Simon Parkin

Author & Journalist

Simon Parkin is a contrinuting writer to the New Yorker.com, a freelance journalist and author of the book "Death by Video Game."

A Game of Birds and Wolves

Sceptre (UK)/ Little, brown (US),  Out SEPT 7, 2o19.

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‘In the dying days of 1941, Winston Churchill came to believe that the outcome of World War II hinged on the Battle of the Atlantic. Nintey-five per cent of Britain’s fuel, and seventy per cent of her food arrived from overseas via merchant ships, which the German U-boat fleet had been targeting with near-unimpeded success.

If losses continued at the current rate, the country could be forced to surrender within as little as three months. None but a small clutch of senior British politicians and military leaders knew the truth of the situation: the full extent of the U-boats’ success, nor of the failure of the Royal Navy to stave off their attacks.

Churchill invited a forty-one-year-old Naval commander, Gilbert Roberts, in to the secret. Roberts was commissioned to discover the tactical reasons behind the mounting losses. He joined a group of eight WRENS (members of the Women's Royal Naval Service) in Liverpool, and together the newfound unit designed a game to re-stage the sea battles in miniature, in an effort to expose the tactics behind the success of the German U-boats.

Played on a linoleum floor divided into painted squares, model ships were moved across this make-believe ocean in a manner reminiscent of the childhood game, Battleship. Through play, the game designers developed “Raspberry”, a counter-maneuver that helped turn the tide in the Battle of the Atlantic, and proved the revelatory power of wargames.

Combining rich novelistic accounts with extensive research, interviews with surviving Wrens and their families, and previously unpublished accounts — including those found in Captain Roberts’ personal diaries and papers — Simon Parkin details the role that these men and women played in developing the Allied strategy which, in the words of one Admiral, “contributed in no small measure to the final defeat of Germany.”

Told with unforgettable narrative detail and larger-than-life characters, A GAME OF BIRDS AND WOLVES offers a heart-wrenching story of ingenuity, dedication, perseverance and love, bringing to life the imagination and sacrifice required to defeat the Nazis at sea.’

Death By Video Game

Serpent's Tail (UK)/ MeLville HOUSE (US),  August 2015/ July 2016.

'Whether it's Space Invaders, Candy Crush Saga or Grand Theft Auto, video games draw us in and don't let go. In Taiwan, a spate of deaths at gaming cafés is raising a question: why is it that some of us are playing games beyond the limits of our physical wellbeing?

Death by Video Game uncovers the real stories behind our video game obsession. Along the way, award-winning journalist Simon Parkin meets the players and game developers at the frontline of virtual extremism, including the New York surgeon attempting to break the Donkey Kong world record; the Minecraft player three years into an epic journey towards the edge of the game's vast virtual world and the German hacker who risked prison to discover the secrets behind Half-Life 2.

Investigating the impact of video games on our lives, Death by Video Game will change the way we think about our virtual playgrounds.'

"The finest book on video games yet. Simon Parkin thinks like a critic, conjures like a novelist, and writes like an artist at the height of his powers - which, in fact, he is." (Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives and God Lives in St. Petersburg)

"Parkin has a deft sense of the ways that video games appeal to and satiate the longings of the spirit ... Death by Video Game offers an excellent sociocultural study of the 21st century's quintessential art form." (Washington Post)

"The best book about video games ... brainy enough to appeal to even the deepest gamer, and yet accessible enough for the reader who hasn't picked up a controller in years." (GQ)

"A sort of love-letter travelogue [and a] thought-provoking introduction to the fastest-growing religion on the planet." (The Times)

"One of the best writers around on games and games culture ... Parkin's quest for the big picture quickly takes him on to the many ways in which video games are a part of life." (New Scientist)

"The book is rich in personalities ... Parkin is an excellent writer, sensitive and empathetic, at his best when simply talking with people ... for Parkin, games are a safe place to retreat to from a more complicated, dangerous and unpredictable world." (Times Literary Supplement)

"Groundbreaking ... his reportage leads to brilliant, fresh insights ... accomplishing that rare feat of teaching while entertaining, this work ignites a series of debates crucial to the future of video games." (Library Journal)

"Parkin has a literary eye for scenic and investigative detail ... thoughtful, serious criticism on gaming and play." (New York Times Book Review)

"Parkin is a powerful writer ... the prose gleams with enthusiasm and wonder and as far as any book can transport us into these digital worlds, Parkin does so marvellously." (National)