Five Things: April 8, 2021

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Why today feels like a quiet turning point for video games | Chris Plante

The gaming industry is estimated to generate ~$150B in annual revenue—and steadily growing—serving ~2.5B gamers worldwide (including computers, consoles, and mobile), and yet it’s often dismissed as a niche interest. By comparison, book publishing comes in around $25B annually, including educational and professional segments.

Meanwhile, Netflix, Amazon Prime, the NY Times—and for a hot minute, those annoying Birchbox & Loot Crate copycats—get the most attention when it comes to subscription services, but gaming might be the most interesting of them all.

I’m a huge fan of Xbox’s Game Pass service which has steadily evolved since its ambitious launch four years ago and is arguably the best value in entertainment right now. With Apple in the mix, there’s probably going to be a surge of mainstream coverage, too. Plante’s overview is a solid place to catch up on what’s really happening and where things may be headed, and a hint at why major book publishers continue to struggle to reach new audiences.


For the Relief of Unbearable Bookstores | Bryan VanDyke

“Both the books that I have read and not read all remind me that what I am is not what I was…”

I still prefer browsing the random shelves of any used bookstore more than my local B&N, and while I love the idea of the indie bookseller, few actually live up to my personal ideals when it comes to curation and merchandising. VanDyke’s essay hit an unexpected emotional chord that I’m going to chalk up to quarantine fatigue, but it also moved a visit to Montclair Book Center (which also sells records) up my post-pandemic to-do list.


Outgrowing software | Benedict Evans

“Why don’t artists make more from streaming? Ask the labels. Why didn’t the internet kill labels or publishers? Ask music people and book people.”

When the disruption dust settles, the questions that remain are often the same as they were before, usually to the frustration of techies who swear at the altar of disruption for disruption’s sake. Evans unpacks that idea across a few different industries, along with a thoughtful conclusion that suggests we simultaneously ain’t seen nothing yet, while having already seen it all.


The elephant in the room about Extreme E’s opener | David Evans

I’m going to dedicate a future issue to my fledgling interest in all things cars, but for now, check out the new Extreme E series which is attempting to bring awareness to a variety of environmental issues by combining electric rally cars, gender equality, and… greenwashing Saudi oil money?!?

The entire operation is fascinating on several levels, and the racing itself is actually entertaining, so it just might work.


You can’t butcher my name. (You’re not that powerful.) | Pranav Jani

“Actually trying, even if you fail, is a much more positive gesture. It shows you’re willing to fail, to be corrected, and to build a relationship.”

I went several years in my twenties without correcting people’s mispronunciation of my first name, and it wasn’t until the host at my first open mic (Keith Roach at the Nuyorican Poets Café) asked before announcing me that I reclaimed it. A year or so later I wrote one of those declarative identity poems that included the line, “as in guillotine,” and it’s been my go-to reference ever since. It’s a little aggressive, but also crystal clear.

I don’t mind if you get it wrong the first time, but people who insist on continuing to mispronounce it on purpose drive me crazy, and Jani’s essay gets to the bottom of it.

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