I've read a lot of books - starting with the complete adventures of Tom Swift Jr.
I've played a lot of video games - starting with Chopper Command on the Atari 2600.
And after all those hours, I'm still waiting for video game technology to catch up with ink printed on the processed pulp from a dead tree.
Video games suck, books rock, and here's why:
1. The hardware is standard.
Here's one half of a phone conversation I heard this week at GameStop: "Okay, well, Little Big Planet is a PS3-only title, so you probably don't want to purchase that if he has an Xbox."
But if my mom buys a book for me for Christmas, she doesn't have to worry about whether I have an Xbox or a PS3 or the right graphics card or enough RAM. As long as I have a functioning set of eyes and can read at a 6th grade level, I'm good to go with 90% of the books out there.
(Did you catch that back-handed slap at the publishing industry? Ok, good.)
2. Books are always backwards-compatible.
Man I loved Burnout 3: Takedown. There was nothing more fun than pointing your Dominator muscle car into an oncoming lane of traffic and launching off the overpass in an explosive rain of fiery destruction. That game was super fun.
Super fun until I got a PS3. One of the newer, gimped PS3's that wouldn't play Burnout 3.
That's cool, I'll just buy Burnout Paradise. What's sixty bucks, right? Oh, except Burnout Paradise took everything that was fun about the franchise, neutered it, and overstuffed the game in favor of an "open" world with a lot of wrong turns and terrible timed events. Compared to Burnout 3, Burnout Paradise sucks.
You know what's great? When I pick up my dog-eared copy of Breakfast of Champions - the one I bought in 1989, it's still just as fun and interesting to read as it was back then.
3. Better hardware specs.
Your PS3 is capable of approximately 2,018 Gigaflops (Floating Point Operations per Second.)
Your brain runs roughly 10 times faster.
Put another way, the graphics in video games are limited by memory, available processing power, and resolution of the target display.
In a book, the chicks are literally as hot as you can imagine.
4. No tutorials.
Imagine if every book started like this:
"Welcome to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This book is formatted for Western English readers. Begin reading at the upper left of the page and continue scanning your eyes to the right until you come to the end of a line. Look down one row of type, and resume reading across to end of the row. Let's try it:
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.
"Did you successfully read the two sentences? Good! You're almost ready to begin enjoying this book. One last step: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is divided into pages.
Pages are denoted by a sudden stoppage of paper. When you reach the end of a page, continue reading by grasping the right-hand page with your right thumb and forefinger and manually flipping it the left. This move is called a turn and once you master it, the sentence from the previous page will continue seamlessly."
Seems ridiculous, right?
But I can't tell you how many games I've played where I have to spend 10 minutes learning how to pick up a box or read a piece of paper.
5. No load screens.
When I want to start a book, I don't have to watch some lame, jittery animation that's filled with inane "tips" like "Hiding under cover for a while will restore your shield and health."
Eyes + book = READING!
PS3 + game disc = BATHROOM BREAK!
6. No save points or timed missions.
[TIME'S UP - MISSION FAILED.]
YOU HAD TEN MINUTES TO FINISH EPISODE 31 OF "IN THE ZONE."
DO YOU WISH TO
[L]OAD NOVEL FROM THE BEGINNING?
Note to video game developers: In a book, every page is a save point. Take a lesson and quit padding out your expected play time.
7. Video games are at the bottom of the entertainment food chain.
Here's something I like to call The Inverse Laws of Entertainment:
- Good book = crappy movie.
- Good movie = crappy video game.
- Good video game = years of "development talks," reams of lame/disturbing fan fiction, or -- in the worst possible scenario -- "An Uwe Boll production."
Video games come in three basic genres:
- Incomprehensible Japanese RPG.
And, unlike a video game, if you buy an RPG book, you can actually ROLE-PLAY. Like, have an interesting, nuanced conversation with that orc mercenary before you get out your +3 Axe of Mighty Cleaving and whack him into finely-minced chunks. Believe it or not, there's more to role-playing than just Circle, Skip, Attack.
And if you miss your beautiful, perplexing Japanese video games, the fine people who invented books have this thing called manga and not only is it just as incomprehensible, but it's dirtier than you'd expect. Just remember to start in the back.
(If you just mumbled "That's what she said" please click away from my blog now and go back to your Halo: Reach Team Deathmatch. You are fired.)
Your average paperback book: $6.
Your average videogame: $60.
If you complain that the time/value proposition of a video game is way higher because you can get more total hours of play from a video game than the time it takes to read ten books, I suggest you need to graduate to a better class of book, check out this thing called a LIBRARY, and stop playing so many games with scarce save points and narrowly-timed missions.
10. Experience points, and points for experience.
I'm sure I've played over a hundred hours of Call of Duty: World at War. I got carpal tunnel and a glamorized, simplistic misunderstanding of World War II.
I also read Schismatrix by Bruce Sterling. I got a blown mind and a head-full of new ideas about the future.
In both cases, I earned XP. It's just that one gave me a better class of machine gun, and the other one level-ed up my brain.
As those crazy gamer kids say on TeamSpeak: Better brain FTW!
-Tom, who did learn a thing or two playing Call of Duty.