10 Books That Every Gamer Should Read.

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Grand Theft Auto V released in September 2013 and sold 16.5 million units in just three days, it grossed over a $1 billion dollars becoming the fastest selling entertainment product of all time. In July 2014 the DOTA 2 International Championships held in Seattle boasted a prize poll of over $10 million, that’s more than the US Masters.

Video games have never been bigger.

It can be hard then, to imagine the humble beginnings of the most popular form of entertainment on the planet. Fortunately a number of authors have taken it upon themselves to chronicle the complete history of video games and analyze and discuss their prosperous future.  

If you ever wondered why Mario is dressed as a plumber or why Sega picked a hedgehog to be their mascot? Then here’s 10 books you need to read. 


10. All Your Base Are Belong To Us (Harold Goldberg)

Harold Goldberg is one of the most prestigious journalists working in the industry today his work graced the pages of both The New Your Times and Entertainment Weekly, there is no man better suited to pull back the curtain on the game development industry.

All Your Base Are Belong to Us dives into the development of Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, and Super Mario Brothers to explain how gaming culture catapulted itself from a niche pastime reserved for basement dwelling computer geeks into the consciousness of the pop-culture mainstream. Informative interviews and enjoyable anecdotes, provide a detailed look at the rise of video gamins culture. The book is full trivia and oddities and is the best place to start your scholarly journey into the history of video game. 

9. Reality Is Broken (Jane McGonigal)

Video games are constantly targeted by mainstream media as the cause for many cultural problems facing 1st world societies the world over. When a story about violence, gun crime, or addiction makes the headlines video games are sure to follow.

Despite the bad reputation video games receive from the mainstream media, American games designer Jane McGonigal has stepped forward as champion of video games. McGonigal claims that games can in fact be a force for good. Reality is Broken studies how and why video games have become so popular. Gaming dominates many aspects of our lives by improving our overall quality of life everyday. How are they doing this? By fulfilling psychological desires such as social interaction and the rewarded of difficult challenges. Jane McGonigal explores how video games can make us better people and work toward solving global problems such as poverty and climate change.

Video games can be more than just a simple pass time, and this book is the perfect explanation of how. 


8. Speccy Nation (Dan Whitehead)

Similar to Reality is Broken, Speccy Nation is a love letter to games. Video game journalist of many years Dan Whitehead has encountered every aspect of games both good and bad. This hasn't tarnished his rose tinted view of the British games industry. Speccy Nation touches on every area where Britain contributed toward the global games industry, from the birth of the bedroom coders to rebellious designers at Rockstar, Speccy Nation  is a homage to it all.

The pictures may be poor quality and Dan makes no reservations in overlooking controversial and negative moments in British gaming history, but his adoration for the British game industry is infectious. It may not be the most factual study of video games, but it's full of personality and well worth spending an afternoon going from cover to cover. 

7. Extra Lives (Tom Bissel)

Extra Lives incorporates the best parts of Speccy Nation and Reality is Broken. It's both an appreciation of video games and an explanation og how video games can better humanity. Told  from Tom Billel's personal perspective Extra Lives does something that previous titles haven't, it discusses how video games impact our souls.

Tom explores the negative, addictive and destructive nature of video games. Tom almost lost his job and family to a video game addiction, but still calls himself a gamer to this day.

Extra Lives is a fascinating look at the relationships we share with video games, Tom combines personal experience with industry experience and the perspective of developers Cliff Blezinski and Peter Molyneux to tell his emotional telling tale. This book reflects the thoughts and opinions of many gamers, and it's comforting to know we are not alone in our addictions. 


6. Trigger Happy (Steven Poole)

The short history of video games has seen the mainstream media target games as a juvenile plaything enjoyed by the likes of children and nerds, worse than this video games are targeted as the cause of violence, addiction and sexism, something which Tom Bissel certainly attests to in Extra Lives.

This trend may be slowly changing with millions of people enjoying video games the world over. Video games as art form however is a fairly new debate that is being hotly contested. Fortunately the incredibly talented writer/composer Steven Poole was the first to cast his critical view into the ring and argue that video games can be ‘art’.

 Trigger Happy first published in the year 2000 contains some dated content but provides an invaluable insight into artistic value of video games. Poole digs deep into the development of games from various generations such as Pong, Tomb Raider and Tekken, discussing how video games have become more complex and are now impacting our lives more heavily than ever.

 The incredible talent of Poole makes his book accessible to all, anyone with an interest in art, culture or writing will find something of worth in Trigger Happy.

