Essays and Notable Articles

The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games

By posted at 6:00 am on February 16, 2012 76

The British journalist Sam Leith recently opened a review of Richard Bradford’s Martin Amis: The Biography with the following question: “Where’s Invasion of the Space Invaders? That’s what I want to know.” The 418-page biography, which has been undergoing a sustained critical beatdown since its publication last year, contains no mention of a book Amis published in 1982, and which he has been avoiding talking about ever since. “Anything a writer disowns is of interest,” wrote Leith, “particularly if it’s a frivolous thing and particularly if, like Amis, you take seriousness seriously.” He’s got a point; any book so callously orphaned by its own creator has to be worth looking into. This is especially true if the book in question happens to be a guide to early 1980s arcade games.

Like most Amis fanciers, I had heard of the existence of this video game book –- the full title of which is Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict’s Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines –- but knew very little about it. What I did know was that he dashed it off at some point during the time he was writing Money, one of the great British novels of the 1980s, and that it has long been out of print (a copy in good nick will cost you about $150 from Amazon). And I knew, most of all, that Amis was reluctant to talk about it or even acknowledge it. Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian once suggested to him (facetiously, surely) that it was among the best things he’d ever written, and that it was a mistake to have allowed it to go out of print. “The expression on his face,” wrote Lezard, “with perhaps more pity in it than contempt, remains with me uncomfortably.”

Invasion of the Space Invaders, then, is the madwoman in the attic of Amis’ house of nonfiction; many have heard rumors of its shameful presence, but few have seen it with their own eyes. I recently discovered a copy in the library of the university where I work, and I don’t think the librarian knew quite what to make of my obvious excitement at this coup. (“Wow,” I said, giving a low, respectful whistle as she handed it across the counter. “Would you look at that?”) It’s a deeply strange artifact: an A4-sized, full color glossy affair, abundantly illustrated with captioned photographs, screen shots, and lavish illustrations of exploding space ships and lunar landscapes. It boasts a perfunctory introduction by Steven Spielberg (“read this book and learn from young Martin’s horrific odyssey round the world’s arcades before you too become a video-junkie”), complete with full-page portrait of the Hollywood Boy Wonder leaning awkwardly against an arcade machine like some sort of geeky, high-waisted Fonz. We’re not even into the text proper, and already its cup runneth over with 100-proof WTF.

One of the most frequently remarked-upon aspects of Amis’ writing is that it’s nearly always possible to tell, within a sentence or two, when you’re reading him. (You know it when you see it, with its gimmicks, its lists, its italicized stresses. You know it when you see it, Amis’s style, with its grandstanding repetitions.) And there’s a strange cognitive dissonance that arises from seeing that style applied to what is essentially — or at any rate quickly devolves into — a player’s guide to a range of early arcade games. He starts off with a cluster of short essayistic efforts about game addiction. A few sentences in, and we’re already deep in the familiar, hyper-stylized terrain of Amis country: “What we are dealing with is a global addiction. I mean, this might all turn out to be a bit of a problem. Let me adduce my own symptoms, withdrawals, dryouts, crack-ups, benders…” It’s hard to say who his intended reader might be here. You’d imagine kids would be an obvious demographic target, but that seems unlikely given that Amis gratuitously and jarringly raises the issue of child prostitution on the very first page. (The child sex industry has apparently been given a “fillip” by arcade machine addiction. “Kids,” he assures us, “are coming across for a couple of games of Astro Panic, or whatever. More about this later.”) This slumming fascination with seediness, characteristic of much of Amis’s early and mid-period work, is evident throughout. At one point, we are treated to a series of Hogarthian prose sketches of the grotesques the author sees all around him in these arcades: “Zonked glueys, swearing skinheads with childish faces full of ageless evil, mohican punks sporting scalplocks in violet verticals and a nappy-pin through the nose […] Queasy spivs, living out a teen-dream movie with faggot overtones.” (There’s a glossary at the back that helpfully provides the following clarification: “Faggot: gay.” The word’s use in the original context makes the contemporary reader flinch, but the ugliness of the matter-of-fact definition is downright unforgivable. This is one of several potential reasons why Amis is uncomfortable enough about Invasion to want to keep it out of print.)

