Book Review: A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer by Brian Davis

A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer on December 2, 2014
Pages: 234
Format: eBook

Video games have meant something different to every generation that has experienced them. Something that was once thought of as a mere novelty, or childhood fancy, has become as much a part of the cultural fabric as film, music, or literature. In A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer, Brian Davis explores what it meant coming of age when that shift started happening; where video games went from something young people were expected to grow out of, to being a centrally crucial pillar of development to an entire generation. Starting in the jungles of Atari’s Pitfall, and weaving a path through Skyrim’s sprawling, majestic landscape, A Link to the Past follows the journey of one young Midwesterner’s search for identity, no matter the super villains, glitches, or threats of social alienation that stood in the way.

I received this book for free from CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

Before I start my review out I have a disclaimer: I know Brian Davis.  Not only do I know Brian Davis, but I would argue that, for his fiction, I am probably his #3 or #4 fan (he does have family, after all).  Brian has a way with words and that translates well also into his non-fiction, of which A Link to the Past is firmly a part of.  Brian, in addition to being a gifted storyteller, also writes incredible poetry and song lyrics, so with all of that said and the shameless plugging complete, let’s move into my review of his memoir.

A Link to the Past is a set of essays that deal with the secondary part of Brian’s title, Stories of Growing Up Gamer.  I know there are parts of my life that I can define by certain MMOs that I played and the friendships formed as a result of those games (in fact, as I sit here typing this, I’m enjoying the hospitality of an old guild leader/best friend of mine).  I found myself reliving parts of my own life, as a result, as I wandered through the fragments of his life that Brian reveals in this memoir.  I laughed quite a bit, as he is quite the witty writer, and I learned quite a bit about games that I absolutely did not want to know anything about before.  But Brian makes those games relevant because he uses them as a framework for his growth as a brother, a son, a friend, a writer, and ultimately, the person he is today.

There are moments of brilliance – comparing his relationship with his older brother to the relationship of the Sega Genesis to the NES being one of them.  There are moments where I, admittedly, found myself skimming a little more than I wanted to (anything to do with sports, other than college football, and I check out).  There were a few revalations about my friend that I got to enjoy – but I will also say that, as much as I enjoyed the glimpses into Brian’s life, there was a bit of something missing.

Drama.

I crave Drama (with a capital D) in my memoirs.  There was a passing remark about a girlfriend at one point, but other than that, there really wasn’t that much drama happening.  And that may have been because there wasn’t much drama in Brian’s life to talk about, but still, there has to be some.  And without those moments of vulnerability revealed, the genre of memoir can come off a bit detached.  So while I adore Brian and love having his friendship as a part of my life, I still put the book down feeling as if  I knew the surface aspects of his life, but not that much about what’s going on deep inside.  I wanted to know that too.  Maybe someday I will get to.

All of that said, I would recommend this book to anyone who has a gamer in their life.  It’ll be a great conversation starter, because I know it made me want to talk to my friends about how games have influenced the person I’ve become today.  Brian goes pretty in depth in a review-style fashion about obscure titles and some not-so-obscure titles (Final Fantasy VII and VIII feature pretty prominently) but I didn’t play those – I loved the online Final Fantasy XI which Brian wasn’t so much a fan of. All that said, pick this one up.  If you are in Peoria, IL – go to a book signing or catch Brian playing his music at Thirty-Thirty Coffee.  You won’t regret it.

Check out Brian Davis at brianjdavis87.wordpress.com!

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