Vampire Publishing and Books That Want To Be Read

Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Books, Writing | 4 Comments

Writer and thinker, Ian Bogost (author of Persuasive Games) calls it “vampire” or “write-only” publishing: books, especially scholarly books, that are not written to be read but are written to “have been written.” Check out Ian Bogost’s “Writing Books People Want to Read (Or, How to Stake Vampire Publishing)” over on his site. You’ll come into the middle of an ongoing discussion worth having, in my opinion. It’s about exactly the kinds of books that Gameplaywright Press strives to avoid. This is one of the reasons we are slow to produce books—if we don’t want to read it, we don’t make it.

We—gamers and loudmouths in general, Gameplaywright Press in particular—have lots of great subjects for books waiting to be written. The trick is producing that idea in a way that isn’t dry, isn’t dull, isn’t pretending to be academic just so we can say we take a subject seriously. We can take a subject seriously and also use words like fuckwit, I think. (See Things We Think About Games.)

Some of the best writing about game design and ludic thinking is happening on blogs and Twitter right now. This is fine. This is good. This is, at the very least, value neutral. It’s partway between publishing and discourse, which is just about where I want these kinds of ideas to be exchanged—a bit of formality, a bit of authorship, a bit of shop talk. Sometimes we’re offering researched data points, sometimes we’re saying, “Hey, I just got a crazy idea!” Both are useful.

I bring this up because Ian Bogost got me thinking. Also, with the summer hobby-gaming convention season almost upon us, and no new Gameplaywright Press book in sight, I thought it was important to talk a bit about the future: we’re planning at least a couple of new books (and book-like things), but we’d like to hear more from you, dear reader.

Tell us: What do you want to read? Do you prefer blogs to books? What was the last book about games you read?

Tell us more than that, if you like. We’re curious about you.


  1. Graham
    May 31, 2011

    I like books, not blogs. The last book I read about gaming was Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, so write something like that, please.

    I like books in which people have something original to say. I like concise books: a nice 40,000 word paperback, not a huge 100,000 word hardback. I prefer content to wordcount.

  2. Arashi
    May 31, 2011

    Blogs over books as a rule, especially the series of blog posts. Very few people have the ability to take technical subjects and make them interesting and practical to my use in book format.

    I’m a bit of a business geek – frequently those “neat” books that come out and get passed around like candy among business executives, or wanna-be executives, start out as a business journal article. I would argue that well over half, probably closer to 2/3 or 3/4 of the topics I am better served by reading the journal article versus the book.

    Also, hell, blogs can be read at work as a short break, in ways that books cannot be.

  3. Jeff Tidball
    May 31, 2011

    There’s a close cousin of these academic writings made to have been written. They’re the writings made to cash in on some fad and/or, some personal weakness on the part of a real or imagined readership. These are your diet books, and your blogs whose posts are all lists of ten (or 50! or 99!) critical things you should do to supercharge your manuscript.

    “Shovelblogs” are the term I like best for the blog form of these disasters; they shovel the garbage out as fast as they can because pageviews and ad impressions are where the money’s at.

    You can almost always tell when you’re reading this stuff. I get that sense a lot off of the kinds of “should have been an article” business books you mentioned, Arashi.

  4. edige23
    June 1, 2011

    Probably a little hypocritical for me to say I prefer books over blogs. I prefer the ability to scan around through a book. I have a harder time navigating through the richness of even the best bloggers site.

    On the other hand what I want from a book is utility and applicability- new ideas, new approaches, new thinking about games that I can apply or that help me think about games in a new way. I really enjoyed TWTAG for that- especially as it continues to serve as a resource to revisit and reread. On the other hand, something like Second Person from MIT Press, while interesting, ultimately feels sterile. It has a few interesting and applicable ideas, but generally doesn’t work for me.

    I want new tools and approaches that help me develop better practices. I want things like Damnation City that offer a toolbox. I want a equal to Hamlet’s Hit Points that takes things to Eleven.


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