I’ve had a copy of Chris Kohler’s Power-Up: How Japanese Videogames Gave the World an Extra Life on my shelf for ages, recommended especially if you want a book with a multi-page aside on Final Fantasy music album history. It’s a nice holistic look at why Japanese-style gaming is so popular. I hear the latest version is great and updated for the decade since the original release but I’ve yet to actually flip through it. My eternal mistake.
Another favorite, sitting here in my hands in a way that makes typing quickly near-impossible, is Brian Ashcraft’s Arcade Mania! The Turbo-Charged World of Japan’s Game Centers. This one came out when Colorado’s arcade gaming scene as I knew it was in terminal decline, and has been a book of all the great things I’ve wanted in life since, those things being Japanese arcades and the idea that fellow fans of Japanese arcades also exist.
It is now the year 2020, by the way, and for the last four years there has been a legit Japanese arcade in my state, the Round 1 in Southwest Plaza (about a mile from Columbine). I went there the other day and played WACCA, one of the newest rhythm games, for the first time, and thought about how different things have been since 2008. Arcade Mania was written just as Street Fighter IV revived popular interest in fighting games, and as Japanese arcade companies were moving towards expensive online systems. I worked at that arcade for a short time! It was good practice, being the only person who could read Japanese, and now that it’s impossible to find work as a cook I wonder if making a pivot to arcade work would have been a better direction for my life. Who knows? That chapter of my life is as much history as this book in my hand.
Gaming in fiction has been on my mind since I was a youngin’ on these forums; my very first NaNoWriMo attempt, in 2004, was a meandering story about gamers in the nineties that I’ve messed around with ever since but never bothered publishing due to an actual, literal boat filled to the brim with anxiety. My latest future failed publishing plan for this story is as a serial fiction zine, please look forward to its release in Twenty-F@*!-Never!
On the subject of gaming fiction in general though, I would not recommend Ready Player One. In another thread we’re all talking about how hoarding gaming knowledge for its own sake is old hat, right? This is the novel of a man who scoffed at the idea and created a future where the nerds are the ultimate gatekeepers. I legit gagged when I read a passage where the main character admonishes someone else for not knowing some obscure eighties factoid (I know, which passage specifically, right)
My favorite piece of gaming fiction at the moment isn’t even written. It’s High Score Girl, the manga turned Netflix anime by Rensuke Oshikiri. That series makes me wish we could make a legacy server for gaming, like those WoW Classic servers, and just relive the game-o-sphere of the nineties again… except with all the knowledge I’ve gained from the last two decades of internet use.