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Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (June 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316360074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316360074
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is a look at the revolution that changed the way we play video games. From the prototypical Space Wars, Hunt the Wumpus, and Adventure to modern shoot-em- ups, brain-busters and simulations. J. C. Herz examines what has kept us glued to screens and joysticks. It also explores how video games shaped the way those raised on them (like Herz herself) interact with their world. Joystick Nation gives an overview of video game history, interviews with the brains behind the most influential games, explorations of what makes various types of games work for various people, and even a peek into a major game development company during the critical countdown to a major release. Herz is a witty writer whose personal approach to the topic can resemble a riff by a stand-up comic. You'll find yourself nodding along with her reactions and smiling--maybe even laughing out loud.

From Booklist

Herz, whose Surfing on the Internet (1995) was described by a Booklist reviewer as "an endearingly brazen travelogue," urges that video games matter because "two generations of kids have grown up on five generations of videogames . . . this is 50 million adults whose memory and imagination have been colored by Atari, Nintendo, and Sega," just as earlier generations learned about life through pop music, movies, and TV. For both game aficionados and parents who still don't get it, Joystick Nation is full of fascinating information, including savvy analysis of the fluctuating fortunes of video game producers; enlightening background on the prehistoric ('60s mainframe) forebears of several species of video games that scored big with kids in the '70s, '80s, and '90s; and thoughtful discussion of controversies surrounding video games. Herz is young ("born the same year as the first coin-operated videogame"), smart, and female in a field dominated by men; her study of this huge, often ignored entertainment medium will enhance her technoscribe reputation. Mary Carroll

More About the Author

J. C. Herz is a former rock critic and tech writer for Rolling Stone and Wired, and wrote The New York Times' first game design column. A two-time author and technology entrepreneur, she started doing CrossFit in a gym where white-collar professionals and new moms hit WODs with active-duty military and members of the presidential Secret Service detail. Her favorite CrossFit workout is "Cindy."

Learn more about Learning to Breathe Fire at www.facebook.com/LearningtoBreatheFire

