July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

What's on your shelf?: QWOP, Getting Over It and Bennet Foddy from Ape Out

Hello fellow reader, and welcome back to Booked For The Week, our regular Sunday chat with a selection of interesting industry people about books. “What about politics? Stick to games!” is a common refrain you might hear from the sort of winning individual who thinks books are a communist plot to lower his sperm count. Thankfully, those people are elsewhere, so I hope you’ll allow me a brief moment of relief that the conservatives are no longer in power. This is great stuff, as long as I have absolutely no follow-up questions! This week, it’s QWOP, Get over itand Monkey outBennet Foddy! Greetings, Bennet! Do you mind if we take a look at your bookshelf?

What are you currently reading?

First off, I have to admit that I feel like a bit of a charlatan answering these questions because I didn't read anything for years, was burned out by my career in academic philosophy, and was too obsessed with games and film to look elsewhere. But I've picked up the habit again in recent years, and right now I'm reading Mary Beard's The Fires Of Vesuvius, a historical book about Pompeii that I started reading when I visited the ruins there recently. My friends may tease me for embodying the “men who think about the Roman Empire” cliché, but at least Mary Beard thinks about it more than I do.

What was the last thing you read?

The Husbands, the debut novel by games designer and curator Holly Gramazio, who is also a friend of mine, was wonderful, laugh-out-loud funny at times, but also very thoughtful and subtly philosophical. Just as Calvino’s Invisible Cities uses a series of imaginary and fantastical places to say something about the nature of real cities and societies, The Husbands gently circles around the nature of romantic commitment by sketching a series of husbands, as the protagonist takes on new ones again and again.

What are you looking at next?

Next on the list is actually a graphic novel, Monica, by Daniel Clowes. I was a big fan of his Eightball series in the 90s, it was what really got me thinking about the idea that comics could break away from orthodoxy and go crazy. Ghost World, in particular, is one of my favourites, perhaps the most 90s thing anyone has ever done. But it's been so long since I've read anything by him – what's become of him in the last 25 years?

What quote or scene from a book has stuck with you?

I was reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited lately and was obsessed by the scene where the young protagonist visits his wealthy father to complain that he is short of money, and his father deliberately misinterprets this as a plea for some other kind of help: “Well, I am the worst person you could go to for advice. I have never been ‘short’, as you so painfully put it. And yet, what else could you say? Struggling? Poor? Distressed? Ashamed? Completely broke?” (Snuffle). “Broke? On Queer Street? Let’s just say you’re on Queer Street and leave it at that.” I’m no parent, but I still aspire to this advanced level of trolling.

What book do you pester your friends to read?

For years I’ve been trying to get my game designer friends to read Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World. A story about an artist who feels responsible for his role in Japan’s involvement in World War II, it deals with the question of whether and how art can have power. Are artists deluding themselves into thinking their work can be influential outside the artistic sphere? Or is it a worse delusion to think it can’t be? I find it eternally timely, but especially now, when people post memes like this:

A meme sent to me by Bennet Foddy.
Image credit: Reddit

What book would you like to see adapted into a game?

Honestly, I don’t usually think of books as good adaptations for games (or vice versa). But I loved Leonard Richardson’s Constellation Games, a book in which aliens come to Earth and the protagonist (a game designer, of course) asks them to play his retro video games so he can better understand their alien culture. Here on Earth I think we often need a special excuse to break genre conventions that are cemented in the contemporary video game canon, and adapting that book would be an opportunity to make a bunch of games that feel like they come from a completely different lineage. Any excuse would be a good one!

Sadly, Bennet named about 80% of all the books ever written, but he insisted on stacking them all up as he went along. He had only just reached the “L” when the whole stack came tumbling down. We’re not starting over, so check back next week for another interesting industry person to tell us about their favorites. Pre-order now!

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