Everyone loves video games, but very few people know the histories behind them, the grueling amount of work that goes into developing them, and the hidden stories behind some of the most popular titles. Luckily, within the last 10 years, there’s been tons of excellent books written about the gaming industry, which has long been overlooked and not taken seriously.
For anyone interested in gaming, picking up a great book about its history is an awesome way to learn about the industry’s failures, successes, and most notorious moments. From the infamous “Console Wars” to behind-the-scenes facts about hit games like stardew valleyreading about the industry’s past is a great way to more fully appreciate video games.
Console Wars (Blake J. Harris)
Billed as a “nonfiction novel,” Console Wars tells the story of the epic battle between Nintendo and SEGA during the 1990s. At the start of the decade, Nintendo practically had a monopoly on the gaming market until SEGA strolled in their Genesis/Mega Drive console.
However, just 10 years later, with the arrival of the struggling Dreamcast console, it became clear that SEGA was about to lose it all. Console Wars dives into the boardroom fights, the late-night cram sessions, and the behind-closed-doors breakdowns that ultimately became known as the Console Wars and defined gaming in the ’90s.
Video Games Have Always Been Queer (Bonnie Ruberg)
Written by Bonnie Ruberg, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, Video Games Have Always Been Queer tackles the unique and interesting history of gaming while also applying queer theory to several products.
Interestingly, Ruberg decides to ignore the obvious big-budget games that have notable LGBTQ+ characters, and instead focuses on how games like burn out, Eighth, Portaland pong have also been designed and interpreted queerly too. It’s certainly a great read that will change how some players view their favorite games overall.
One of the newest developments in gaming history is the emergence of Esports and its growth into a highly profitable and competitive sport that sometimes draws enough crowds to fill arenas.
Demystifying Esports tracks competitive gaming back to its origins in South Korea and explores how and why it grew into a multi-million dollar global phenomenon. Better yet, the book is written for an audience who doesn’t know anything about Esports, so it’s a great option for someone who wants to read a welcoming book that isn’t bogged down by jargon.
Masters of Doom (David Kushner)
1993’s doom is considered one of the best first-person shooters ever made. More than that, it’s largely considered one of the best and most influential video games of all time. Masters of Doom investigates the histories of John Carmack and John Romero – the founders of id Software – and their journey to releasing their hit game doom.
The book follows id Software’s creation, the release of doom, the praise it received, the unintentional controversy it created, and ultimately, the turmoil that Carmack and Romero had to experience in the aftermath of it all. On top of being an excellent book about gaming, it’s also a fantastic personal narrative chronicling two complicated yet brilliant creators.
Retro Gaming: A Byte-Sized History of Video Games (Mike Diver)
In Retro Gaming: A Byte-Sized History of Video Gameseach page is a mix of writing and fully colored images, which really helps bring classic games and consoles to life.
The book is a rundown on everything retro, from classic consoles like the beloved Super Nintendo to the totally underrated SEGA Saturn, as well as famous (and infamous) old games, and even weird and wild peripherals that many gamers probably never knew existed. It’s the perfect book for fans of nostalgia, or anyone who wants a brief rundown of how far the industry has come.
Game On! (DustinHansen)
Game On! is a celebration of influential video games throughout the decades, exploring everything from zork, Myst, Overwatch, and more. The book is considered “YA Non-fiction,” which basically just means it’s a non-fiction book with an easier writing style to make it more accessible to people of different reading levels.
However, in a jargon-heavy and widely misunderstood industry like video games, this basic writing style is incredibly helpful for readers who may not already know the difference between a developer and a publisher, or the definitions of words like sprites, polygons, rendering, and game engines.
Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia (Ian Flynn)
Sonic the Hedgehog has been a polarizing figure in gaming for decades, being both the mascot that built SEGA’s empire, while also suffering from some terribly-reviewed games in the 2000s. However, with the 2020 film, Sonic has boomed back into the spotlight and is finally getting the universal acclaim he deserves.
the Encyclo-speed-ia is a giant, fully-colored coffee table book that gives readers an in-depth look into the world of Sonic. From the original 16-bit games to the modern era, every level is explored in detail explaining the enemies, the world’s history, and more. Also in the book are background profiles for characters like Dr. Robotnik, Knuckles, and Tails.
The Comic Book Story of Video Games (Jonathan Hennessey)
For comic book fans, The Comic Book Story of Video Games will be a must-read. It’s a fully-illustrated history of gaming, all presented in the style of a massive comic strip. From gaming’s early days in arcades to the emergence of consoles, and even mobile hits like angry Birdsthe book does a surprisingly thorough job of capturing the industry’s history.
Plus, its unique concept of presenting the story in the form of a comic makes it a fresh take on a history that some gamers may already know, making it an enjoyable read for even the most die-hard players out there.
Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry (Jason Schreier)
One of the tragic realities of the gaming world is that the industry is incredibly toxic and volatile, and operates largely on a boom-and-bust cycle. This leads to many studios having to “crunch,” which is when employees are forced to work long hours of overtime (often unpaid).
This also creates tons of friction between co-workers, leads to an endless revolving door of hiring and firing, and sometimes, it even destroys the studio. PressReset uncovers the stories of the doomed studios behind games like Bioshock Infinite, Epic Mickey, deadspace, and more. It’s a fascinating (yes tragic) reality of the gaming world.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels (Jason Schreier)
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels tells the stories behind some of the world’s most popular games, from their inception to the production process, release, and more. Games explored include stardew valleywhich was made by just one guy for almost five years, Dragon Age: Inquisition, which almost turned out to be a massive disaster; the untimely fate of the now-canceled Star Wars: 1313; and many more.
It’s an excellent book for readers who are looking for a good variety of stories, all of which show that no two games go through the same production process.
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