Books about gaming are becoming big business
As video games have become more mainstream, books about them have followed suit. It makes sense that historians would start to cover the booming industry with the same intensity as writers covering film, for example. But do people really want to read about something so experiential? Apparently. These types of books, from gaming guides to histories, are continually hitting the best-sellers lists; some are even set for television adaptations. So what should you read? It's dangerous to go alone, so take this helpful list of gems.
"Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation," by Blake J. Harris
In the early 1990s, there was only one gaming console that kids put on their Christmas lists: the Nintendo Entertainment System. Atari was long gone, having suffered a horrendous fate in the Great Crash of 1983 and Nintendo was dominating the market unchallenged - at least, until Sega came along. Written as a narrative retelling, "Console Wars" chronicles the internal struggles and genius moves that allowed a ragtag group to take on Goliath with the help of some genius guerrilla marketing. It's a fun, wildly revealing exposé that's currently being turned into a limited series produced by Seth Rogen.
"Art of Atari," by Tim Lapetino
In an era when getting someone to drop a quarter in a machine was everything, good art direction ruled the world. Taking advantage of the artwork that adorned arcades in the 1980s, "Art of Atari" is a masterful collection of every title from that time - capturing what made each game unique while showcasing the breathtaking images that complemented such technologically simple games.
"Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made," by Jason Schreier
Now that video games have evolved to be more complex than pixelated blobs on arcade screens, it takes an army to make them in a grueling test of endurance that often lasts years and leaves its combatants battered and scarred. "Blood Sweat and Pixels" revisits the journeys behind some of the industry's biggest hits from the last decade, showcasing the brutal but rewarding path from a game's conception to it release.
"The Game Console: A Photographic History from Atari to Xbox," by Evan Amos
The video game industry tends to do a horrible job of documenting its history; many of its biggest hits are lost to time as a result of depreciated servers or lapses in new hardware optimization. The highly detailed "The Game Console" is an exception, documenting everything from the precursor to Pong to the current generation of consoles, like the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
"Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture," by David Kushner
Doom paved the way for modern shooters with its ultraviolent battle through hell, but how did we go from pellet-eating Pac-Man to shotgunned demons? "Masters of Doom" explains, while also digging deep into how such mind-blowingly successful games led to so much more of the same.
"The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV," by Konami
There are dozens of amazing art books for the biggest gaming franchises of the last few decades, but "The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV" stands out. Metal Gear Solid is an amazingly complex series with wild, forward-thinking visual design, and this multi-book set perfectly captures what makes it so wonderfully out-there.
Rubens is the author of "8-Bit Apocalypse: The Untold Story of Atari's Missile Command." He has written for IGN, Polygon, and dozens of other publications.
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