If the meteoric rise and subsequent domination of technology is a celebratory event for you, then you must know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the coolness ladder. Let’s be honest, computers and video games were never a “cool” thing to be immersed in, and if you “wasted” your time playing them, or worse designing them, you were bound for any number of uncool deaths: solitude, acne, and dying lonely and friendless, clutching your unopened copy of Pitfall as your casket is lowered.
As much credence as we give technology, we still don’t allow video games to break the acceptance barrier. At least not in the same way as, say, an iPad. Despite the infiltration of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Farmville, Halo, Gears of War, etc. video games are still a fringe element of technology or more accurately, perhaps, they’re still just seen as time-wasters or stress relievers; not as serious art. Give credit to Anna Anthropy then for firing the first shot of video game criticism, in both a scholarly and unscholarly method. Anthropy is a video game player and fan first and a critic second. And her passion for playing, dissecting, critiquing, and creating video games is unparalleled as her book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters demonstrates.
When she’s on, she inspiring and positive about the necessity of video games to our culture, praising them as an art form for common men and women. But a book of inspiration and positivity only gets so far before Anthropy turns the subject in on itself and she changes hands faster than a deck of cards on Microsoft Windows Solitaire. Because Anthrophy isn’t just interested in a cultural manifesto on video games, the latter half of Zinesters struggles to find the same intense rallying cry as the first half. She doesn’t want you just to read and understand the role of video games in popular culture, she wants you to get up off you lazy ass and make games.
Which is fine. I support expressions of one’s self in all forms, including video games. Games, after all, are one of our oldest human pastimes; the medium just evolved over time due to our capabilities. But there’s more than a little motivation and some free time that go into creating a video game and Anthropy’s book (a slim volume at 187 pages) isn’t capable of devoting the type of attention to detail needed to explore and explain all the various tools available to create videogames. Despite an appendix that includes available tools, and another appendix that lists examples of self-created games by “zinesters” like herself, Anthropy’s text fares better when it sticks to what it’s titles suggests: delving into the movement of gamers who play by their own rules to create vital, rough-edged art.
But if the biggest complaint about Zinesters is that it suffers from subject matter ADD, then the individual content should be able to stand alone. And it does. Anthropy’s skewering of the traditional videogame industry where you’re expected to work long, stressful, hours without pay and accept as privilege is damning. And her personal experiences only accentuate her thesis–attending the prestigious Guildhall at Southern Methodist University in Plano, TX aided her decision to buck the trend of the corporate gamer slave. Ultimately, Anthropy’s passion for video gaming and how it defines her identity–and is now becoming a reality in defining new generations–is what makes Zinesters all worthwhile. She’s so passionate in getting you motivated that she’s willing to dedicate two full pages listing subject after subject about what you (yes you) can create a game about. There’s a dissertation crying out for discovery in Zinesters; here’s hoping Anthropy has some in-depth sequels planned.