The novel is dead. Long live games?

Roger Kimball, editor and publisher of the New Criterion, has a long, curmudgeonly eulogy for the novel in the Weekly Standard this month. He outlines the cultural conditions and requisites that are needed to keep the novel alive and of course, the internet and “instant gratification” is to blame. (Of course, I’m sure he’s never ordered anything from Amazon.)

This portion caught my eye as he argues that old masters would have trouble gaining traction in our new environment:

My point is that even if a new Melville or Twain, Faulkner or Fitzgerald were to appear in our midst, his work would fail to achieve the critical traction and existential weight of those earlier masters. We lack the requisite community of readers, and the ambient shared cultural assumptions, to provide what we might call the responsorial friction that underwrites the traction of publicly acknowledged significance. The novel in its highest forms requires a certain level of cultural definiteness and identity against which it can perform its magic. The diffusion or dispersion of culture brings with it a diffusion of manners and erosion of shared moral assumptions.

Whatever we think of that process-love it as a sign of social liberation or loathe it as a token of cultural breakdown-it has robbed the novel, and the novel’s audience, of a primary resource: an authoritative tradition to react against. Affirm it; subvert it; praise it; criticize it: The chief virtue of a well-defined cultural tradition for a novelist (for any artist) is not that it be beneficent but that it be widely acknowledged and authoritative.

What I find fascinating that is that he requirements for a Faulkner-like success may be waning for the novel isofar we think of the novel as book bound by pages with words. But those conditions are absolutely true for games which I think meet all the criteria. Wide community of “readers.” Check. Shared cultural assumptions? We’re getting there. And of course, an authoritative tradition to react against? Well, that would be “novel” wouldn’t it. 

When games die someday in the wake of some new brain-melding technology that renders them irrelevant, I hope we get to spend as much time mourning its loss. Even steven and all that.

[via Weekly Standard]