The medial bulk of the book is accounted for by the actual “addict’s guide to battle tactics” promised by its ungainly subtitle, and this is where it really flourishes as a bizarro-world extracanonical oddity. It’s as though Kingsley Amis’ youngest son had shied away from the family business and wound up making a living as a games reviewer with a weakness for the high literary style. Here is one of the great aesthetes of the sentence offering tips on dealing with Space Invaders’ descending alien infantry:

The phalanx of enemy invaders moves laterally across a grid not much wider than itself. When it reaches the edge of the grid, the whole army lowers a notch. Rule one: narrow that phalanx. Before you do anything else, take out at least three enemy columns either on the left-hand side or the right (for Waves 1 and 2, the left is recommended). Thereafter the aliens will take much longer to cross their grid and slip down another rung. Keep on working from the sides: you’ll find that the invaders take forever to trudge and shuffle back and forth, and you can pick them off in your own sweet time.

For what it’s worth, this is actually very solid gaming advice. I tested it out on one of those classic arcade websites, and the man knows what he’s talking about — it is all about phalanx-narrowing. (If I ever happen to pass Amis on the opposite side of the street, I’m not sure I’ll be able to prevent myself from shouting across at him like one of the garrulous yobs who populate his novels, “Oi, Mart! Narrow that phalanx!”) He’s technically correct, too, about the fact that, when the aliens descend to the very lowest rung, “you can slide around underneath them, touching them with your nozzle, and survive!” — but I’m not sure he’ll be wanting that sentence to show up in The Quotable Amis, should such a volume ever appear.

He is almost as enthusiastic about PacMan, although you get the sense that he sees it (in contrast to Space Invaders) as a fundamentally unserious endeavor. “Those cute little PacMen with their special nicknames, that dinky signature tune, the dot-munching Lemon that goes whackawhackawhackawhacka: the machine has an air of childish whimsicality.” His advice is to concentrate stolidly on the central business of dot-munching, and not to get distracted by the shallow glamor of the fruits: “Do I take risks in order to gobble up the fruit symbol in the middle of the screen? I do not, and neither should you. Like the fat and harmless saucer in Missile Command (q.v.), the fruit symbol is there simply to tempt you into hubristic sorties. Bag it.” Curiously, for a writer so deeply preoccupied with stylistic refinement and playful innovation — who elevates the pleasure principle to a sort of aesthetic moral law — Amis favors a no-frills approach to gaming. The following piece of Polonian advice pretty much encapsulates his whole arcade ethos: “PacMan player, be not proud, nor too macho, and you will prosper on the dotted screen.” I’m no expert, I’ll admit, but I’ll go out on a critical limb here and suggest that this might be the sole instance of the use of the mock-heroic tone in a video game player’s guide.

Aside from the off-the-charts weirdness of its very existence, the book offers a number of peripheral pleasures. For one thing, there’s a half-expected (but still surprising) guest appearance from what I would be willing to bet is a young Christopher Hitchens. In a diverting rant about the increasing presence of voice effects in games, Amis recalls his first exposure to such gimmickry at a bar in Paris on New Year’s Day, 1980:

I was with a friend, a hard-drinking journalist, who had drunk roughly three times as much Calvados as I had drunk the night before. And I had drunk a lot of Calvados the night before. I called for coffee, croissants, juice; with a frown the barman also obeyed my friend’s croaked request for a glass of Calvados.

Then we heard, from nowhere, a deep, guttural, Dalek-like voice which seemed to say: “Heed! Gorgar! Heed! Gorgar … speaks!

“… Now what the hell was that?” asked my friend.

“I think it was one of the machines,” I said, rising in wonder.

“I’ve had it,” said my friend with finality. “I can’t cope with this,” he explained as he stumbled from the bar.

