10 Reasons Books Are Better Than Video Games

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.

Advantage: Books.

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.



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:

  1. Good book = crappy movie.
  2. Good movie = crappy video game.
  3. Good video game = years of "development talks," reams of lame/disturbing fan fiction, or -- in the worst possible scenario -- "An Uwe Boll production."
Let's face facts people, the bar was set with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (the movie-to-video game conversion they literally had to bury in a landfill) and it has not gone up much from there.

8. Variety.
Video games come in three basic genres:

  1. Shooter.
  2. Platformer.
  3. Incomprehensible Japanese RPG.
Books, on the other hand, are not solely targeted to appeal to 15 year-old boys. Some, for instance, are targeted to appeal to 15 year-old girls. (Ha, publishing industry! IN YOUR FACE!)

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.)

9. Value.
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.

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And the Kindle and Nook fit into this how?
# Posted By Larry | 9/30/10 2:11 PM
They are largely still a win, but DRM and future compatibility start to muddy the waters.

Even so, I'd say a reading experience on the Kindle still outstrips the play experience of most video games.

But I am an old man who just wants those damn kids to get off his lawn.

--Right after they show me how to get the text messages off my cellphone.
# Posted By Tom | 9/30/10 2:21 PM
Have you read books based on video games?

StarCraft has a story-line and characters that makes reading novels about it worthwhile.

I am getting ready to read Heaven's Devils by William C. Dietz. It covers the story of how Jim Raynor and Tychus Findley formed their enduring friendship.

Maybe we need to demand more from the writers of video games. We need characters that make us care. Stories that make us think, and encourage us to imagine a better world. Visualizing a better world is the first step towards creating one.
# Posted By Jim Krenz | 9/30/10 2:30 PM
They are admittedly vastly different media and it's rather unfair to compare them as if they weren't.

However, all of the things I find irritating about video games (the timed missions, the forced repetition) are notably lacking from books.

I would say books have a lot more to teach video games as a medium than vice versa.
# Posted By Tom | 9/30/10 2:36 PM
Since when are The Little Details about fairness? They're about wry observations and a slightly skewed perspective. Don't dilute your brand!
# Posted By Dave M. | 9/30/10 4:59 PM
Great post! But man, them Dungeons & Dragons books will rot your mind!
# Posted By Indy | 9/30/10 7:13 PM
This is why you went to a small-but-lively-liberal-arts-college-and-majored-in-dramatic-arts-and-are-now-living-in-LA-trying-to-make-your-way-in-the-acting-field-while-really-you-are-a-stellar-writer-and-highly-intelligent-person.
# Posted By Dr. Elizabeth Jane, BA, MED, PHD | 10/1/10 7:22 PM
I am a serious gamer who found this funny because this is all true. It didn't change my mind on games, but all of what was said was true XD

A great forum, I particularly enjoyed the book tutorial, now I know how to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone XD
# Posted By Isaac Graff | 11/23/11 12:21 PM
you sir, are utterly wrong
on #1 have you every heard of STEAM!?!?!?!? computer+internet connection. ALMOST ANY GAME YOU COULD WANT
on #2 JUST PLAY THE ORIGINAL VERSION ON YOUR OLD CONSOLE. and stop complaining about the new game.
on #3 that doesn't spell flops *facepalm* and a book has processing of oh, 0
on #4 Your just a noob and shouldn't be playing video games if it takes you that long to catch on.
on #5 If loading bothers you that much, your playing crap games.
on #6 that adds to the fun of games! the rush! no fun without a little pressure!
on #7 HAHAHAHAHA thats just because video games are so much different than those entertainment forms. OH, and one game. that is ALSO a great movie. BATMAN!!!!!
on #9 maybe its worth this much because people, so many people put their lives into the product, and takes much, much skill.
on #10 There ARE games out there that can make you so much more mentally fit, and by out there, I mean 90%. videos games have had a wrong taboo simply because of the unwillingness to change to this new way to express yourself, video games can immerse yourself into a story like nothing else. Its as simple as that. I really do hope you take this into consideration, because there is so much more to video games than there are to books
# Posted By Anonymous | 3/2/13 7:17 PM
This article is so full of nonsense.

