5 video game books every player should read
From 'Ready Player One' to 'Hyrule Historia,' turn the page on video game lore and culture with these titles.
Every video game enthusiast at some point or another has likely heard their parents urge them to put down the controller and pick up a book. Thanks to a sweeping interest in video game development, history and culture, those who enjoy everything from battling zombies to taking on the Death Star in "Star Wars" can now also enjoy some stellar journalism on the interactive worlds we take on in our living rooms.
Below are just a handful of recommendations on titles that will leave you figuratively hitting "continue" from one chapter to the next.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels
"Blood, Sweat, and Pixels," the new page-turner from American journalist Jason Schreier, takes readers into the stressful, complicated, and nerve-wrecking world of video game development. Anyone seriously considering pursuing game creation as a full-time career may be convinced to think otherwise after hearing about things like "crunch culture" and 16-hour days.
Recent games, both successes and flops, covered by the book include "Dragon Age," "Shovel Knight," "Halo Wars," "The Witcher 3" and the highly anticipated, but ultimately scrapped "Star Wars 1313."
One of the more interesting quotes in the book comes from Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann. The Israeli-American, who co-directed "Uncharted 4" and "The Last of Us," shared how devoting yourself to making award-winning games can sometimes lead to extreme burnout with even the most seasoned developers.
"Your life’s passion sometimes isn’t in line with your life’s love," Druckmann said. "And sometimes those things are in conflict. In games, especially, a lot of people enter the game industry because of how much they love this medium, and, for us, how much we feel like we could push it and dedicate our lives to it to a large degree. But at times, if you’re not careful, it can become destructive to your personal life. So there was a lot of really personal experience to draw from."
Ready, Player One
If there was ever a book that better embodies '80s movies, music and video games, we've yet to come across it. Written by American novelist Ernest Cline, "Ready Player One" takes place in a dystopian United States in the year 2044. When the billionaire creator of a virtual reality system used by most of the world passes away, his will reveals a scavenger hunt built around the arts and culture of the 1980s. Whoever solves the riddles, and the classic video games that guard the next clues, will win the billionaire's entire fortune.
"For me, it was more about exploring the origins of geek culture," Cline, who came of age in the '80s, told Slate. "I was part of the first generation to have video games, to have computers, to have a VCR. I wanted to pay tribute to that. Nostalgia, I think, is good. Nostalgia is like video games, or music, or movies. It’s a form of escapism."
For anyone who likes modern video games or has a deep appreciation for the classics, Cline's adventure is one well worth putting the controller down for. Look for a movie adaptation directed by American filmmaker Steven Spielberg to hit screens in March 2018.
If you were a gamer who grew up in the late '80s and early '90s, you likely experienced a great deal of marketing surrounding what's come to be known as the "Console Wars." American author Blake Harris' new book of the same name goes behind the scenes of the battle between corporate giants Sega and Nintendo to dominate the small screens of homes around the globe.
"I started getting in touch with former of employees from Sega and Nintendo to find out if there was an interesting story here – something exciting and dramatic, with twists and turns that would appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike," Harris said of his personal curiosity about the marketing battle that defined his childhood. "Needless to say, what I found exceeded my wildest expectations …"
Unlike other retrospectives, "Console Wars" reads like a drama, with former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske at the center of a story that begins just a few years after the launch of the Genesis console. The years that follow chronicle everything from Nintendo's brief unthroning to Sega's eventual decline. Harris' access to those who were on the front lines helps lend a personal touch to a story that to most of us revolved around who was cooler: Sonic or Mario?
A documentary based on the book is expected to premiere later this year.
Whether you just became a fan of Nintendo's Zelda franchise after playing the most recent entry, "Breath of the Wild," or have been fighting your way through the kingdom of Hyrule since the franchise's launch in 1986, there's likely plenty of interest to discover in the 2013 book "Hyrule Historia."
Printed by Dark Horse Comics, the compendium establishes the official timeline of the fictional events that take place within the series, as well as concept art and other behind-the-scenes notes and insights for fans. According to IGN writer Jesse Schedeen, the book's impressive content is complemented by its beautiful design.
"The book is roughly a foot tall, similar in height but not quite as wide as Dark Horse's various Library Edition graphic novels," he writes. "The binding is tight, and the pages are thick and glossy. Even the cover is classy, eschewing a dust jacket and presenting a green motif with gold embossing."
Based on the success of "Historia," (it was Amazon's sixth best-selling print book of 2013) Dark Horse released a follow-up titled "The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts" in 2017. A third and final book in the series, "The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia," is slated for publication in 2018.
Masters of Doom
Released back in 2003, "Masters of Doom" by American author David Kushner tells the true story of the birth and massive success of id Software; the video game firm widely regarded as the creator of the modern day first-person shooter. Kushner focuses on id's founders John D. Carmack and John Romero, who together created classics like "Doom," "Wolfenstein 3D" and "Quake." As the book details, the success of these two games could never have been realized without the fortunate pairing of these two minds.
"'Masters of Doom' suggests that Romero and Carmack were a perfect team, but their current trajectories suggest that we’ve lost this team to the ages," writes Scott Juster for PopMatters. "It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another game in which Romero’s talented vision is brought to life by Carmack’s spectacular skills, just as it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a game as controversial as the original Doom."
Based on hundreds of interviews over a six-year period, Kushner's in-depth investigation is a tome worthy of anyone interested in revisiting this golden age of interactive entertainment.
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