Work, life and sex all revolve around video games in this devastating fiction book

A girl looks at a wall full of photographs in the game Life is Strange.

Screenshot: DONTNOD Entertainment, Feral Interactive

We’ll never find the fountain of youth fantasized centuries ago, but, out of our misfortune, we can create games. The games allow you to live again and again in eternally perfect and supernaturally strong bodies, and for the friends of by the novelist Gabrielle Zevin last book Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrowit is more than enough.

A “game”, for them – and for Zevin – is everything. From the 80s to the early 2010s, Sam (mother died in a car accident, Harvard math dropout, good in front of crowds), Sadie (didn’t believe in marriage, MIT game design prodigy, prone to hard working hours) and, for a while, Marx (rich, handsome, Harvard roommate turned game producer) gets together because of the games. For them, recreation is personal, political and the result of their dedicated and demanding work. The games require blood sacrifice – not enough sleep, too much fighting – but in them you can claim your little piece of immortality.

Sam, whose leg was shattered in 27 places in the devastating car accident that killed his mother, turns to games to inhabit a more stable body than his own. Sadie, who got into games while her sister was battling childhood cancer, enjoys getting lost in a better, safer world. And Marx just thinks games are fun.

But Zevin maps their disparate reasons for playing to their tempers. At Unfair Games, the company hatched out of their college apartment, Sam enjoys creating in-game facsimiles of himself, Sadie rages about the real-world’s blindness to female developers, and Marx, again, enjoys enjoy.

For these characters, video games are a necessity indistinguishable from all other worthy pursuits in life, on par with or better than earning big bucks and having sex. Zevin presents their dedication to craftsmanship with gentle authority. At the end of my readings, some of which I spent a little bit in tears, thinking about the friendships and games in my life, I felt that my belief in video games had been restored. I didn’t even know it needed restoring. But Zevin suggests that games are like relationships, in that way. These are things that might tap you on the shoulder when you’re busy ruminating and busying yourself, reminding you that everything and everyone needs a little attention sometimes.

tomorrowthe omniscient third-person narrator, whose narration spans decades (“[Sadie] would never be a heavy drinker,” the narrator informs us while Sadie is still in college), and in one particularly meta section, dives into a game, utters aphorisms about the overlap of game, life, and life. like a Greek oracle in reverie.

The cover of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.

Image: Knopf

“Playing requires trust and love”, “A name is fate, if you think so”, “the human brain is just as closed a system as a Mac”, he predicts with delightful conviction. The title Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow alone is a kind of audacious divination, stemming from a soliloquy in Marx’s beloved work. macbeth. In the address, Macbeth dismisses life as “a tale / Told by a fool, full of sound and fury, / Meaning nothing”.

“What is a game? Marx asks Sam and Sadie. “His[…]the possibility of infinite rebirth, of infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you might win.

Although Marx and Sadie’s friendship eventually turned romantic, Sam and Sadie’s oldest and arguably most important relationship (“There were so many people who could be your lover,” the narrator says, “but[…]there were relatively few people who could move you creatively”) never does. Instead, it lights up and burns out for three decades. They come together, separate, come together, separate. It’s not romantic, Sam and Sadie themselves often say, but it’s devotion. Like trying to achieve a high score or believing in a God. “He made everything beautiful in his time,” says Ecclesiastes 3:11. “He also placed eternity in the human heart.”

Despite its eternal chastity, Sam and Sadie’s relationship reminded me of long-lasting romances in movies. The way we were and When Harry Met Sally…, both, like tomorrow, are more interested in the process of lovemaking than in kissing. Friendship is an art form, a prayer. But, memorably, in The way we wereBarbra Streisand’s character begs Robert Redford, who is about to leave her and become nothing more than a friend.

“Couldn’t we both win? she asks him sincerely.

No, we couldn’t. In Sadie’s favorite childhood game, The Oregon Trail, hunting more bison than you can eat allows their meat to spoil. For you to live in sensual excess, the bison must lose – Sadie feels bad about that. Sam, Sadie and Marx all love each other from head to toe, but when Sadie and Marx fall lover and buy a house, Sam feels like a platonic failure. Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants more. But Zevin finds comfort in everyday losses – in business, love and death. As Marx (and Shakespeare) said, despite all the diminishing returns, humans don’t give up, we wait for something good to float in our palms.

Zevin spends much of the novel ruminating on this contradiction. In games and as you get older, interpersonal drama and death become expected. Cheap. Yet you cling to the moments that enlightened you, a week ago, ten years ago. Another game designer, at one point, tells Sam that she likes the way Sadie “makes blood”.

“Maybe it’s my imagination,” she says, “but I feel like she has people bleeding slightly different colors.[…]. It’s a small thing, […]but I’m obsessed with it.

Likewise, Sadie’s anger towards Sam always softens when she recognizes him as the child she met at her sister’s children’s hospital decades ago, or the boy she has. met again in college, who lied about his ability to see the hidden image in the Magic Eye Posters that seduced the 90s.

This is what time travel is,Sam thinks to himself during this run-in at college. “It’s looking at a person and seeing them in the present and the past, simultaneously.”

The only thing that gives you immortality, other than video games, Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow suggests, is hope. That “thing with feathers”, Emily Dickinson written once. “Who perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all -.”

The book carries despite the illness and pain that strewn the lives of its characters because they hope to find themselves, replay, rebuild like gods. Same villain Kotaku the commentators, whom Zevin amusingly notes, responded to Sam by saying in an interview that “there is no more intimate act than play, even sex” deciding “there must be something serious with Sam”, cannot alter the internal engine that makes us want to live, again, again. This book, with its respect for craftsmanship – the craftsmanship of love and games, or love games – will remind you how abundant a life is, how lucky we are to keep each other forever in our memoirs.

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