Elsewhere in the book, he considers the possibility, raised by Paul Trachtman in the Smithsonian, of a future evolutionary strand of video games in which “You have a ten-year reign as a king and you have so much grain, so many people and so much land,” and in which “if you don’t feed your people enough, they start to die.” Trachtman is essentially prophesying the advent of hugely successful games like Civilization and Sim City here, but Amis summarily rejects the idea. “The predictions of the video eggheads are grand and stirring; at the time of writing, though, all the trends in the industry stubbornly point the other way.” Elsewhere, he rubbishes the now-iconic Donkey Kong, the first major success of Shigero Miyamoto, who went on to create Mario and Zelda. “Donkey,” he quips, “your days are numbered. The knackers’ yard awaits you.”

It’s just about possible, if you squint hard enough, to see Invasion of the Space Invaders as Money’s sickly non-fiction twin. Amis occasionally alludes to the fact that all this arcade-lurking and button-bashing is being done both as research for, and at the expense of, a novel he is supposed to be writing. And there are certain advance rumblings here of the comic juggernaut which was to arrive two years later. John Self, for instance — Money’s boorish and omnivoracious narrator — has a particular weakness for a brand of microwaved hotdogs named Blastfurters. In a desultory entry on the game Cosmic Alien, Amis mentions that he first came across it in a “kwik-food beanery on Third Avenue,” where it “looked perfectly at home among the up-ended cartons and the half-eaten blastfurters.” The novel itself features a small but crucial role for its author, whom Self first mentions as follows: “Oh yeah, and a writer lives round my way too. A guy in a pub pointed him out to me, and I’ve seen him hanging out in Family Fun, the space-game parlor, and toting his blue laundry bag to the Whirlomat. I don’t think they can pay writers that much, do you?”

covercoverWell, that would certainly be one explanation for this book’s existence; he may have been short of cash at this point, and a brief diversion into video game writing may have been an easy way to turn his coin-devouring addiction to the space-game parlor into a few quid. But there’s an argument to be made that Invasion, as powerfully strange as it looks against the setting of the author’s oeuvre, is in keeping with his perennial preoccupations. Games and game-playing are, after all, both a presiding motif in Amis’s novels and a fundamental principle of their construction. His most successful fictions are arranged around antagonisms, rivalries, and hidden maneuvers. London Fields is an elaborate trap-like construction in which three male characters (including a blocked novelist) are manipulated by a female mastermind into bringing about her own murder. The Information is about a failed writer’s increasingly malicious attempts to destroy the career of his more successful friend. The plot of Money is a Nabokovian conceit in which Self winds up the loser through failing to recognize the game. In that novel’s most bluntly metafictional moment, the character called Martin Amis lets Self in on some of the secrets of his trade: “The further down the scale [a character] is, the more liberties you can take with him. You can do what the hell you like to him, really. This creates an appetite for punishment. The author is not free of sadistic impulses.”

coverAmis’s characters are always playing and getting played; his books are filled with humiliating drubbings and pyrrhic victories on the tennis court, the pool table, the darts oche. Even that business about which he is most serious — the scrupulous, almost paranoiac abstention from banality at the level of the sentence — is a form of play. The title of his criticism collection, The War Against Cliché, indicates the height of the stakes, but belies the fact that it is ultimately still a game, just one that Amis is very serious about. As a reviewer, he takes a grim satisfaction in catching out his opponents in solecisms, platitudes, and pratfalls (Raymond Chandler’s celebrated hardboiled prose is actually, we are told, “full of stubbed toes and barked shins”). As a novelist, his ludic delight in finding new ways of playing with language — new ways of narrowing the ever-descending phalanx of cliché — is palpable in every sentence. So for all its contextual aberrance, this strange and disreputable book actually makes a certain kind of warped sense. And if for some reason you happen to be looking for a guide to arcade games of the early 1980s, you could probably do a lot worse.





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76 Responses to “The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games”

  1. Ben Hamilton
    at 10:12 am on February 16, 2012

    This made my day. It’s amazing just how much Amis has managed to stifle this book, especially with all the bloodhound journalists in England who take enormous pleasure in his discomfort. Thanks.

