Top 10 Books About Video Game History
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Top 10 Books About Video Game History
3 August, 2018
Opinion
Top 10

Another week, another list of books to help you dive deep into the history of the game industry. This time, we’ve prepared some books that will tell you stories of some of the most popular and controversial game titles like Doom, GTA, Final Fantasy, and other legends. The list also features some works on console wars, the success of the Japanese way, and more. 

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

Let’s start with a book that tells a story of how Sega, a small team with an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, found the strength to battle Nintendo and revolutionize the video game industry.

In 1990, it was all about Nintendo which presented a complete, while our rebel Sega could only bring big aspirations and even bigger personalities. Tom Kalinske, a man with no knowledge of video games and the wisdom to fight battles, managed to gain the momentum, transforming Sega and leading a ruthless David-and-Goliath fight with Nintendo.

Console Wars features over two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, telling Kalinske managed to build a market leader. It’s the story of how imagination and a gift for turning challenges into competitive advantages gave a birth to a $60 billion dollar industry.

Blake J. Harris is a writer and filmmaker based out of New York. He is currently co-directing the documentary based on his book, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg. He will also serve as an executive producer on Sony’s feature-film adaptation of Console Wars.

Masters of Doom

Doom is The Beatles of the game industry. We all know that. But what is the story behind the legendary series? Masters of Doom is the book you need to learn about the way John Carmack and John Romero, also known as Lennon and McCartney of video games, became the kings of the hill. Doom is the popular culture. Doom is a national controversy. Doom is a unique and rollicking American Dream. Doom is one of the most notoriously successful game franchises in history which also tore two masterminds apart.

To my taste, the greatest American myth of cosmogenesis features the maladjusted, antisocial, genius teenage boy who, in the insular laboratory of his own bedroom, invents the universe from scratch. Masters of Doom is a particularly inspired rendition. Dave Kushner chronicles the saga of video game virtuosi Carmack and Romero with terrific brio. This is a page-turning, mythopoeic cyber-soap opera about two glamorous geek geniuses—and it should be read while scarfing down pepperoni pizza and swilling Diet Coke, with Queens of the Stone Age cranked up all the way,” said Mark Leyner, author of I Smell Esther Williams.

David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. His books include Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture, Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids: How a Gang of Geeks Beat the Odds, Stormed Las Vegas, Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America’s Legendary Suburb, Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, and Alligator Candy: A Memoir. 

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

Is developing a game hero’s journey or fool’s errand? Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes readers behind the scenes of video game production, where the teams can consist of 600 overworked underdogs or just a single solitary geek genius. What are the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands here? Sometimes a release of a game is a miracle. It takes so much to push the development and fight with the desire to burn it all down.

The book studies some of the most popular, bestselling recent games, illustrating the hellfire of the development process. Do you want to learn about an impossible schedule and countless technical nightmares behind Dragon Age: Inquisition? Or single-handed efforts behind country-life RPG Stardew Valley? The story of Destiny, maybe? That’s the story you’re looking for! 

Jason Schreier is the news editor at Kotaku. He has also covered the video game world for Wired, and has contributed to a wide range of outlets including The New York Times, Edge, Paste, Kill Screen, and The Onion News Network. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is his first book.

The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon–The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World

The Ultimate History of Video Games is another great book to learn more about some of the unforgettable games that changed the world, the teams that created them, and the fans that made them famous. The book is written by gaming historian Steven L. Kent who has been studying the industry from the very beginning.
How does a backroom novelty turn into a cultural phenomenon?. The study mixes both meticulous research and personal interviews with hundreds of industry luminaries to show how games like Space Invaders, Centipede, and Pac-Man defined a generation. It also tells a story of modern empires like Sony, Nintendo, and Electronic Arts holding a multibillion-dollar industry.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn with the book:

  • The video game that saved Nintendo from bankruptcy 
  • The serendipitous story of Pac-Man’s design 
  • The misstep that helped topple Atari’s $2 billion-a-year empire 
  • The coin shortage caused by Space Invaders 
  • The fascinating reasons behind the rise, fall, and rebirth of Sega 

Steven L. Kent has published several books dealing with video and computer games as well as a series of military science fiction novels about a Marine named Wayson Harris.

The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers: Gold Edition

The Japenese way has always been unique. It’s hard not to love all those JRPG stories and their gameplay mechanics. The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers tells this uniques story, featuring 36 interviews and lots of exclusive archive photos. Some of the things you will learn are Konami’s secret games console, the origin of Game Arts and Quintet, unusual events at Telenet, stories on Falcom, politics behind Enix’s game programming contests, and more. The book features interviews with Hitoshi YONEDA, Tatsuo NOMURA, Katsutoshi EGUCHI, Toru HIDAKA, Roy OZAKI, Kouichi YOTSUI, and other game development legends. 

Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life

One book is not enough when it comes to studying the Japanese video games, of course. This book offers an enjoyable and informative survey exploring how Japanese developers turned games into an art form. The book also shows how different games and their ideas changes the pop culture (well, more like they became one).

What’s inside? Interviews, anecdotes, personal accounts with insights from some of the legends like Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, and other developers who contributed to the creation of Donkey Kong, Mario, Pokémon, and other beloved titles. 

Chris Kohler is Features Editor at Kotaku. Previously, he was Games Editor at WIRED magazine, founding its Webby-nominated gaming section Game|Life in 2005. Born in North Branford, CT, he majored in Japanese studies at Tufts University. 

Replay: The History of Video Games

Replay: The History of Video Games is is another great take on the history of video games. The story begins with the research labs of the 1940s and tells the groundbreaking success of the Wii, providing a unique look at gaming’s past. You will also learn about the rise and fall of Atari, the computers of Sir Clive Sinclair, Japan’s influence and the power of Doom.

Replay shows how talented game designers across the globe gave a birth to one of the world’s most popular art forms. It provides an extensive research and more than 140 interviews, giving insights from the Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Will Wright, Doom designer John Romero, Hironobu Sakaguchi and other legends.

Tristan Donovan is a non-fiction author and freelance journalist/editor who planned to become an ecologist before getting distracted by journalism.

All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture

In this book, journalist Harold Goldberg managed to capture the creativity, controversy, and passion that made this industry one of the leaders of the pop-culture pantheon. How did games make it from single lonely rooms to the grandest stages of the world, conquering mass entertainment? The author studies this evolution in detail, showing the progress from Space Invaders to Grand Theft Auto. This is the story about people, innovations, and fascinations. This is the story about Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, Bioshock, Kings Quest, Bejeweled, and other games. 

Harold Goldberg has written for these magazines, newspapers and online sites:  The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair, Talk, Radar, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Time Digital, USA Today, Family Circle, Boys’ Life, Wired, Esquire, Playboy, New York, Smart Money, The Village Voice, 7 Days, Rolling Stone, Travel and Leisure, Interview, Slate/The Big Money, The Industry Standard, Cosmopolitan, Kotaku, Polygon, Game Informer and others.

In 2000, Goldberg won the Western Publishers Award (the Maggie) for Best Feature Article, beating Wired and 85 other fine entries.  The year before, the issue of ID magazine Goldberg wrote and edited as guest writer/editor was part of a package that won a Folio Award.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Extra Lives is a research by acclaimed writer and life-long video game enthusiast Tom Bissell that shows the significance of the art and meaning of video games.

Today, games are about sophistication and complexity, and it took a few decades to get to that point. The studios that build games are now among the most profitable in the entertainment industry, so what is the secret here? How do games work? Why are they are so appealing? What are they capable of artistically? Extra Lives breaks down the dominant power of this popular art form of our time.

Tom Bissell is a journalist, critic, and fiction writer. He was born in Escanaba, Michigan, in 1974, and graduated from Michigan State University before briefly serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan.

His books include Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia (2003); Speak, Commentary: The Big Little Book of Fake Dvd Commentaries (2003) (with Jeff Alexander); God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories (2005); The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam (2007); Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (2010); Magic Hours: Essays On Creators and Creation (2012); and The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room (2013) (with Greg Sestero). Bissell is a recipient of the Rome Prize and also a Guggenheim Fellowship. His short stories and journalism have also been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Science Writing. The many magazines he has written for include Harper’s, The New Yorker, Grantland, The New Republic, and GQ, among many others. 

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto

What is one of the biggest and most controversial video game franchises of all time that comes to your mind instantly? GTA, of course! Starting the first game released back in 1997, GTA managed to use 3D graphics, the voices of top Hollywood actors, violence, strong characters and brutal fun to become Tetris of today. The problem here is that the game transformed the industry using a lightning rod of debate, spawning accusations of ethnic and sexual discrimination, glamorizing violence, and inciting real-life crimes. 

Here are some reasons to read the book:

  • It explains how British prep school brothers Sam and Dan Houser took their dream of fame, fortune, and the glamor of American pop culture and transformed it into a worldwide video game blockbuster
  • The book is written by David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom and a top journalist on gaming, and drawn from over ten years of interviews and research, including firsthand knowledge of Grand Theft Auto’s creators and detractors
  • Jacked offers inside details on key episodes in the development of the series, including the financial turmoil of Rockstar games, the infamous ” Hot Coffee” sex mini-game incident, and more.

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