Martin Amis on Space Invaders: how games criticism was born

Long since out of print, the novelist’s 1982 guide to the nascent gaming scene is a vivid snapshot of a long-lost world – and is about to be republished

For decades, Martin Amis’s Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict’s Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines – part anthropological survey of New York’s arcade scene in the early 80s, part video game tips book – has remained one of the great literary curios of the 20th century. First published in 1982, it has long been out of print; even frayed and spent copies command stratospheric prices on the second-hand market.

Despite accusations to the contrary, Amis maintains that he has never disowned the book, which stands awkwardly apart from his novels, screenplays, memoirs and other non-fiction. Still, while preparing this week’s unexpected reissue, the publishers Jonathan Cape discovered that the original files of Invasion of the Space Invaders had been unlovingly lost; the book had to be scanned in and rebuilt, pixel-by-pixel. In doing so, a picture of a lost era emerges, along with a valuable snapshot of early critical thinking about video games.

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