  2. Alex
    at 10:12 am on February 16, 2012

    “Face of ageless evil” is a rip-off…sorry, it’s Adumbrator Boy and you’re not allowed to be rude… playful postmodern reappropriation of Evelyn Waugh. (Scoop, describing the bell hop in William Boot’s hotel.)

  3. Adam Boretz
    at 10:30 am on February 16, 2012

    This is the best thing I have read all year! Thanks, Mark!!

  4. Drew
    at 10:48 am on February 16, 2012

    This is incredibly excellent. When i saw your headline I just became very, very, very excited, but the quality of the writing is as good as the subject matter, which further excited me. This is a literary jackpot!

  5. Ben
    at 12:44 pm on February 16, 2012

    Wonderful, Mark. Loved it.

  6. A Few Book Review Essays | Now Read This
    at 12:57 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] Mark O’Connor discusses an out-of-print book by Martin Amis: a guide to classic video games. […]

  7. TIM FERNHOLZ
    at 1:28 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] you know Martin Amis wrote a really embarrassing video game book in 1982? Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailStumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  8. I Love You, Books «
    at 2:00 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] you know Martin Amis wrote a book about classic arcade games? The Millions is ready to tell you all about it: Invasion of the Space Invaders is the madwoman in the attic of Amis’ house of nonfiction; many […]

  9. The Arcades Project: la guía sobre videojuegos que Martin Amis intentó esconder [EN]
    at 2:25 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] "CRITEO-300×250", 300, 250); 1 meneos The Arcades Project: la guía sobre videojuegos que Martin Amis intentó esconder [EN] http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/the-arcades-project-martin-am…  por beip hace […]

  10. Felix
    at 2:57 pm on February 16, 2012

    Fantastic stuff! The section regarding Amis and Hitchens hungover in a Paris bar hearing a talking video game is most likely referring to Sinistar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-XEINagmaU

  11. Martin Amis’s guide to arcade games | TUMBLR TRANSLATOR
    at 3:01 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] entertainment? Was it written only for a quick buck? Alas, the right answer is the obvious one: the book is mostly a mere strategy guide with “sickly” literary affectations. [The Millions via […]

  12. Jim
    at 3:36 pm on February 16, 2012

    As an aside, Paul Trachtman was a very good prophet, as the game he was prophecying already existed in 1980. Hamurabi – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamurabi – was already 12 years old by the time of writing.

  13. Martin Amis Wrote a Guide to Arcade Games?
    at 3:40 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] In 1982, famous literary author Martin Amis published a book about arcade games: Invasion of the Space Invaders. The book is long out of print and the author has become reluctant to discuss it. According to The Millions, the book is mostly a strategy guide but one laced with Amis’ noted literary affectations. […]

  14. Infovore » Links for February 16th
    at 5:01 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] The Millions : The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games "As a novelist, his ludic delight in finding new ways of playing with language — new ways of narrowing the ever-descending phalanx of cliché — is palpable in every sentence. So for all its contextual aberrance, this strange and disreputable book actually makes a certain kind of warped sense. And if for some reason you happen to be looking for a guide to arcade games of the early 1980s, you could probably do a lot worse." I knew of the book already – but this is a striking look at it. (tags: books games martinamis ) […]

  15. Quality Snark : From the Department of “I did not know that.”
    at 6:05 pm on February 16, 2012

    […] Martin Amis (yes, that Martin Amis) published a video game strategy guide in 1982. […]

  16. Kibo
    at 9:29 pm on February 16, 2012

    Felix wrote:

    > The section regarding Amis and Hitchens hungover in a Paris bar hearing a talking video game is most likely referring to Sinistar

    Nope, it’s gotta be “Gorgar”, which was the first talking pinball machine — it spoke in very simple phrases because it had a total vocabulary of seven words, one of which was “Gorgar”. It liked to yell “GORGAR SPEAKS!” (“Heed!” was Amis’s embellishment.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgar

  17. Mostly Links – 17 February 2012 « MostlyFilm
    at 12:02 am on February 17, 2012

    […] Martin Amis on arcade games: What we are dealing with is a global addiction. I mean, this might all turn out to be a bit of a problem. Let me adduce my own symptoms, withdrawals, dryouts, crack-ups, benders… […]

