E-Readers and Games, You Cannot Escape

By Alexandra Geraets in Serious Infotainment
Monday, June 25, 2012 at 10:00 am


In the immortal words of the comedian Eddie Izzard, I have what is known as "technojoy, not technofear." I understand his statement as embracing technology, machinery, and the bizarre with the awesome, all in the name of furthering us humans into the cyber age. I'm all for it. I will embrace the tech. I have no fear of it.

I appreciate technology, I truly do. Working with my chosen medium of entertainment, books, puts me at odds with technology every day, but I still love books, and I adore tech. As a gamer, I admire technology more than some people, and as a reader, I think too much about gaming narratives and mechanics, and how they fit together. I can escape neither the printed word nor technology on a daily basis, and so I have simply chosen to embrace each with equal relish. I like old school books; I like new technology. I am in the prime place to find the happy medium between my "technojoy" and my love of books.

I came to terms with the fact that I can live blissfully in the techy world of games and hardware, bleeps and blips, controllers and cables, while still functioning in the world of ladders, shelving, paper and ink. I can also carry heavy boxes of books from one end of a building to the other without having to stop for a rest. So there's that bonus too. 

Until I was scoping out e-readers the other day, I'd thought that I had found my way to live peacefully in both worlds, the world of tech and the world of the printed word. I sell books by day; I game by night. These are two worlds and I live happily in both. Now, I'm suddenly not so sure I can have one without the other, and it's all the fault of an e-reader.


I've avoided the e-reader world for quite some time. I prefer the feel of paper in my hands, but convenience and a certain geeky fondness have prompted me to step forward into the tech world. While scanning the information on the particular device I found myself most interested in, I noted that I could read magazines on it, downloading issue-by-issue, or buying subscriptions. I was quite excited to see that Official XBox Magazine was among the offerings, and so I inspected the sample. 

The sales clerk chose that moment to strike.

It is one of the more perilous consequences of working retail, but when one is a customer of another establishment, one tends to grow a bit complacent, and perhaps does not pay as much attention as one otherwise should. The clerk sensed my barriers were down, so to speak, and began to talk up the benefits of the tablet version of the e-reader I was inspecting. 

"No," I said, "I just want something for reading. This does books, magazines, and newspapers. I think I'd be happy with it."

"But this," the clerk informed me, brandishing a tablet, "has applications. Plus you can play games on it."

Oh. Games. I then remembered that I was looking at a sample of Official XBox Magazine. (For the record, the magazine reads pretty well on the particular reader I had in my hands. The text is clean and bright, and while the pictures are a bit washed out in the black and white screen, the digital version is as good as the print version, and a bit cheaper too.) At that moment, however, I suddenly had that horrible feeling that overcomes a gamer once in a while, that realization that you cannot escape your hobby, no matter where you go.



When the clerk began extolling the soothing virtues of Angry Birds and Words With Friends, I had to resist the urge to grumble that my preferred games were shooters, RPGs, and puzzle platformers, and that I had a console for such purposes. Instead, I gritted my teeth and listened to the spiel, while all I really wanted to do was keep testing out the magazine featured on the e-reader in my hand.

The ending of this story is that I did not end up buying the reader I wanted. I didn't buy the tablet version either. My love of technology has a practical stopping point, and when I find something that suits precisely what I want, I don't look any further.

When it comes to gaming, I'm the same way. I look at the types of games that I enjoy, and I zero in on what system satisfies those games best. My interests led me to the original XBox, and I've stuck with it through two Xbox 360s. Lately, I have started to consider a PS3, if mostly for the Blu-Ray player rather than the game options. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, the PS3 is simply a Blu-Ray player that occasionally plays games. I have a similar attitude, and I wouldn't dare put a DVD into my Xbox. The poor thing might choke on it. We all know how delicate the Xbox is.



The point is that I can't seem to escape video games, no matter what I do or where I go. We've pointed out before how games are everywhere these days, on phones, iPads, tablet computers, and now tablet e-readers. You cannot escape, and everyone is a potential gamer. The guy standing behind me at the post office is playing a touch-screen racing game on his iPad, and the woman ahead of me is playing a version of solitaire on her phone. Everybody is video gaming, and, in spite of my initial reluctant desire to share this hobby, I've become okay with it.

Everybody games. Might as well let them do so in their chosen format, be it iPad, e-reader, tablet computer, or what have you. If they're gaming in some way, then they're a part of our ever-growing community.

At the same time, sometimes I just want to be that person sitting in the corner with a piece of technology that can let me escape into another world, one that lets me drift away and forget reality, if only for a little while. For me, at the moment, that technology is about one hundred pages of glossy paper, with brightly colored pictures scattered throughout, sandwiched between two thick pieces of high quality paper, with bright advertisements on the back cover, and a rather harrowing image of a space-suit clad engineer on the cover. I finally got that issue of Official Xbox Magazine I was trying to read. I just did it the old-fashioned way.



So, perhaps, for today, I just won't bother trying to escape video games. Every once in a while, even when I want to escape, games are all I want to read about anyway. 

Serious Infotainment runs on Mondays.

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