Sorry, there are no actual video games here. Just writing about video games. I'm a contributing critic for The New York Times and a host of the podcast Shall We Play a Game? In addition to the New York Times, I've reviewed games for NPR's All Things Considered, Rolling Stone, Slate,, and Kotaku. I've written feature stories in the well about video games for The New York Times Magazine, Wired, and The Wilson Quarterly. I've opined on the subject in The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post

As an editor, I'm responsible for putting The Beatles: Rock Band on the cover of the Times Magazine, and for getting Halo 3 onto the Times op-ed page. I never said my influence on culture was entirely beneficent. I also edited a week of stories at Matter that we dubbed The New York Review of Video Games

Here are a few things I've written:

Two intertwined forces, computers and interactivity, have changed the world radically over the past 50-odd years. What is a video game? It’s a creative work — a competition, a story, an experience — that exploits the intersection of those two forces. ...

Video games are broad enough to encompass interactive short stories written in HTML, shooters that resemble 1980s action movies, robust simulations of everything from sports to all of human history, idiosyncratic personal statements, and Flappy Bird. ...

Video games have asked me to empathize with — no, become — a soldier, a superhero, a murderer, a transgender woman beginning hormone replacement therapy, a border-control agent trying to follow both the law and his conscience, a child who loves yet fears his monstrous, alcoholic father. Video games have also asked me to place falling blocks into neat rows in order to make them disappear.
"Welcome to the New York Review of Video Games," Matter, Dec. 15, 2014
For more than five years, almost every word that I’ve written professionally has been about video games. I used to cover things like presidential campaigns and prison reform. But at some point, video games began to seem as consequential as those subjects, if not more so.

As they became more popular, more profitable and, most important, more powerful as a means of creative expression, video games started to feel to me like the Internet had in 1999: a technology on the verge of washing over our culture and reshaping it wholesale. Millions of people of all ages were playing games. These were boom times, and thanks not just to the mega-studios that produce things like the Call of Duty series, but to countless small, independent developers as well. Game design began to be taught in art schools alongside theater and sculpture. The interactive age had arrived, and video games were its most promising entertainment.

And then came GamerGate. Over the past few weeks, as this inchoate but effective online movement has gathered momentum, I’ve begun to wonder if I’ve made a horrible mistake.
"Can Video Games Survive?" The New York Times, October 25, 2014
Peter Dinklage, the Game of Thrones star, narrates much of the action in the new science-fiction video game Destiny in a tone that alternates between boredom and bewilderment. Concerns about his performance emerged this summer when devoted players checked out early, unfinished versions of the game. One much-derided and flatly delivered line became an Internet meme and was scrubbed from the game’s official release this month: “That wizard came from the moon.”

Like the rest of Destiny, it’s inoffensive and even charming in isolation. But as the banalities pile up, Mr. Dinklage’s affectless delivery as a small, floating robot begins to make a perverse kind of sense. Listening to his gorgeous voice utter meaningless sentences is an almost perfect metaphor for the experience of playing this beautiful but vacant game.
"Enemies Beyond the Ends of the Earth," The New York Times, September 14, 2014
On your smartphone, games are more like pop singles than long novels or television marathons. They’re something you sample, not something you monkishly devote yourself to. And as with an earworm — say, the 1990s single “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something — you may find yourself thinking about a mobile game against your conscious will. It burrows into your phone and overstays its welcome.
"Fleeting Game Says Investing Is Rigged," The New York Times, May 14, 2014
To be a video game critic is both a dream come true and a daily embarrassment.

Video games are the frontier of fiction, a cultural outpost that is intoxicating if not always refined.
"Saluting the Women Behind the Screen," The New York Times, August 19, 2014
Grand Theft Auto V represents a return for the series to the broad comedy of violence after Niko Bellic’s anguished soul-searching. Tonally, it lives somewhere between Pulp Fiction and Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s movies, in a sun-dappled land where using a grenade launcher to mow down American soldiers — or a cavalcade of clowns — is a lighthearted romp.
"Grand Theft Auto V Is a Return to the Comedy of Violence," The New York Times, September 16, 2013
The things we do online and in virtual places, whether in video games or text messages or comment threads or Facebook pictures, are not distinct and separate from the lives we muddle through offline. In the virtual world, people fall in love, get in arguments, bully one another and, yes, play sports. These activities aren’t imitations of reality. They aren’t lesser versions of what goes on in the real world. They are the real world.
"Examined, the Virtual Life Is Worth Living," The New York Times, August 26, 2013
More than a decade into a still-young century, the question is no longer whether the people who make video games can use this new medium to create lasting works that convey some part of the broad range of what it feels like to be human.

The more urgent question, the one that will change the world no matter how it is answered, is whether they will.
"It Isn't Just About Fun and Games," The New York Times, August 7, 2013
When The Last of Us begins, it pretends to be a video game about a teenager in Texas named Sarah, the kind of girl who wears rock T-shirts and loves her daddy and is impossible to find as a playable character in nearly every game ever made.

This being a video game, we already know it’s not really about Sarah. She’s not pictured on the box, for one thing. And yet, for a few fleeting minutes, I really did think I was going to play something different, a game that would transport me into the life of someone very unlike me, using what Austin Grossman in his new novel, You, calls the medium’s ‘physical link into the world of the fictional.’