  18. something very much amis « The Kugelmass Episodes
    at 12:48 am on February 17, 2012

    […] The following conversation represents my best attempt, in concert with my friend Brendan, to make sense, somehow, of the staggering revelation that Martin Amis, at one point in the early 1980s, wrote a (bizarre pastiche simulation of a) young adult guide to beating arcade video games. You don’t have to take my word for it. […]

  19. Keith
    at 5:41 am on February 17, 2012

    Strangely I remember getting this from my library at school, not having a clue who Martin Amis was, but being fascinated by the content of the book, and yet strangely unnerved by the writing style, there was something just…weird about it.

    At such a young age, I just assumed it was how those ‘Americans’ all wrote!

    Still wish I’d kept it now, I’m sure I bought it from the library when they sold off the old stock.

  20. Mason Currey » Martin Amis’s Disowned Video Game Guide
    at 8:29 am on February 17, 2012

    […] is a terrific article by Mark O’Connell in The Millions about Martin Amis’s disowned, out-of-print 1982 book, Invasion of the Space […]

  21. Morten Hoi Jensen
    at 8:38 am on February 17, 2012

    On the excellent website martinamisweb.com there’s a PDF excerpt of the book:

    http://www.martinamisweb.com/commentary_files/ma_space_invaders.pdf

  22. Morning Bites: Lost Martin Amis Video Game Masterpiece, Literary Jeremy Lin, Anthony Shadid, And More | Vol. 1 Brooklyn
    at 8:57 am on February 17, 2012

    […] Why the heck would Martin Amis want to distance himself from his 1982 classic Invasion of the Space Invaders? […]

  23. SeeingI
    at 9:48 am on February 17, 2012

    Not to mention, that’s the 2nd reference to a Dalek I’ve come across in his work. He describes the boiler as Dalek-like in “The Information,” though in the US version at least, it’s misspelled “Dallek.”

  24. The Week That Was « Twisted Blood
    at 10:20 am on February 17, 2012

    […] the otherwise illustrious annals of Bateman family history …”) and the book Martin Amis wrote, but won’t admit to, or talk about: a guide to arcade machines entitled Invasion of the Space Invaders (“The phalanx of enemy […]

  25. Jetmon
    at 11:01 am on February 17, 2012

    @ Felix and Kibo

    Yup, indeed Gorgar, pinball machine. A clear precursor to Sinistar’s ghoulish rasp. This clip is worth your time:

  26. BenSix
    at 11:15 am on February 17, 2012

    I never thought I’d take so much pleasure from a review of Martin Amis.

    Cheers, Mark.

  27. Morty
    at 11:16 am on February 17, 2012

    The style of the video game guide, as you’ve quoted it here, reminds me quite a bit of Kingsley Amis in his own seminal non-fiction hobby guide “On Drink.”

  28. Levi stahl
    at 12:11 pm on February 17, 2012

    This is a fantastic review. Thanks for the excavating and reporting.

  29. In Hiding for All to See « Rodwan Writes
    at 12:43 pm on February 17, 2012

    […] an essay for The Millions, Mark O’Connell looks at Martin Amis’s out-of-print Invasion of the Space Invaders and claims […]

  30. Authors: Are there any famous authors that have expressed their shame over a book they've written in the past? - Quora
    at 5:35 pm on February 17, 2012

    […] fi…”  Jorn Barger, in search of robot wisdom Martin Amis did a videogame guide: http://www.themillions.com/2012/… (more) Sign up for free to read the full text. Login if you already have an account.This answer […]

  31. Martin Amis Invents The New Games Journalism (Shortly Before The Invention Of The Old Games Journalism) « A Tonne Of Feathers
    at 6:06 pm on February 17, 2012

    […] my rather tedious, if not completely wasted, day was rather brightened up by a link on Twitter to Mark O’Connell’s exhumation of Martin Amis’ Invasion Of The Space Invaders, a glossy and lavishly illustrated collection of essays on the subject of arcade games, and one […]

  32. Bile
    at 12:56 am on February 18, 2012

    Principle, not principal. Twice.

