Digital Media books tend to feel outdated while they are still written. Meaning that by the time the book comes out, the technology that they talk about is already obsolete. There is also the tendency for many of those writers, to see technology and digital media (like video games) as abstract rational systems and try to separate those artifacts from “emotions” and in so separating them from narrative and personal expression.
I am happy to note that, Hamlet on the Holodeck, manages to feel still relevant even if it was written in 1997. The reason for it might be, because Murray, unlike her counterparts, doesn’t treat technology and digital media as a separated entirety from traditional media, instead of as an extension of it. She also doesn’t view it as separate from our emotions. Instead, she sees digital media (and especially video games) as a new way to express our selves. She is excited about the narrative possibilities that new media and technology offer us.
While the book is not without its issues (which I outline below), it is still, I believe, an essential read for anyone interested in the evolution of media and the possibilities of telling stories with technology.
A few notes:
- I read the original version, there is an updated version that came out in 2017, and as far as I can tell boils down to – I was right! (which you know, is fair)
- Murray does tend to suffer from a bit of tech optimism, especially in the later chapters of the book. While she does predict quite a lot of the positive elements of new media creation, she is a bit blind to the toxic ingredients that this media presents.
- While it is relatively approachable read, it is still a book written by an academic and so might be less approachable to folks who are not used to academic writing
- The last two chapters of the book are probably the weakest and perhaps the ones who aged the most. Some of it almost seems to contradict some of the things she talks about in earlier chapters, especially when she veers into auteur theory.