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Reads Like A Dream

I don’t think I’ve enjoyed an event in ages as much as I did ‘Reads Like A Seven‘. It’s tricky to run an event themed around computer games and keep it varied, entertaining and the right balance of accessible to non-gamers and interesting to those who do play. RLA7 got it spot on.

New Statesman Deputy Editor and keen gamer Helen Lewis kicked off proceedings, discussing women in gaming and the rise of female participation (we’re going to overtake the guys if the pattern continues, apparently). She discussed the online lynching of feminist games critic and documentary-maker Anita Sarkeesian and the hostility towards even questioning the culture of booth babes and jiggling Lara Croft’s relics.

We went up next, with some preview poems from Coin Opera II, which we will be (drumroll!) launching a Kickstarter for, as soon as KS have approved the project. Covering Streetfighter, Pinball Dreams, Portal and many more, we had a grand time (and I got to do my GLaDOS impression). The audience gave us a lovely welcome and it struck me that mixing poetry and micro-talks is the ideal format in which to bring out the strengths of both forms.

Guardian Games Correspondent Keith Stuart took us through the trauma of having your world destroyed by children. Your Minecraft world, that is. Following explicit instructions to offspring to stay away from his saved state, he returned to find his virtual world literally up in flames.

Guardian writer Steven Poole, who by the way has a magnificent reading voice, waxed lyrical on zombies and our cultural obsession with them. He explored the phenomenon through games such as Resident Evil, suggesting we might even be envious of such creatures, who can shamble about without “phoning in sick to the zombie office”, worrying about nothing but the odd shotgun to the face

Following an interval, broadcaster and game developer Ste Curran took us through the parallels between computer games and cricket, in a hypnotic looping piece about the rules and interactions of both. It was interesting to see gaming brought into the light, to stand beside classical games and be counted.

Our host, and the organiser of the event, New Yorker games correspondent Simon Parkin, read a fascinating piece on Japanese RPGs, and the lack of peer-aged protagonists in today’s games for lifelong players who began in the 80s.

Christian Donlan, senior staff writer at Eurogamer, closed the night with a beautifully-written, funny and magical description of sharing LA Noir with his Dad, discussing the ways in which it depicted the 1940s Los Angeles in which he’d grown up. It was incredibly poignant and funny, with descriptions of dysfunctional ancestors and Donlan’s grandfather, a beat cop not wanting to kill his target, shooting the criminal in the arse.

Afterwards, as the cherry on top of a great night, we also received a frankly delicious gold parcel of home-made goodies from the gentleman who’d invited us to read, writer and raconteur Bruno Vincent. Thank you Bruno – they were delicious!

A great mix and a night in which I learned a great deal via sheer enjoyment. A bit like a good game in that respect.

Only low point was finding out today that my childhood hero from the show Bad Influence, Violet Berlin, was there and I didn’t get to meet her! Actually perhaps it’s for the best. I would have just spat while I talked or something, or mentioned my embarrassing Arkanoid habit before slinking off, muttering “stupid…stupid…”.

Looking forward to the next #RLA7. Very much so.

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