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Friday, March 11, 2016

Embed With Games Book Review It's All About Cara

Embed with Games: A Year on the Couch with Game Developers is the collective postings of the game journalist Cara Ellison as she transverses the globe. The book is hardly about the games themselves, in comparison to journalist herself and the interactions she has with indie developers she chills with. Still a thoughtful read on how average people delving in to developing video games.
For the sake of the site there is a bit of LA, mentioned with a connect to Glitch City, the gaming collective based in Culver City and just short bit of hate about the second worst airport on Earth, LAX.

Before going ahead, you may want to pick up the book just for the cover art of a women's head splitting open and a universe of gaming opening up inside. That's the main reason I thought of picking it up other than liking the same subject of game news. The artist of the cover is Irene Koh.

Of another note, it's funny that the Winner of New York Games Journalism Award is on the cover as the book delves more about the people behind the games and their lives and interests than little into game development or actual gaming. Sadly, it's an ironic reminder as Cara doesn't even work in game journalism anymore.

To add on top of that, the book can be read online for free, not in such a nice collected format, right here.

The book is a very personal journey for Cara. It's emotional and at many times through the love of booze and food she connects with different developers from around the planet. These are not the shiniest of developers, just some indie game makers and tidbits about their lives and what they like. 

These "interviews" or interaction can be very tight. Many times she just praised the Hell out of everyone she meets.

There's nothing ever to seedy or fascinating to pull you in unless you perhaps are thinking of going into game development and want to get a general sense of the community which seems friendly enough to let Cara come into their lives and share it with them... and their couches. A few choice adventures. No looking in spooky castles or finding treasures, more like reading someone's blog that happens to be about that indie game you might want to try.

Ojiuro Fumoto, creator of Downwell, was a short and sweet chapter where we learn Cara more than likely hooked him up with a publisher through her writing. We see him becoming an indie developer, which we learn isn't that easy in Japan. Add that style over substance seems to be the the norm there with Japanese games caring more about character design than gameplay.

The short little discussion did make me get Downwell for Steam, but a review might have done better to sway me.

The gamer part of me wishes there was an appendix of games mentioned with short reviews to try.

LA gets an in, LAX still sucks. Past a short mention of LAX sucking, it does, we meet up with LA's indie rat pack (for the love all that is holy, I hope no one uses that for them again), Glitch City.

Sorry, have to mention this now, where's Hyper Light Drifter, there's one sentence where someone who is suppose to be making the game takes the day off from it to do something with another game.

Mostly just Brendon Chung, whose working on something called Quadrilateral Cowboy, is the focus of this chapter. We learn about Glitch City coming together, how Brendon want his games and a few nice words about LA.

I really like her ending of the chapter on LA, "...and I always thought I’d hate LA, I always thought I’d come away with a thin filthy layer of it on me; everyone outside of LA gripes that it is shallow and awful, that people value terrible things here. Perhaps I don’t hang out with the right people. I never hang out with the right people. Or maybe I always hang out with the right people."

Embed with Games is more of a thoughtful and very deep connected diary about Cara visiting friends who happen to be really into gaming. Sometime she gets some fascinating philosophy about what games should give other times it's her complaining about not being cool.

She's cool.

Embed with Games: A Year on the Couch with Game Developers