Poole has a tendency to spoon feed the reader information but looking past this, the book asks fascinating questions about what games are and what games can be 

5. Critical Path (Dan Amrich)

Since Steven Poole introduced video games criticsm as a serious profession it has taken centre stage amongst gaming audiences across the world. Making it one the most highly sought after career paths for gamers the world over. 'So you play games for a living?' is running joke that gaming journalists often get labelled with. But a brief look at video game journalism as a career, you’ll quickly understand that playing video games is only a small part of the job.

We all play video games, some of us even form opinions about them. But only a select few can combine the two into a career.Passion and motivation are  essential to 'play games for a living' and a Critical Path is going to tell you how to do it. Dam Amrich will light that fire to get you going.

Dan is a writer critic with over 15 years of working in the video games industry and his book contains plenty of tips and advice needed to write writing the perfect review, conduct interviews and cover events. Once you have the skills down he moves onto finding work in this highly competitive industry. Having held almost every position in the games industry there are few people who could provide a better guide on breaking into the games journalism industry. 

Critical Path even tackles those ethical quandaries that will we all face in this career. So if you’re serious about playing games for a living, then this book is the best place to start.  


4. Replay: The History of Video Games (Tristan Donovan)

Tristan Donovan has crafted an extensive guide to the history of video games without skipping anything. Replay covers the beginning of video games from Spacewar! in 1961 to the peak of HD gaming 2009 and everything in between, and Donavon twists it all into an enthralling narrative.

‘The complete History of Video Games’ sounds like a tall order,  but Donovan’s interesting and creative writing style make the story flow from one event to next. You'll still be left wanting more come the end. Replay is clearly a labour of love by Donovan, his extensive research ensures all the important areas of video game history are covered.

The collapse of Atari’s arcade market and Nintendo conquering the console market in America are all covered, Donovan doesn't skip on anything. Through perseverance and a passion, Donovan has crafted one of the most extensive accounts of video games history available today.

3. Masters Of Doom (David Kushner)

Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t necessarily a term you’d attribute to the life of a games developer, but that's eactly what John Carmack and John Romero brought to the industry during the early 90’s.

Masters of Doom is the emotional tale of Carmack and Romero leaving their broken family homes to pursue the American dream. Both Carmack and Romero wanted to make games for a living, but they didn’t want to work for ‘the man’ so together they formed Id Software and created Doom and Quake. These games were the birth of the first person shooter and continue to influence video games even to this day.

David Kushner has crafted this story into something resembling a Greek tragedy. Both Cormack and Romero rose to success and achieved their dreams against the odds, only to have the efforts crushed by their own greed.

The rise and fall of Id Software is the most fascinating story that exists in video games and David Kushner tells the tale perfectly.   


2. Console Wars (Blake J Harris)

Console Wars focusses solely upon the console war between Sega and Nintendo during the 80’s and 90’s. This part of video game history is like no other. No two companies have gone at each other’s throats quite like Nintendo and Sega did during this time.

Both Sega and Nintendo used back handed corporate espionage and aggressively targeted ad campaigns to capture market percentage. There was a lot of money to be made by capturing the rapidly growing console market, and both companies fought maliciously to do so it is a true tale of David vs Goliath tale.

Console Wars is an enthralling peek behind the curtain of marketing and PR tactics used by massive game developers like Sega and Nintendo. Some of the risks Sega took to climb to the top are truly unbelievable and Console Wars reveals it all. 

Blake has clearly done his homework, the level of detail in the story brings the characters to life. Console Wars is a rare tale found in the video game industry, and with plenty of good guys and bad guys on either side. You’ll be hard pressed to pick a side in this console war. 

1.The Ultimate History Of Video Games (Steven L Kent)

The Ultimate History of Video Games is a nostalgia trip for everyone who’s held a game pad. No matter what era of gaming you grew up in this book has something for you. Steven Kent cover the major events through the entire history of video games. Every vide game experience is covered extensively, dropping endless quarters into Pac-Man or exploring the flooded caves of Tomb Raider, this book pays respect to them all.

The magic in Kent’s writing is being able to spin this epic yarn into easy and digestible chunks of information, but never losing it's charm along the way. 

The Ultimate History of Video Games not only touches on the principle moments in video gaming history, digging down to a level of detail so deep you’d believe Kent had actually been there to witness Nintendo being saved from bankruptcy or Space Invaders quarter shortage.

From students who can lose an entire weekend to Call of Duty to the commuters who squeeze in ten minutes of Angry Birds this book is an intriguing read for all gamers. If you can only squeeze in one book before your trigger fingers start getting itchy, make sure it’s this one. 

Published Nov. 30th 2014

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