Are video games art?

John Lanchester is quickly becoming my favourite contributor to the London Review of Books. So much of his writing is both accessible and informative. This issue he looks at computer games:

From the economic point of view, this was the year video games overtook music and video, combined, in the UK. The industries’ respective share of the take is forecast to be £4.64 billion and £4.46 billion. (For purposes of comparison, UK book publishers’ total turnover in 2007 was £4.1 billion.) As a rule, economic shifts of this kind take a while to register on the cultural seismometer; and indeed, from the broader cultural point of view, video games barely exist. The newspapers cover the movies extensively, and while it isn’t necessary to feel that they do all that great a job of it, there’s no denying that they have a try. Video games by contrast are consigned to the nerdy margins of the papers, and are pretty much invisible in broadcast media. Video-game fans return the favour: they constitute the demographic group least likely to pay attention to newspapers and are increasingly uninterested in the ‘MSM’, or mainstream media.

Andrew O’Hagan

The Atlantic OceanI’m reading the marvellous The Atlantic Ocean by Andrew O’Hagan at the moment. It’s a collection of essays, mostly taken from The London Review of Books and is a wonderful eclectic collection of writing. Take this little gem, for example, from the opening lines of a piece about celebrity memoirs:

If you want to be a somebody nowadays, you’d better start by getting in touch with your inner nobody, because nobody likes a somebody who can’t prove they’ve been nobody all along.

Thoroughly recommended.

It’s stuff like this that proves, I think, that print has a future. Longer essays like these, don’t really work on the web. It’s hard to concentrate on the screen for too long, and often these pieces need mulling over, book or paper in hand, curled up on the sofa.