Books about videogames!?

It is very obvious that people around here know their videogame stuff. I have dedicated lots of hours researching and learning about games and their creators and, over the years, have had the chance to learn a lot, but one thing I have never been able to parse through are books talking or going deep into videogame related topics. I dedicate a fair amount of time to reading all sorts of genres (both fiction and non-fiction) and although I love books as a concept I have never been really able to merge these two passions of mine.

I just don't know which ones are good!

I have bought a couple of the HG101 stuff, although I use those more as a catalog to check out factoids or information, more than I enjoy reading them, and I'm aware of Japansoft: An oral history (I haven't got it yet because it's rather expensive).

So, what do you have to say about this guys, any recommendations?

I haven't read it but I hear Masters of Doom by David Kushner is great, although maybe dated today. I also hear Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier is pretty good.

Maybe you'll have luck breezing through a title from [Boss Fights Books]( They're the 33 and a third for games –– one author writing on one game. They're hit or miss, but I've enjoyed a bulk of what I've read from that publisher and I love that I can read something longform on one game.

Masters of Doom is a great read, I haven't read the followup about Carmack and the early days of Oculus… but I really want to.

Definitely lookup Ian Bogost, he is extremely prolific in games academia (also developer of Cow Clicker) and has like more than 4 or 5 books published? I haven't read them all but the few that I have were great and rigorously thoughtful.

Also going to cast my vote for Masters of Doom. I feel like, game critique is almost better handled in the form of video essays. But we so rarely get a behind the scenes look at the people who make games that isn‘t hagiography, there is something special about a narrative that can make you feel like you’re in the trenches with the ID crew. Its a book that happens to be about video game development, but has all the pathos of any story about a group of scrappy creatives.

I'm a huge print Sci-fi guy. I made a thread a while back asking a similar question but about just fiction.

I'd still recommend "Constellation Games" as being the best work (my favorite, at least, it's not perfect but I cant come up with a lot of other examples) of fiction about the someone reviewing video games.

i read Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner quite a while ago, but thought it was pretty interesting.

If it‘s not too obvious to mention, I’ve always liked Game Over, the Nintendo history by David Sheff. Especially the Tetris chapter.

I've read a few of the Boss Fight Books titles. The one I read most recently was Bible Adventures, and it was a fun read.

@hellomrkearns#6845 Haven’t heard of this! Will check it out! Relatedly, I would love love LOVE a book about GTA’s transition from PS2 to GTA4. GTA4 isn’t like, the best game, but for 2008 that shit felt like it came from the future. Even with how big of a revelation gta3 was at the time… there’s just something about the transition to 4 that is totally mind blowing. I mean I played the 2D GTAs before 3 came out, but there’s just something about the evolution to 4 that seems like an even bigger leap in retrospect.

I have also read Takahashi’s Opening the Xbox which is a decent book with perhaps THE MOST hilarious cover/jacket art of all time. It’s like a stage with a curtain half closed and a big beefy Gen1 Xbox is peeking out of the curtain like a performer before a big stage show.

My two fave books on video games are definitely I Am Error and Racing the Beam which are mostly about the technical side of making games, and how these limitations influenced early artistic and design decisions (and business decisions too, in Nintendo‘s case, because of their frugality in hardware manufacturing.) I Am Error in particular has maybe the deepest dive on the NES sound chip that I’ve ever read, and is utterly fascinating. It's a slightly harder read, but I think is still very accessible!

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.

I recently bought the book on the left; The Secret History of Mac Gaming


digital copy is cheap, but the physical is sold out everywhere. I regretted not getting a copy, but then I saw it on ebay and snatched it up immediately lol

when I was a kid I would get dropped off at my friend's place in the morning so his mom could take us to school since my parents had work earlier, and they had a mac laptop which I'd always play games on while waiting to go to school, so I hope the mac book brings up a similar nostalgia 😁

@p3ters#7409 Super curious about the mac book and whether or not it‘s any good! I grew up with a mac in the ’90s and that was a HORRIBLE time to be a PC Gamer On Mac… except for Marathon and the shareware ecosystem (Glider! Taskmaster! Escape Velocity!)

