I know I'm late to it, but I just noticed that famed British author Martin Amis died earlier this week. Amis's greatest work was 1982's Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict's Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines, an early and comprehensive guide to the golden age of arcade games for which Amis was justly admired and which was doubtless why The Times placed him on its list of the fifty greatest British writers since 1945. Amis also wrote some novels.
Despite accusations to the contrary, Amis maintains that he has never disowned the book, which stands awkwardly apart from his novels, screenplays, memoirs and other non-fiction. Still, while preparing this week's unexpected reissue, the publishers Jonathan Cape discovered that the original files of Invasion of the Space Invaders had been unlovingly lost; the book had to be scanned in and rebuilt, pixel-by-pixel. In doing so, a picture of a lost era emerges, along with a valuable snapshot of early critical thinking about video games.
Like Updike on golf, or Foster Wallace on tennis, Amis approaches video games with an enthusiast's glee, deploying pleading prose that seeks to illuminate the subject's hold on the writer. "Cinematic melodrama blazing on screen, infinite firing capacity, beautiful responsiveness, the background pulse of the quickening heartbeat" – Amis's fascination is clear, his enthusiasm infectious. So too is that of Steven Spielberg who, bewilderingly, cameos as the book's foreword writer, thanking "young Martin" (who was actually 33 at the time) for undertaking a "horrific odyssey around the world's arcades" to warn readers of the risks of game playing before they, too, become "video junkies".
You can see a too-brief taster of Amis's magnum opus in PDF form. For some reason it's out of print.