I’ve been playing video games as long as I can remember. When I was a child I would walk to the laundry mat/videorama to rent new games. I was lucky to own a couple of titles, but if it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas, I had to use my allowance to rent. The game boxes filled two cases, facing forwards from floor to ceiling. There must have been 50 titles to choose from each promising a new magical adventure. I don’t think I ever gave serious thought to how the games were created. I might have even thought they were magic. How else could a plastic cartridge not work one minute, then you blow in it and suddenly your TV would light up as a pixelated portal to a new world.
Reading this book gave me a greater understanding of how those little plastic cartridges came to be. Maybe it doesn’t explain the mechanics of how the system works but it helped me understand the serious consideration that went into decisions like how often monsters drop epic loot. It is amazing to see how much corporate expectations, budgets, reviews, and personality conflicts can influence the final outcome of a game.
This book navigates you through the ups and downs of juggernauts like Diablo, Halo and Star Wars. Then introduces you to the amazing stories behind indie games like Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight. (Just FYI, I bought both indie games after reading this book and I’m loving them.)
It’s strange that a book about coding, drawing and writing could be so interesting but it’s well written and humorous. The pacing never lags even in sections that talk about games that I have not had the pleasure to play, yet.
So, if you’ve ever enjoyed a game and wanted to know more about how it might have come about read this book. If you’ve hated a game and wanted to know how anyone could have produced such crap read this book. This book may give you pause the next time you want to jeer at a company for making a misstep. Or maybe just remind you that Diablo was once awesome and then wonder why Blizzard would want to make a mobile game, but who’s judging.
Ultimately this book is a fun look at the life of a game before release. It really left me wanting a sequel. All of these games explored here are for the newer consoles. I would love to see this author explore the history behind some of the older games.
The author Jason Schreier writes for Kotaku, leading video game news website. They often publish predictions for future games or game features. So, I will leave you with my list of predictions for this books sequel. I desperately want a sequel and these are questions I want to know the answer to.
Wild predictions I have for the sequel include:
- Why the Eternal Darkness sequel Shadows of the Eternals never came out?
- Why Koei Tecmo stopped releasing the survival horror series Fatal Frame in English?
- The story behind the landfill of E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.
- How Nintendo made video games a boys toy?