Replay – 4/5
I kind of wasn’t looking forward to this book in my library actually, and moved it up my queue to get it out of the way. It turned out that an editorial choice by the author to focus on software that implemented significant changes to the landscape of gaming (focusing on games instead of consoles/platforms) made this book a lot more fun and interesting that I had thought it would be. Too many game histories or books that reference gaming focus on the development of consoles, console wars, and video games in a broad sense. The other choice that makes this book much more interesting is that it’s not centralized in the US or Japan (although both regions get a lot of coverage) but in a more international way, allowing for the really interesting stories of UK gaming in the early 1980s, French gaming in the late 1980s, and eastern European bootleg gaming to get a fair amount of coverage as well. The last focus that was really nice was a focus on innovation rather than popularity. While there are plenty of really popular and well known games here (Super Mario Brothers 3 and Mortal Kombat) those games are covered through their innovation, less than their popularity (or both when there’s a confluence). The result is a book that gives you a lot of different gaming stories that are less well-known unless you were there. Some things that I learned that I found very fascinating: Patrick Chamoiseau, the well-known French novelist, worked on anti-racist sim games about slavery, there was a thriving Czech bootleg market, and a UK computer designer put out a 99 pound computer that focused on computer programming rather than programs, almost single-handedly creating a widespread UK-based game development industry. I was also super-fascinated in how hardware-centric early game development was, wanting to churn out games to be software exclusives. And for all it gets talked about as a thing that happened: I didn’t actually know the details of the Atari Wars.
Press Reset – 3/5 Stars
A book that’s neither as hard-hitting or incisive or critical as I thought it was going to be. I don’t know why this is, but the book consistently felt like it was pulling its punches. The book focuses on the acquisition market in gaming basically. By this I mean the ways in which studios can quickly get consumed by larger computers, often having projects cancelled, contracts severed, and people fired as a consequence. Then, as an oral history of this phenomenon, the book focuses on the human cost of this, as well as the creative costs. All of this is well and good, but given how much Jason Schreier’s journalism talks about crunch and labor issues, and how much this book hints around them, they’re almost not discussed at all here.