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The Boston Globe

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Q&A

Video games mean losing. So why play?

A new book explores the unique disappointment and promise of ‘game over.’

Playing video games is about chasing victory. In Pac-Man, that means eating as many little dots as possible and avoiding ghosts. In Doom, it means shooting demons. In Super Mario Bros., it means stomping on the heads of evil mushrooms.

But as hard as we try to win, the experience of playing actually tends to be dominated more often by failure, disappointment, and frustration. As we play, we lose, over and over again. We watch Pac-Man deflate, we get mauled by zombies, we fall off cliffs and die. Then, for some reason, we hit “play again.”

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