  33. [Website] Martin Amis on videogames
    at 6:15 am on February 18, 2012

    […] Amis on videogames The Millions : The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games Reply With Quote vBulletin.events.SkimlinksActivate.subscribe(function() { […]

  34. Nub Forkner
    at 12:02 pm on February 18, 2012

    Dismissing Money as “one of the great British novels of the 1980s” is like calling Dark Side of the Moon “one of the best albums with ‘moon’ in the title that Pink Floyd ever recorded.” For shame.

  35. Gorgar
    at 3:59 pm on February 18, 2012

    Me…Gorgar. Hear…me…see…me. Me have more than seven words. Me shilling for Williams Electronics in 1979…now do business development for Microsoft.

  36. Arren
    at 4:41 pm on February 18, 2012

    Spot-on! The article’s premise grabbed me, but the ample proficiency of its prose came as a pleasant surprise. Well done.

  37. Martin Amis on Arcade Games | FYPA.NET
    at 8:12 pm on February 18, 2012

    […] Lovely find this. When he was a struggling writer in the early 80s Martin Amis wrote a piece of hackery about the booming arcade video games scene for some barrel-scraping publisher. He’s reportedly disowned it and literary types have sought it high and low. This review dives in head first. Curiously, for a writer so deeply preoccupied with stylistic refinement and playful innovation — who elevates the pleasure principle to a sort of aesthetic moral law — Amis favors a no-frills approach to gaming. The following piece of Polonian advice pretty much encapsulates his whole arcade ethos: “PacMan player, be not proud, nor too macho, and you will prosper on the dotted screen.” I’m no expert, I’ll admit, but I’ll go out on a critical limb here and suggest that this might be the sole instance of the use of the mock-heroic tone in a video game player’s guide. […]

  38. The Sunday Papers | Rock, Paper, Shotgun
    at 5:31 am on February 19, 2012

    […] the “reality is better than fiction” file: “Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games“: “The British journalist Sam Leith recently opened a review of Richard Bradford’s […]

  39. Bookmarks of the Week: From the Decline of Literature to the Art of Living | Portable Homeland
    at 11:52 am on February 19, 2012

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  40. Geek in Review 13-19 February 2012: Dinosaur Sex - CSICON, Home of Geek Culture
    at 11:56 am on February 19, 2012

    […] give information on how to shut them down when the machines take over. Telling.The Millions runs an essay on Martin Amis’s lost guide to classic video games, Invasion of the Space Invaders: a…. If the review doesn’t satisfy, you can buy a copy of your own if you can fish $150 from the […]

  41. Flavorwire » Famous Authors’ Unlikely Obsessions
    at 1:56 pm on February 19, 2012

    […] though um, it doesn’t seem to be something he likes talking about. In his introduction, he writes, “What we are dealing with is a global addiction. I mean, this might all turn out to be a bit of […]

  42. last week’s lineup | thebackline
    at 4:19 pm on February 19, 2012

    […] both may be right, though, in the same way that the prescient warning and literary genius of a rare guide by the author Martin Amis doesn’t actually exist. […]

  43. After Space Invaders « Have a Good Time
    at 8:43 pm on February 19, 2012

    […] many others, I was both taken aback and intrigued by Mark O’Connell’s essay on Invasion of the Space Invaders, Martin Amis’s disavowed 1982 guide to early arcade […]

  44. The Millions : The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games | Latest Information
    at 11:01 pm on February 19, 2012

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  45. accidie
    at 5:54 am on February 20, 2012

    Hah! I’ve read it. And My Oxford – does that appear? They’re roughly contemporaneous. It’s just that he couldn’t decide whether he was John Self or Kingsley Amis. Once he worked it out, the creative tension in his work died, to be replaced by neologisms, dull and outdated pop culture references, amateur history, prurience and vapidity.

