Why Do People Buy Books They Don’t Read?

0. TBR! TBR!

Regardless of whether your passion is for books, films, games or comics, the chances are that your home contains a large stockpile of unconsumed culture. Depending upon the exact nature of your passion, this stockpile can take a number of different forms including:

  • A pile of books marked ‘To Be Read’
  • An array of downloaded or recorded TV series you need to ‘Catch Up On’
  • A Steam account containing games boasting zero hours of play
  • A shelf groaning under the weight of shrink-wrapped DVD box sets

As perverse as this kind of cultural opulence might seem, it is as nothing when compared to the mind-boggling absurdity of our tendency to buy new books and films when we have dozens of perfectly wonderful titles sitting at home on a shelf. Why do we do it? Why do we buy books we don’t read? The answer lies in our postmodern condition, the economics of human attention and the ever-changing nature of the self.

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Blasphemous Geometries 12

My latest Blasphemous Geometries column has gone up over at Futurismic.

It’s an attempt to lay down some thoughts on a different way of looking at story-telling in video games, but it’s also an excuse for me to make wise-arse comments about a number of different games I’ve played over the years.  Speaking of being a wise-arse I was intriged to discover a YouTube pilot for an Australian TV programme called Game Damage.  Starring The Escapist‘s answer to Charlie Brooker, Yahtzee Croshaw.  It will be interesting to see whether the show will be picked up because I think it highlights the problem with game commentary in a nut shell.  If you watch the pilot you’ll see Yahtzee pouring scorn on what is evidently the contents of a press release while the other two scramble to say something positive.  One the one hand, everyone who plays games knows by now that games companies are entirely self-serving massively dishonest and mostly incompetent.  On the other hand, ‘Yay! New games!’.

VideoGaiden came close to solving this problems by being mostly weird and curmudgeonly with interludes of interest and enthusiasm but I think the problem is that gamers and TV people have tended to be on different pages.  Gamers want to express their culture and that culture involves a good deal of snark and cynicism to counter-act the heavy handed and manipulative marketing techniques used to ensnare them.  TV people, want something that taps into the popularity of games and you generally do this by being up-beat about the thing you’re covering.  Result = generation upon generation of games-related TV that genuinely struggles to move past reading out press releases and playing game trailers.