Here‘s a few of my favorites - “The Game Console” is beautiful, “The SNES Omnibus” is a fun dive into that console with commentary and stories from many different folks (disclaimer, I contributed), Console Wars by Blake J. Harris is a fascinating read, “1001 Video Games You Should Play Before You Die” is nice checklist, and I’ve shamelessly included my own book in the picture :laughing:

I really loved the Legends of Localization book about Earthbound. It‘s a super in depth look at Earthbound’s journey to the Western market and how it was localized for us. Written by Clyde Mandelin aka Tomato who is a professional translator, did the Mother 3 fan translation, and is essentially an Itoi/Mother scholar. If you like Earthbound you gotta get it.

I also have a copy of [Embed with Games by Cara Ellison]( around that I haven't read. Have heard great things though!

I picked up Tom Bissell‘s Extra Lives: Why Videogames Matter after reading his excellent book on Tommy Wiseau (The Disaster Artist). Though it’s not as good as that one and more of a collection of personal essays centered on games rather than a dry accounting of history, he's a very engaging writer (though a bit of a wanker).

Cosign on those Boss Fight books, I've picked up three or four and enjoyed them all. Perfect format for the subject. Anna Anthropy wrote a great one on ZZT, the old ascii game engine. In fact, now that I'm remembering, don't bother with Tom Bissell's book, buy Anna Anthropy's terrific [Rise of the Videogame Zinesters](, which is very Insert Credit adjacent. It's kind of a state of the industry with a lot of interesting ideas about where games have been and where they should go. Huge recommend.

I came in to mention the Boss Fight Books series. They seem to be hit and miss but I can thoroughly recommend the Final Fantasy V and Spelunky ones - the former I read in one sitting.

I'd also recommend the [Third Editions]( series of books. They're very well researched, in-depth books about a single game, series or creator including: Dragon Quest, Zelda, Taro Yoko, Dark Souls, Sekiro, Fallout and many more. They're expensive but pretty hefty.

I'd also recommend the `[CRPG]( book too if you can find a copy (though their website says there's a restock in May). It's in a similar vein to the HG101 books in terms of format and very much a coffee table book but you can tell that it's a work of true passion for the medium.


@slugpaste#6847 I’ve read a few of the Boss Fight Books titles.

Me too, and I have generally enjoyed them, but the quality can be kind of hit or miss. I greatly enjoyed Kohler's _Final Fantasy V_ book which had a great amount of researched information with fun anecdotes for color. The _Spelunky_ book was pretty good too though it was much more personal and read almost as a development post-mortem (which I think it was). I didn't like the _MegaMan 3_ book, it was mostly personal anecdotes. I've gotten the digital versions for pretty cheap!

I did not care for _I am Error_. There is some excellent information in it, but it's written in a very academic-ese style which I found frustrating. If an editor went through it with a red pen/wood chipper, I think it would have benefited.


@LeFish#24302 I came in to mention the Boss Fight Books series. They seem to be hit and miss but I can thoroughly recommend the Final Fantasy V and Spelunky ones - the former I read in one sitting.

I want the record to show I wrote this all and then saw your post. You and I are now Boss Fight Book Friends.

@antillese#24322 I have to say I totally agree with your assessment of I am Error, unfortunately. I appreciate that for a topic this complex it is difficult to split the difference between a technical manual and a book for somewhat general audiences, but this one did so in a particularly bad way. It‘s been a while since I picked it up, but I just remember it reading very awkwardly and I maybe made it about a third of the way through. I bought Racing the Beam at the same time and haven’t read it yet, but I've heard good things.

These semi-technical general-ish audience books are rare, but when they're done well they are right up my alley. This isn't a video game book, but [_Yearning for the Impossible: The Surprising Truths of Mathematics_]( by John Stillwell is my gold standard for incredibly well written books that tackle high-level topics in a captivating and digestible way without pulling any punches.

I read _Masters of Doom_ last year during the lockdown and loved it--it paired nicely with my GOTY Doom 64 on Switch (despite really not being an id joint). I've had the Earthbound Legends of Localization book sitting tantalizingly on my bookshelf for years--I'm waiting for a quality stretch of free time to really thoroughly appreciate that one.

@hellomrkearns#24299 how is it? i remember hearing it‘s a bilingual book, which is pretty cool. i love that japanese-style indie press feel with the sleek cover and the obi, i have a japanese guidebook for new age music and it’s just delightful to use