"Super fun until I got a PS3. One of the newer, gimped PS3's that wouldn't play Burnout 3."
Because buying a PS3 makes it so that your PS2 suddenly doesn't work anymore? If you bought one of the newer models it means you couldn't sell your PS2 for anything over 50 bucks. Just keep it.

"8. Variety.
Video games come in three basic genres:

Incomprehensible Japanese RPG."

I'm sorry what? I guess strategy (League of Legends), action (Batman : Arkham City), adventure (Zelda), beat-em-up (Tekken), race games (Burnout), stealth (Metal Gear Solid), music (Guitar Hero), Western RPG's (the Elder Scrolls), etc games only exist in my fantasy.
Also, if you spend 10 minutes on a genre and you can't really follow, that a games becomes "incomprehensible." Final Fantasy selling millions and millions of copies shows enough.

"Books, on the other hand, are not solely targeted to appeal to 15 year-old boys."
You say you play video games, yet you come up with the most outdated and ignorant argument against video games in existence?

Why video games are better : More interaction. Stimulating more than one sense. Creating your own story and doing whatever you want inside that story.
But most of all : It provides with much more brain development than just reading.
# Posted By twan | 5/16/13 6:20 AM
So, you're saying...

1. A console capable of playing hundreds of games is worse than a book that plays one.

4. The years in school learning to read aren't considered a tutorial.

5. The time added up in a chapter of a book turning pages doesn't equal (competently put together) loadtimes of a game loading one level.

6. No game has a "quick save" (or I should say "bookmark") function and that it doesn't break a story at all stopping in the middle of a chapter.

7. Well, if you're gonna use the worst game in exsistance for a "bar", then books have Fifty Shades of Grey as theirs... since books seem to be incapable of being bad in this case.

8. There are no racing, sport, in depth puzzle and strategy games. They were just making those up.

9. Games have no value and the amount of time in a game doesn't count. (Also, again, consoles have hundreds of games for download, to respond to your "library" argument.)

10. Using Call of duty as an argument against games is a legitimate claim... seriously?

I guess the fact that you can play games with friends, experience stories first hand and add to them later don't count either, because as you know... all games are shooters.
# Posted By No Name For you | 5/25/13 3:06 PM
I stand by my assertion that you get a lot more out of reading a great book than you do playing a great video game and there are far more great books than great video games.

Maybe that will eventually change with the rise of indie games on smartphones and tablets, but even so... the form has a LOT of catching up to do.
# Posted By Tom | 5/28/13 7:00 AM
One point you missed is that for a lot of great literature - whether its Shakespeare, the Bible or the Uppanishads - you really DO need to make an investment and have some pre-existing software if you want to be able to get the most out of it. Being able to enjoy high-end literature, especially pre-modern literature, requires an education (which, of course, you can give yourself almost free if you like to read). So it's not like you can just jump in with Thomas Carlyle and expect to 'get it', or at least you're not likely to get all of it.

I agree, though. I have stopped playing video games altogether due to the lack of engagement; it may seem like a strange thing to say but games are more passive than books. Even a 20 page Superman comic feeds into all sorts of intellectual activities like comparative mythology and the aesthetics of body building. With the games I've played, even the best, when I look back on them very few have contributed anything to my life that's endured. I like fiction, non-fiction, and I also know there are plenty of great books - more than I am ever likely to read - whereas finding video games to fit my obscure, introspective tastes is practically impossible.
# Posted By Horapollo | 6/3/13 12:03 AM
You praxis for denouncing videogames while glorifying books is quite disgusting and one of the reasons for why I depict bookworms as boring assholes.

I've read plenty of books in my lifetime and never ever have I pretended that they're anything of that you presented as pros. They are not as immerse as you paint them up to be and frankly this constant prejudice against anything that isn't a book in it's truest sense is just laughably sad. It makes you seem like a worm that were out casted by your videogame group and resorted to "Books will never mock me or make fun of me"

You have to understand that just because a book is 500+ pages that doesn't make it any better than any of the AAA games, they have stories that a book could never dream to tell through just words on a sheet of paper. Interactive story trumps over just mental imaginary. I got experience to back it up.
# Posted By Read or die | 6/27/14 8:16 AM
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