  46. Jordan Anderson
    at 6:23 am on February 20, 2012

    Amazing article…

    I was reminded on an interview with Amis from 1998 where he suggests that he keeps a pinball machine in his office:

    “I will sit down and write fiction for as long as I can. As I said earlier, it never feels remotely like a full day’s work, although it can be. A lot of the time seems to be spent making coffee or trolling around, or throwing darts, or playing pinball, or picking your nose, trimming your fingernails, or staring at the ceiling.”
    (Paris Review interview)

  47. Ern Malley
    at 10:21 am on February 20, 2012

    Couldn’t have put it better myself

  48. Aidy
    at 8:00 pm on February 20, 2012

    Absolutely brilliant read and insight. The only book I ever read by Amis was ‘The Rachel Papers,’ after watching the film of the same name about a year ago. He is a fantastic author and I will be certain to check out this work as well!

  49. PM
    at 10:21 pm on February 20, 2012

    A point of order: To call “Money” “one of the great British novels of the 1980s” is a far stretch. It’s a one-trick pony: a long set-up for a surprise ending not worth waiting for.

  50. Jaybone
    at 1:47 am on February 21, 2012

    Having been only a casual fan of MA’s work (London Fields, The Information, Koba the Dread, and the essay collections) learning of this book was still a revelation. I just don’t know what to make of it. Perhaps someone will make this rare bird available online in some way, despite the copious photographs and illustrations.

  51. Amis, gamer « Other People's Ideas
    at 3:26 am on February 21, 2012

    […] to finish this little technology tour, the funniest thing I read in the past week: a review of Martin Amis’s early-80s guide to arcade games. Yes, Martin as in Kingsley Amis, Martin as in Money, The Information, London Fields Amis. He […]

  52. La guía para videojuegos de Amis «
    at 11:46 am on February 21, 2012

    […] Acá podrás leer el artículo de O´Connell Share this:TwitterFacebookMe gusta:Me gustaSé el primero en decir que te gusta esta post. […]

  53. Rachel
    at 1:49 pm on February 21, 2012

    Hilarious! Thanks so much for writing this.

  54. Alex
    at 8:27 am on February 22, 2012

    My bro’s got a copy of this. He also managed to request Mr. Amis sign it recently (via a mutual friend) with the phrase “Keep On Blastin’ – Martin Amis”.

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    at 4:05 pm on February 22, 2012

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  58. Barnstorm | Wednesday Linkstorm
    at 5:13 pm on February 22, 2012

    […] The Millions dug up Invasion of the Space Invaders, a weird little book about video games Martin Amis dashed off in 1982. Intro by Steven Spielberg, like all the best literature. […]

  59. Writers and video games | Roger's Video Game Reviews
    at 12:35 am on February 23, 2012

    […] is some precedent for this type of move, as you might see here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  60. Weekly Bookmarks |
    at 8:17 am on February 24, 2012

    […] The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games (via The Millions): Any book callously orphaned by its own creator has to be worth looking into. This is especially true if the book in question happens to be a guide to early 1980s arcade games. […]

  61. Martin Amis’s 1982 Space Invasion | Tom Chatfield
    at 9:28 am on February 28, 2012

    […] to a great recent article on The Millions, Martin Amis’s marvelously titled 1982 book Invasion of the Space Invaders has been haled […]

  62. Martin Amis does PacMan | - sociallyacceptable -
    at 4:05 am on February 29, 2012

    […] came from an excellent article by Mark O’Connell, published on The Millions: http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/the-arcades-project-martin-amis-guide-to-classic-video-games.html  Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  63. Books » Archive » When writers censor themselves
    at 12:33 pm on March 4, 2012

    […] week meanwhile I read an excellent review on The Millions website of Martin Amis’s 1982 foray into video game reviewing, Invasion of the Space Invaders. Apparently he knocked it off while working on Money, and it seems […]

  64. Guía del videojuego, por Martin Amis
    at 1:51 pm on March 27, 2012

    […] descontinuado, si bien, como señaló Mark O’Connel para su ensayo al respecto en The Millions(http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/the-arcades-project-martin-amis-guide-to-classic-video-games.html), aún pueden encontrarse copias de segunda mano (a través de Amazon, a precios de 150 dólares). […]

  65. Battlezone
    at 7:21 pm on July 24, 2012

    Hackery it may be, but it made me buy “The Rachel Papers”, “Dead Babies” and “Money” and it helped me to increase my high score on Defender by around 100,000.

