Every new-fangled mode of creative expression, from the romance novel to punk rock, has been greeted with public consternation, the belief it will, surely, induce godlessness and delinquency. Video games, however, appear a special case... As such, Pete Etchells’s book, which seeks to answer questions surrounding video game addiction and violence, feels a once wearily anachronistic and blisteringly relevant. These are tired issues that nonetheless remain the focal point of much live and expensive research. According to the authors of a recent study published by Oxford University into the relationship between game playing and violence, the reason these matters haven’t been settled, is due to “researcher biases”, which have “distorted our understanding of the effects of video games”... It’s a view echoed by Etchells... Why, then, might anyone want to read a book that is unable to reach clear conclusions on its subject? Much of Lost in a Good Game’s appeal is found in its autobiographical spine, which through tender anecdote reveals the positive power of games... By moving the discussion into the vulnerable realm of the individual, Etchells, who returns to memories of his father throughout the book, takes the heat out of the fight, so that he might consider the grey expanse where truth is usually to be discovered. Etchells poses pleasingly direct questions such as “are violent video games bad for us?” and “are video games addictive?”, but there are few direct answers here.
If you’re anti-video game, you could dismiss Etchells’s anecdotal evidence as frippery. Sure they’re fun, but what damage are they doing? Research into the benefits of video games feels long overdue. “Nothing is going to change if the kind of discussions that take place on this topic do nothing but devolve into vitriolic ill-informed arguments about how video games turn children’s brains to mush. We can do better than this,” he argues. Etchells fills his book with his love for video games, although readers will most likely come away relieved that Call of Duty isn’t — probably — turning their child into a murderer.