these other people then get over to the Kickstarter here and show your support for what should be a firebrand, landmark title in an exciting and essential field. It’s only running through March though, so do it now! Eoghain Meakin
Portrait by Rafał Wójcicki