In my opinion, Austin Grossman’s You speaks to a very specific audience. Video game enthusiasts may find themselves wishing they could be playing the game itself rather than reading about it. Avid readers may find themselves completely lost within the gaming jargon (as I was). There were parts I enjoyed, but they came and went spontaneously throughout the novel. For example, I thought it was interesting to read how the world of gaming affected Russell’s daily life and relationships. From the moment he started envisioning and communicating with the characters, you knew he was hooked. And despite the fact that I have almost no interest in video games, I appreciated the dedication of Black Arts employees. What surprised me most was that they weren’t even issued schedules; they loved their work enough to just show up and sit at a computer for hours on end. In this way, Grossman introduced quirky yet somewhat lovable characters that I could relate to in a sense. The workload at Ringling forces us to lose sleep, sacrifice our social calendar, and stare at computer screens for much too long, yet we love it.
Beyond this, however, I almost felt like I was trudging through, attempting to understand the appeal of technology and development in the industry but failing. It’s funny that Grossman should title the book “You”, as if he’s trying to sell the brilliance of this world to every reader. For someone with no prior experience with video games, however, rambling on and on about data and programming and such details wasn’t exactly effective. I’m not even sure if it was a problem of confusion, or simply that my mind drifted so far away from the text that I don’t remember what I read. I had to laugh, then, when the narrator said, “You had to really love computer games to get excited about a game this crappy, to really invest in this little shifting grid of letters as an alternate world…” (Grossman 86). I could completely relate.
What’s more, the flashbacks and time shifts conjured an entirely new level of confusion that made the experience of reading You even more aggravating. Most of the time I was too busy struggling to understand the book to be able to enjoy it.
I don’t wish to completely attack Grossman, however. His subject matter may not have connected with me, but his voice and tone were intriguing. He also had very strong characters, which in a way reminded me of The Big Bang Theory. I’m not much into science, superheroes, or geeky video games, yet this is still my favorite television show. Why? Because the characters are so strong and well developed. While I can hardly relate to the subject matter, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady have created such powerful personalities that I’m on the verge of obsession, if not there already. I think it’s great to read about characters who are interested in something that makes no sense to you; it opens the door to acceptance. Why read about someone who is just like you? You already know that world. Reading You introduced me to a world that I’m glad I’m not a part of, but am happy to watch from the sidelines.