Why should it be more than a game?
I am currently reading Barry Atkins' book More Than a Game. At first glance I was quite enthusiastic, but I have trained my own gaming assistant who has a surprisingly clear and critical gaze on the things that interest him. My teen-age son took one glance at the list of games and claimed that it was leaning heavily towards first person shooters, that the Sims does not make up for the lack of good strategy games, and Half-Life isn't a game I should use to demonstrate that genre for my students, I should use CounterStrike.
As I started to look more closely at the book, I found some other flaws. For a book that wishes to address the debate of games as scholarly object, the reference list is surprisingly clean of scholarly works on computer games. Considering that it is published in 2003 and probably written in 2001, the book still ought to have references to Aarseth, Bolter and Grusin, Jenkins and Murray, even if Atkins may have been doing his work too early to discover the existance of Game Studies and the entire debate on analysing computer games.
These issues aside: for a book addressing computer games outside of the ongoing debates on the topic and without references to relevant literature and with experience from a certain type of games - it is surprisingly good! Barry Atkins has lucid presentations, he has a clear understanding on the (somewhat outdated) problems of game scholarship, and he is enthusiastic about gaming. I read it with a feeling of having been there - somewhere back in the last millennum, when I was just starting to study and write about games. It is an interesting book that holds its own within its limitations, and I am reading it with interest and perhaps a touch of nostalgia.
I am however a little miffed at the title. Computer games do not need to be more than a game, and the way I read this book, Barry Atkins and I agree on that.