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Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic Hardcover – August 19, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

King and Borland's crisp study of computer game specialists reads like a screenplay and would make ideal film material. The authors offer an intriguing protagonist in Richard Garriott, who overcame disapproval from his astronaut father and the lonely isolation of being a geek to produce the Ultima Online series. Vowing to create dungeon worlds as rich and frightening as Tolkien's, Garriott went into business with his brother and pursued his goal through lean years and unsatisfying corporate alliances. The authors, both journalists, also profile other colorful characters, such as Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, creators of the first MUD (multiple-user dungeon), a place where gamers could meet online; John Carmack and John Romero, creators of Doom ("the ultimate visceral experience of kill-or-be-killed"); and Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Dungeons & Dragons' masterminds. King and Borland cover dramatic events, including attacks by conservative Christians, who felt Dungeons & Dragons was satanic and encouraged worship of the occult, violent behavior and suicide. Equally involving is the gaming world's exclusion and harassment of women until such rebels as college student Vangie Beal formed a women's gaming network called PMS (the Psycho Men Slayers). Garriott comes across as an inspiring figure when he introduces a system of ethics and morals into the games, stressing honesty, compassion, values, justice, sacrifice, honor, spirituality and humility. Even non-tech-inclined readers will be intrigued by the sense of community King and Borland describe, and their epilogue image of Garriott living in a castle, complete with moat, will delight fantasy lovers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


... documents manically creative lives of gamers by tracing the career of eccentric "Lord British," as Garriott is known... -- Wired News, July 8, 2003

A great beach read, Dungeons & Dreamers will leave you feeling proud to be a game geek. -- Philadelphia Inquirer, July 3, 2003

Anecdotal and close-up it's a highly readable peek into a whole 'nother social realm. -- TexasMonthly.com

King... Borland ...pulled off a neat trick – managed to write a book as compelling as a really cool game… -- ComputerUser, August 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: One-off
  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Osborne Media; 1 edition (August 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0072228881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0072228885
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,857,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brad King earned his master's from the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism in 2000. While there, he won the Wired magazine "Excellence in Technology Writing" award. After graduating, he worked for Wired and Wired.com.

In 2004, he was the producer and senior editor for the MIT Technology Review Web operation. He's been an advisory board member for South by Southwest Interactive for more than a decade, and he's hosted its Accelerator program since 2009. He's an editor and advisory board member for Carnegie Mellon's ETC Press. In 2014, he joined the advisory board for the Carmel Arts Council and the board of directors for the Indiana Writers Center.

King is currently an assistant professor of journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he's also the director of the university's Digital Media minor. In his spare time, he's running The Geeky Press, a small, experimental long-form writing collective.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a 41 year old gamer. I was around for Pong! to Atari to Colecovision to the PC of today. Although I thoroughly enjoy playing computer games, I never knew how this whole medium got started. By drawing from interviews of the gaming pioneers, who played endless nights of Dungeons and Dragons, to the dreamers of new virtual worlds, this book lays out how the electronic games industry got to be the multi-billion dollar entertainment monster that it is today. Most notably, Richard Garriot and his rise from computer programming hobbyist to one of the most succesful "Dreamers" of the Role Playing Games genre. Other stories, such as how John Carmack, John Romero, and Warren Spector are considered game gods. As we strive for more avenues of entertainment today, this book has the insitefulness of sharing what drives these digital storytellers to dream up new worlds for gamers to play in. Pick up this book if you are interested in an entertaining history behind computer games roots. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I Googled my name and it came up in this book so I had to buy it, LOL. :) They should have called me when they wrote it, however. :) I have not read the book, but I read the page where my name was and I have to say it is so full of inaccuracies I never rest of the book.

I was there. I could clear up a couple of things that I saw.

It says that "Richard was not much of a dungeon master." I LOLed at that. Richard and Bob White were the two BEST dungeon masters in our group.

Also, it says that Richard had no interest in sports. LOL! He excelled on the track team. I went to many of his track meets!

In addition, it said that there were parents at our games. This thing that they say about the porch being relegated to the parents "smoking and drinking" ??? I never saw anyone's parents there. And I was there every weekend.

I wish that they had interviewed one of us that was there. This was a very magical time. We had a lot of fun playing D&D. We started playing the game when there was only the one box with some dice and one book. Later we bought all the additional supplemental books.

Then, of course, Richard got his Apple II and wrote Akalabeth. :) That all came later...after we had been playing D&D for a while.

Richard had a knack for the computer because of his science fair project. He did a project that studied the wave propagation from the sun (at the time his dad was one of the world experts on the Sun and because he had been studying it had the world EVA record - he had been changing film in the camera on the spacecraft) that had computer analysis. So we were always going up to NASA and using their computers to analyze his data. (But we were up there already because that was where our Explorers post met.)

good times :)
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Format: Hardcover
Overall, the book provides a good overview of the evolution of the genre detailing the early use of university computing resources for covert sessions of SpaceWar, Adventure and Colossal Cave thru to the emergence of the Professional Gaming League.

Where the narrative starts to get bogged down is when it gets to Richard Garriott (aka Lord British), the creator of the Ultima series of games. (For the record, I'm a huge Ultima fan - the original Ultima packaging, with a knight on a black warhorse facing off against a dragon emerging from hot lava, was the reason I bought my first computer.) Once the authors get to Garriott, the pace slows as we explore his life in extended detail from his early family life to the release of Ultima Online. In contrast, significantly less time is spent on the other pivotal computer games like Doom, Half-Life and EverQuest. While I'd be the first to point to Garriott's role in the development of this genre, all roads don't necessarily lead to Lord British.

Net/Net: Decent overview of a topic that has often been eclipsed by the more glamorous console videogames industry. Would have appreciated less detail on Garriott, and more on the other games.

Full Disclosure: Reviewer works as a marketer for Windows and Xbox games at Microsoft.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What first surprised me about Dungeons & Dreamers is that it's entertaining. I picked it up intending to get a quick sense of it then couldn't put it down--this book is funny, from Richard Garriott's whacky childhood projects before he developed games to the inside spats that tore up later, successful developer teams. What continued to surprise me is the book's scope. All the history is there, from star developers, companies, and even players like PMS (psycho men slayers) and LAN party-goers who shaped the gaming world. But the book pushes further to tell why people play games, why games have progressed the way they have, and why they're here to stay. Gaming is elevated from just a "mind-numbing weird thing" to the creative, productive community it is; I don't think anyone--gamers or anti-gamers or anyone in between--can read this book without gaining a deeper understanding and respect for the community and where it's headed.
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Format: Hardcover
Very enjoyable and non-heavy book stretching back to Gygax and his crew of Chainmail folks up through the current crop of MMORPG play (yeah, Carmack and Romero and all those guys are in it too). A great read and a diverse one too, in that it discusses the technical issues of game development and game play, video games in a social context and under fire from concerned activists, and also a cool look at the personal lives of the key players who introduced the games themselves, Never boring, and although it's not a super heavy read it's got definite gems of inspiration and insight. It's well written and engaging. If you're a fan, (especially if you had a C64/Atari/Pong and spent time with the 20 sided die) it's a must have. Lots of fun! I'd disregard the 1-star bad review (if you read past page 14, it gets much more interesting Kathy82...that goes for most books, btw).
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