Customer Reviews

In addition, the book is full of factual errors.
Ben Hourigan
Given how ubiquitious video games have become, I think it's not implausible that they've had some impact on the way we view the world.
A. Pai
Seems a bit too self-referential given the title.
D. Tassone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
An interview that I gave to Ms. Herz in confidence was published out of context, with my name attached, and without any ability to review it before it went to print. Ms. Herz seems totally uninterested in correcting her mistake which caused me a lot of embarrassment. I can only presume that the book is filled with such inaccuracies.
Michael Wahrman
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. Pai on February 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued by this book's premise & picked it up eagerly a while back. Given how ubiquitious video games have become, I think it's not implausible that they've had some impact on the way we view the world. Like in Aliens when the guy freaks out and keeps stammering "GAME OVER MAN, GAME OVER!". Not the most subtle example but you know what I mean. :)
In addition to reading about the cultural and social effects of video game saturation, I also was looking forward to hearing some crazy stories and learning more about the people who made all the classics (Defender, Myst, etc.) Unfortunately, "Joystick Nation" book just doesn't go into enough detail to be interesting. Herz is prone to glibly tossing off dubious assertions about our generational consciousness, cultural mores, etc. etc., without arguing for these assertions in a coherent or convincing manner. She makes all sorts of claims about how video games have changed us, but rarely backs them up with any detail. After reading the book (it goes by fast but not because it's so fascinating; rather, it's just so flimsy that you can't help finishing it quickly), I felt like I'd just read the first draft of a sort-of-well-written but lazy college paper. The breezy, conversational style would be ok if Herz had deep or funny things to say, but she doesn't. It's frustrating because Herz superficially acts like she thinks video games are important and interesting enough to really explore in depth, yet her writing and analysis are so flimsy that you're left thinking that the subject isn't truly worthy of consideration. Herz's breathless yammering about her brother's use of the word 'kablooie' is typical of the book's style-- it's kind of cute but I just didn't relate or care.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Zuccarelli on July 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This could've been a great book. One of those cult things that just goes on for years and years. Instead, this book was dead out of the gate, because even the people that love videogames can't like this book because alot of the information is wrong. Game titles, years, people, etc. Of course not all the information is wrong, but I had wanted to use this book (one of the few on videogames) in a research paper in college and it just wasn't reliable. Too bad, it coulda been a contender(read phoenix instead)... Great title though
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Moffatt on February 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I had high hopes for this book but by the time I had reached the last page I was very disappointed. The hard facts are few and far between and many pages are devoted to the author's own interpretations and ideas on why games are popular (a little bit too psychological for my tastes).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ben Hourigan on February 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Initially, Herz's enthusiasm is infectious, but her hyperbole soon becomes tiresome. As does David Sheff in *Game Over*, Herz finds practically every game and piece of software she writes about to be brilliant and exciting, even decidedly B-grade titles like *FX Fighter*. In addition, the book is full of factual errors. These are not restricted to statements about videogames: while her most egregious error is to claim that George Lucas was involved with the *Wing Commander* series, which Herz also suggests is related to *Star Wars*, she also writes that the 1980s pop group A-Ha are Swedish, when they are in fact Norwegian. While Herz manages to make some interesting comments about videogames, she arrives at them by accident, and later chapters degenerate into undirected rambles. The book's lack of a conclusion demonstrates its equal lack of an effective structure and overarching argument.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lebow on June 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I found this book lacking in some areas, overwritten in others (the chapter on Doom being my prime example), but still a fun read. From about 1978 to 1983, videogames captured public imagination (pardon the cliche) in the same way that Titanic and Michael Jordan do today. There is no explanation of just why this happened, just a timeline and chronicle. Restricting the scope of this book to one segment of videogames (arcades? computers? home videogame systems?) and explaining the why and not just the what and when, would have made this a better book.
That said, this was still a good book, but it could have been more concise and consistent.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Raina on February 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a life long gamer who has worked in the video game industry, I was very interested in what this book had to say. While the fluffy sounding titled turned me off at first. The books best features are the chapters on early game history and classic games, while the writing that tries to be stylish but fails miserably, littered with bad pop-culture metaphors and not much content. While I liked her writing on her childhood memories of playing games, the rest of the book it just SOOOOOOOO lame!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Darren Johnson on May 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Joystick Nation" starts hot, daydreams then peters out and my ultimate question is why was this book written, except maybe to make a few bucks, remininsique and mentally masturbate?
I don't feel so jilted because I got it at my local library, but I can't recommend it at retail prices.
JC Herz isn't attempting a history of videogames or a business story. Instead, she's writing a social commentary about the arcade and home videogame era thus far. But she's not convincing as a PLAYER. It's hard to imagine her being in the trenches with that very narrow demographic of players from 1977-85. It's a very unique group and she doesn't have a feel for it.
Also, and maybe it's because she's relatively young, her voice isn't that of the minimalistic arcade generation -- she's wordy and haughty at times. She's trying to wax poetic and get an A+ it seems.
If you're looking for an arcade history, stay away. She really doesn't know her stuff. Did she do any research? Not that she's factually incorrect about when, say, the Odyssey 2 came out, but she doesn't have a feel at all for what the scene was and the competition between the machines and their players. No perspective.
She gives 10 times more space to Doom than Pac-Man. That's like writing a book about the presidents and devoting only a paragraph to Lincoln and a whole chapter to Kennedy. Both deserve at least equal space because both have a lot of historical value.
Some of JC's interviews go nowhere. Most early game developers keep the party line: "Gee, I never thought videogames would get so big, but the old games are better." Though an interview with the owner of TimeOut on the future of arcades is interesting.
A chapter comparing videogame magazines to Playboy also was a waste of my time.
The book is very readable though and easy to finish. There are some laughs. But it won't really change your mind unless you go into this book without any videogame experience...
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