“Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter” – Summary Analysis



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“Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter” – Summary Analysis

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter is a non-fiction book, written by Blissel Tom, who is a prizewinning author. From this excerpt, it is clear that Blissel is an ardent and obsessed lover of video games. He spends untold number of hours in front of his different video game consoles, playing video games such as Fallout 3, and Oblivion, among others. He does this for several days, showing how addicted he is to video games. Nonetheless, in this excerpt, he addresses the relevance of video games, based on his personal experiences.

In this excerpt, Blissel specifically talks about the video game Fallout 3 produced by Bethesda in 2008. To show how addictive video games can get, Blissel begins explaining the circumstances around his playing of Fallout 3. In his case, Blissel remembers nostalgically, how he missed to follow the happenings involving one of the most important events in the history of United States. While people were glued on their screens, watching CNN and other authoritative television channels for the election and swearing in of the first black president in the history of United States, Blissel was busy playing Fallout 3. Even though he had planned to play this for only a few hours before he would watch CNN, the game got interesting, and he spent more hours than expected, thus, missing the important historical event (Blissel 349-350).

Even though Blissel clearly reveals that video games can be addictive, he goes ahead to defend this art form with a lot of passion. It is true, we are in a generation of gaming, and most people, including children, young people, and even adults will confess their love for video games. Although Blissel tends to criticize video games in this excerpt, he again believes that these can get even better. He thinks of video games as frustrating, in the way one has to kill characters and watch them die: “I killed his mother, and then everyone else. . .allowing your decisions to establish for your character identity as a skull-crushing monster. . .these pretensions to morality suddenly bored me” (Blissel 358). At the same time, he gives credit to video games, for being dazzling. This is in the way he thinks video games have a storyline. This is what makes him prefer to play video games than watch a film or read a novel. Although a novel has a storyline too, one might not be able to concentrate on it for a few more hours like they can do with video games. Blissel thinks films do not have a storyline in the same way as video games. What makes video games appealing to Blissel is the fact that the player of the game is the one in control; therefore, it can never get boring. Apart from this, Blissel thinks playing video games creates another world for a person. They can escape the real world life, and get into another world, which they create themselves while playing video games. Blissel justifies this with his depressing moments when he would get a break by playing video games. Nonetheless, this excerpt describes in detail, Blissel’s descent into the world of Fallout 3, a video game, which has themes that are a reflection of his own compulsions that are self-destructive (Blissel 353-5).

In this excerpt, Blissel generally discusses the relevance and importance of video games in people’s social lives. He as well defends video games from those biased against them. However, Blissel’s stand with regard to the importance of video games in the cultural aspect is quite ambivalent. Here, he compares video games to the traditional art forms such as novels and films. Comparison shows both the negative and positive sides of video games. Nonetheless, what comes out is that video games, to a larger extent, show a greater degree of incompatibility with the traditional art forms.

Blissel purpose is quite clear in this excerpt. He aims at showing the importance of video games in society. This however, ends up in a two-sided argument, as one cannot establish whether video games are good or bad for one to engage in. This is because Blissel has criticized, and at the same time defended video games, basing on his experiences playing them. Therefore, it remains for the reader to decide whether video games should be encouraged or not. Blissel engages in an argument, when he talks about video games in a critical manner, revealing both their positives and negatives. Although this excerpt does not show him taking a stand, this is a debate or an argument, which the readers themselves can complete, and make their own judgements whether video games are relevant or not in the society today (Blissel 360).

In his discussion about video games in the excerpt, Blissel has only based his facts on his personal experiences with video games. Although this is a good strategy of presenting his views on video games, it is to a great extent limiting. Incorporating other writer’s views about video games in his writing would have made the reading more informative, and a reader could be in a better position to make a comparison of the varied views, and decide on the one that is more convincing. By sticking on his views only, it may appear as if a writer is trying to impose their opinions on the readers.

Since Blissel has written this excerpt basing on his point of view and personal experiences with video games, this information is credible, and most lovers of video games can identify with this. He has used many examples from his experiences playing video games, and this excerpt is wholly about his experience playing Fallout 3. Besides, he is keen to support his arguments for or against video games, drawing from his experiences. This therefore, makes the reading real, just as video games are a reality, and the fact that most people love video games as much as Blissel.

Personally, I concur with Blissel in his argument. Video games have both a positive and negative effect on the players, and generally in society. It is a fact that video games are addictive. Addiction to anything is not morally right. People are always advised to draw away from their addictions. Therefore, the lovers of video games should just have self-control, to avoid getting addicted to video games. Addiction to these might make one lose on the other positives in life. In the case of Blissel, he concentrated too much on video games and missed seeing the first black president in the US being sworn in office.

Video games too can be destructive to a person’s psychological being. As Blissel points out, the player, who is in control, normally accomplishes the violence scenes in video games. Shooting characters, murdering them, and watching them die, might create negative images in the mind, which will eventually have a negative impact on the perception of the player to violence. A research by Lowa State University in 2006 confirms fears that violent video games leaves negative images in children and adolescents, and this has the capability to translate into social violence. The video game industry is therefore, encouraged to revise its content, with regard to the type of audience (Anderson, Gentile, and Buckley 153).

On the positive, video games are a form of entertainment, just like the other forms. This can be a hobby a person enjoys doing. Playing video games might be thrilling and calming to different people, which is a healthy form of spending one’s free time. Different scholars have argued about the benefits of video games, apart from serving the purpose of entertainment. According to Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Smith and Tosca, playing video games builds skills in people, especially young children. These learn problem-solving skills and critical thinking, since when playing the games; it is the player who controls the game (220-1)

Although Blissel does not take a stand whether video games are good or bad, it is a right thing of him to do. It is hard to recommend or dismiss video games in society. What is required is for the players to take caution, practice self-discipline, and control while playing video games. These should choose video games with positive storylines, and avoid those with violence. This is for the well-being of one’s psychological health. On the other hand, spending too much time playing video games is not recommended. This eats up the time one would use doing more useful things in life like studying or working. Therefore, self-control is greatly needed to avoid addiction to video games. Capitalizing on the positives of video game playing such as educational benefits and development of life skills is important for self-growth. Parents and professionals dealing with children should not expose children to violent video games. Different studies have shown that children who play violent video games are more likely to be verbally and non-verbally aggressive and bullies compared to those who did not (Gentile 141).


Works Cited

Anderson, Craig, Gentile, Douglas, and Buckley, Katherine. Violent Video Game Effects on

Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy: Theory, Research, and

Public Policy. London: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Blissel, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. New York: Vintage Books, 2011.

Gentile, Douglas. Media Violence and Children: A Complete Guide for Parents and

Professionals. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003.

Graff, Gerald, Birkenstein, Cathy and Durst, Russell. They Say/ I Say: The Moves that matter in

Academic Writing. New Jersey: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008.

Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Simon, Smith, Jonas, and Tosca, Susana. Understanding Video Games: The

Essential Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2008.


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