Some of the most interesting minds at work in the American arts today can be found in the video-game industry. Such designers as Jonathan Blow, Jenova Chen, Clint Hocking, Ken Levine, Jason Rohrer, and Kellee Santiago all aspire to an imaginative excellence most novelists, visual artists, and filmmakers would recognize instantly. But whereas most people have a ballpark conception of what it means to be a film director or a painter, hardly anyone can tell you the first thing about what it’s like to make a video game.
Austin Grossman attempts to remedy this with his second novel, You (Mulholland Books, $25.99, mulhollandbooks.com), which concerns a (fictional) middling 1990s video-game company called Black Arts. This is familiar territory for Grossman, who has worked in and out of the games industry for the past twenty years. His ingenious first book, Soon I Will Be Invincible, depicted a world filled with superheroes and villains, but its integument was that of a psychologically observant literary novel. With You, Grossman is, once again, crossing the streams of his putatively adolescent and adult fascinations.