    I’ve read any number of the twentieth century’s greatest hits since then, but while their literary merit might be uncontested, their utility in thearcade is feeble at best. Did “The Magus” help me get to the latter stages of Tempest…no; did “Sophie’s Choice improve my lurking technique…no.

    I still have it, in very good condition what’s more. If any literary maven wants to make me an offer, I’m all ears, but if you’re a vid-kid craving nostalgia, you’re going to have to beat me at Gorf…..Bite the dust, space cadet!

  66. amy
    at 5:18 am on July 27, 2012

    _Money_ is one of the “great British novels of the 1980s”? No it isn’t. In fact I can’t think of any….oh yes.

    Yes I can.

    The first two Adrian Mole books. Britain, 1980s, lick it, fold it, seal it.

  67. Martin Amis (The Bat Segundo Show)
    at 11:06 am on August 28, 2012

    […] Swift’s A Modest Proposal, Dickens, the video game medium, clarifying Amis’s stance and false rumors of shame about Invasion of the Space Invaders, being befuddled by remotes, addiction, being a Luddite, […]

  68. Links – September 6, 2012 | zota
    at 3:24 am on September 7, 2012

    […] The Millions : The Arcades Project: Martin Amis’ Guide to Classic Video Games […]

  69. Snippets 100th Post! Review: books I read in 2012 « Snippets
    at 5:00 am on January 10, 2013

    […] (1984) by Martin Amis, I got interested in this author because he had written Invasion of the Space Invaders only two years earlier.  So I was disappointed to read Money – it was billed as a great […]

  70. The Pantograph Punch — Internet Histories | 13 May
    at 7:01 pm on May 12, 2013

    […] other good stuff from the interwebs – Martin Amis’ hilariously terrible 1982 book about video games; a game about collecting candies and Leigh Alexander’s astute observations about what it says […]

  71. Martin Amis II (BSS #480) | The Bat Segundo Show & Follow Your Ears
    at 11:25 am on May 28, 2013

    […] Swift’s A Modest Proposal, Dickens, the video game medium, clarifying Amis’s stance and false rumors of shame about Invasion of the Space Invaders, being befuddled by remotes, addiction, being a Luddite, […]

  72. Second Thoughts – “I was taken out of context” | WRITING IS FUN-DAMENTAL from Gwendolyn Hoff
    at 9:59 am on August 9, 2013

    […] exactly what it sounds like, a guide to early video games that Amis is extremely reluctant to discuss or even acknowledge writing. Hard to imagine, since it […]

  73. Writers Disowning Work – “I was taken out of context” | WRITING IS FUN-DAMENTAL from Gwendolyn Hoff
    at 10:47 am on August 26, 2013

    […] exactly what it sounds like, a guide to early video games that Amis is extremely reluctant to discuss or even acknowledge writing. Hard to imagine, since it […]

  74. Guest Blog: Martians, Modernism and Martin Amis | Interesting Literature
    at 9:53 am on December 6, 2013

    […] Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines, a work whose “shameful presence” was revived by Mark O’Connell in an article in 2008. When Nicolas Lezard of The Guardian reminded the mature Amis of the book, Amis glowered at him in […]

  75. Videospel inspirerade av litterära klassiker | bearbooks
    at 4:30 pm on January 31, 2014

    […] storheter som sett sig manade att ägna sig åt videospel på ett eller annat sätt – Martin Amis guide till arkadspel och George Plimptons annonser […]

  76. Martin Amis may be a pompous arse, but he’s our pompous arse » Spectator Blogs
    at 11:21 am on April 24, 2014

    […] up the books pages; what other writer could follow up a novel as harrowing as Other People with a manual on how to master Space Invaders? Or, for that matter, get into top-class public spats with everyone from Terry Eagleton to Katie […]

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