The Playstation Dreamworld by Alfie Bown

The Blurb On The Back:

From mobile phones to consoles to tablets, we are now a generation of gamers.  This book dissects the structure of our relationships to all forms of technological entertainment at a time when digital enjoyment has become ubiquitous.  

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Alfie Bown is an Assistant Professor of Literature at HSMC Hong Kong and in this very academic book that’s heavy on psychoanalytical theory, he argues that computer games can only be fully understood through psychoanalysis, that subversion needs to operate within this dream world or else risk it falling under the firm control of corporations and the state and that enjoyment of video games is ideological and subversive.

This was not an easy book to follow as it does presume that readers are familiar with the work of such psychoanalysts as Walter Benjamin and Jacques Lacan and although Bown references their work and theories, I didn’t ever really feel as though I got to grips with their arguments in the context of this book.  Similarly, Bown expects readers to be familiar with a wide range of computer games and while I was familiar with a lot of them, I didn’t know all of them and although he does give details about those most pertinent to his arguments, others get briefly referenced without serious context.

This is a shame because Bown clearly understands computer games and makes interesting points about how they can be used to change people’s opinions and behaviours.  Also interesting is the section on how games can be structured in such a way as to appear subversive while remaining conformist and I particularly enjoyed his argument on the differences between games such as Papers, Please (which encourages players to reflect on their subversive and conformist acts) and Watchdogs where subversion comes without reflection.

Ultimately, although I was interested by many of the ideas in this book I simply wasn’t familiar enough with the background academics to get the most from it and I think that would-be readers should bear that in mind when approaching it.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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