Then, as so often happens in video games, Sarah was gone.
"In the Same Boat, But Not Equals," The New York Times, June 14, 2013
Here is an incomplete list of the things Ken Levine says have inspired BioShock Infinite: the presidential administration of William McKinley; the Spanish-American war; the blistering pace of technological change in the early 20th century, with the introduction of electricity, telephones, cars, airplanes, phonographs, and movies; the 1893 Columbian Exposition at the Chicago World’s Fair; Eugene V. Debs; Emma Goldman; a black-and-white photo of young boys sitting next to a dead horse on a cobblestone street in turn-of-the-century New York; The Music Man; It’s a Wonderful Life; the sequence in Back to the Future when Marty McFly first arrives in the 1955 town square; that scene in The Shining where the two little dead girls appear; Blue Velvet; the chest-bursting scene in Alien; Roman Holiday; the cover of X-Men #141; the sun reflecting off a metal mailbox during a jog on a sunny day; roller coasters; an off-Broadway play called Sleep No More; and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Songbird’ performed on Glee (‘It’s so embarrassing that I’m almost tempted to say this has to be off the record,’ Levine says).
"Why BioShock Infinite's Creator Won't Settle for Success," Wired, January 2013
Ballet straddles the world of music, literature, art and performance. And so do games. And much like the way video games have struggled to separate themselves from sports, board games and toys, early ballet struggled to separate itself from music; dance was not seen as a distinct art form. Yet its earliest practitioners hoped to “create a new kind of spectacle,” one that “would harmonize dance, music, and language into a measured whole.” Replace dance with “movement,” sprinkle in a dash of cinematography and that sounds a lot like some game developers I’ve met.
"Considering Video Games as Ballet," The New York Times, December 22, 2012
For decades video games have made grandiose claims about their realism — in graphics, in simulations of sports and war — that can seem, in hindsight, laughable. Go to YouTube and watch George Plimpton hawk Intellivision consoles in the early 1980s by lauding the realism of a baseball game for a representative example.

Now Papo & Yo, a lyrical tale of a boy and a monster, has set a new and altogether different standard in gaming for representing the world as it is.
"A Monster, But No Epic Battle," The New York Times, September 25, 2012
Playing a video game, much like owning a dog (or caring for an infant, for that matter), can involve rote, mundane, even unpleasant tasks. These duties are carried out on behalf of an inarticulate companion. Doing the bidding of this putative sidekick turns out to be a strikingly effective method for creating intimacy.
"Joystick or Leash, It's All About Love," July 24, 2012
When terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, the frame of reference the nation turned to in the surreal aftermath was just about universal. The director John Landis observed last fall, ‘Almost everyone said, without guile — and it shows how pervasive film is — that it “looked like a movie,” ‘ adding that film is our ‘contemporary mythology,’ the ‘shared experience’ for people to draw on to help explain the world.

And yet, not anymore. After 11 years of fighting, this frame of reference has shifted from the movies to video games. (This is especially true for my generation, men in their 20s and 30s, most of whom have not served in the military.) The wars are not ‘like a video game’ in the sense meant by those who do not play them: sterile, vapid, devoid of emotion. No, they are really like a video game: sweaty, intense, full of death.
"Military Expedition Into the Heart of Darkness," The New York Times, June 25, 2012
Video games weren’t always so easy. Players who know only the current generation of consoles must think of their favorite games as gentle, kindhearted, almost mothering in their ministrations — adapting themselves to the needs of the gamer, serving up big shiny arrows or straightforward explanatory text when things get confusing, and just generally showering kisses and encouragement every time someone skins a knee.

Not all that long ago games were exacting, punishing, cruel.
"A New Game Delights in Difficulty," The New York Times, May 16, 2012
As video games have become more and more popular, the medium’s defenders have developed a misguided tendency to point to the ways that games are useful, practical, functional. I do not know if Ueda’s games will make you smarter, or improve your vision, or promote world peace. I very much doubt, in fact, that they will do any of those things. Emphasizing the ways that games are tools for instruction—whether intellectual, physical, or moral—is an unfortunate residue of their origins as children’s playthings. Abandoning it will be the sign, maybe the last one, that this new form of storytelling is all grown up
"The Video Game Art of Fumito Ueda,", October 22, 2011
Unless you regard something like Iron Man as a film about Afghanistan, the movies inspired by America’s contemporary wars have consistently been box-office flops. Even The Hurt Locker grossed only $16 million in theaters. Video games that evoke our current conflicts, on the other hand, are blockbusters — during the past three years, they have become the most popular fictional depictions of America’s current wars.
"War Games," The New York Times Magazine, September 8, 2010
Video games aren’t the only medium that offers you freedom, after all. Video games can actually be more restrictive of user freedom than other media. Even in an “open-world” Rockstar game, you basically have to unlock the plot in the order ordained by the designers. By contrast, you can choose to read the last chapter of a book first, or to read every sentence in reverse order. Instead of playing your position in a baseball game, you could just sit in the outfield and pick dandelions. And you can watch a movie with a sneering, cynical disregard for the characters and the story. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

”Good actions make you a good man,” one character tells John Marston. His reply: “Then I’m doomed.” My advice: Try to be like Marston, and struggle to be a good man, even though you’re doomed. Red Dead Redemption is a gift to video gamers. We should accept it gratefully, rather than leaping to demonstrate that we can also light it on fire or throw it out a window.
"A Fistful of Controller," Slate, June 2, 2010
The many hundreds — even thousands — of hours that athletes put into videogame football give them more game experience than Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, or Joe Montana were able to log in previous eras. And there’s the possibility, too, that all this electronic play is changing the structure of their brains, at least in some ways, for the better. For more than 30 years, sports videogames have been focused on simulating real-life athletics more and more perfectly. But over the past decade, games have moved beyond just imitating the action on the field. Now they’re changing it.
"Game Changers: How Video Games Trained a Generation of Athletes," Wired, February 2010