Book Review: Press Start to Play

Press Start to Play
Edited by Daniel H. Wilson

My Edition:
Paperback, 507 pages
2015, Vintage Books
ISBN: 9781101873304

From the back of the book: You are standing in a room filled with books, faced with a difficult decision. A distinctive cover catches your eye. It is a groundbreaking anthology of short stories from award-winning writers and game-industry titans who have embarked on a quest to explore what happens when video games and science fiction collide.

I bought this collection for a friend for Christmas and almost didn’t give it to him because I really wanted it for myself. With authors like Andy Weir, Seanan McGuire, Holly Black, Cory Doctorow, Hugh Howey and a forward by Ernest Cline, how could I not be intrigued? Not to mention the video game theme. And the blurb is right, the bold colors and simple font do make the cover distinctive.

I’ve said it before (and I’ll probably say it every time I review a short story anthology), collections are hard to review because each story is often so different. And I’m not the type to sit down and write something about each story, especially as this collection has 26 stories.

In short, I’ll just say I absolutely loved this collection. I liked some stories more than others, but I enjoyed them all! Some of my favorites were:

<end game> by Chris Avellone – someone is playing an old text-based game, but there appears to be a game within the game. Or perhaps one of those games is real? Or neither? If you’ve read this, I’m interested on your take.

NPC by Charles Yu – this is a funny little take on what it feels like to go from being a NPC (non-player character) in a game, to a main character with a name and personality.

Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley – what happens when someone figures out life is a game and can be cheated and changed the way video games can.

The Relive Box by T.C. Boyle – if you could buy a device that would allow you to play, replay, fast forward, pause and rewind any part of your past (but not alter it!), would you? I think this was an especially telling piece about how many of us might end up “living” if such a thing were possible.

Creation Screen by Rhianna Pratchett – a look at what video game characters feel and think while we create them, tweaking them to perfection, and what they think about the world around them.

A friend on Instagram asked me if I thought this collection was suitable for non-gamers. Now, I consider myself a casual gamer – we have a lot of video game systems in the house, and while I play a lot less than I used to, I still love games – but this book isn’t just about stories based on or in video games. Like most sci-fi, there are a lot of deep questions here, and a lot of “what if” situations that made me think about how I would react to certain situations, or what humanity might do with certain technology. I would say that if you’re not a gamer, as long as you’re interested in sci-fi, you’ll enjoy these stories. Picking up on all the gaming aspects is a bonus!

 

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