You by Austin Grossman
You by Austin Grossman

Okay, so this is not a review. If anything it’s a review of a review. I just saw Tom Bissell’s review of You by Austin Grossman in this month’s Harper’s and got the tinglies.

Bissell didn’t even have to praise the book, I was sold when he quoted a tiny excerpt of it:

“To forestall any future threat, the gods decreed that we should each be separated into halves and each half hurled into a separate dimension. There was a human half, weak but endowed with thought and feeling, and a video game half, with glowing and immortal bodies that were mere empty shells, lacking wills of their own. We became a fallen race, and forgot our origins, but something in us longed to be whole again. And so we invented the video game, the apparatus that bridged the realms and joined us with our other selves again.”

Anyone who’s logged hours and hours as a Drakkin Bard, singing and sword fighting in the far reaches of Kunark, or blasting teleportation holes into the walls of a prison maze, or saving the galaxy from Reapers, knows the feeling. Sure the idea of a game character being, literally, your “better half”, is terrifying to anyone who’s ever hidden his game habit from his girlfriend.

Okay so maybe it’s not true love, or even a whole separated-from-cosmic-birth type thing but you definitely develop a relationship with the characters you create (or even just the ones you name) and save the world with twice a week. You think about them outside the game, and wonder what to train them in next. You’re seriously distressed when they die (again). The obsessive among us even conflate them with ourselves switching back and forth between first and third person when we talk about them: “Darkus is training on heavy missiles right now, but I want to get him exploring so I’ve gotta get up on drones.”

I don’t know about you, but, despite the pervasive notion that gaming is a waste of time and brain space, I even feel  pretty accomplished after a few hours in-game, and on occasion the return to this dreary realm can be a sad letdown (Taxes? or Faction Warfare?) And I imagine our soulless, immortal bodies on the other side aren’t too happy to be miserably empty and idle when we shut down.

Anyway, I’m literally geeked on this idea and all the fun questions it raises: What does it say about us how we create our characters? How we play them?  What about playing multiple characters?

Can’t wait to give it a read and let it wreak havoc on my brain and feed my increasingly obsessive gaming habit. I’m gonna get my hands on a copy and give a real review asap. Right after a few-hour session with my glowing immortal half as young Lara Croft. Whattup!