It turns out a friend of mine is friends-of-friends with Lana Del Rey; more than a little embarrassing that it took this personal contingency to get me to pay attention to her music, which, I discovered when my friend played me this track, “Born to Die,” is really good. But I kind of blame the internet, because all the discussion seemed to be about how “Video Games” was about a guy who plays video games, what a loser, which sounds super boring. And even though “Video Games” isn’t her best song, it’s more complicated than this description suggests. Just on an obvious linguistic level, it’s not at all clear who’s playing the video games: the “you” of the first two verses, or the “him” of the second two (are these the same people)? Or Del Rey herself (I can’t see anything in the lyrics that rules that out)? And then there’s the way that “video games” floats as a signifier through the song: actual video games, probably, before the first chorus; but how do video games relate to “playing pool and wild darts” or the narrator’s “idea of fun”? At this point, the most obvious reading is that it’s the narrator herself who is “playing video games.” Is this a reference to the general idea of “playing games” in a relationship? Or a metaphorical description of her relationship, the one she’s having or the one she’s imagining, as escapist or ersatz or instrumental?
Also, according to Google, no-one has written a post about Lana Del Rey and gamification, which surely would have been some crack link-bait six months ago.