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Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution [Kindle Edition]

Heather Chaplin , Aaron Ruby
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

What started as a game of Pong, with little blips dancing across a computer screen, has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that is changing the future, making inroads into virtually all aspects of our culture.Who are the minds behind this revolution? How did it happen? Where is it headed?

In Smartbomb, journalists Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby take the reader behind the scenes at gaming conventions, into powerhouse think tanks where new games are created, into the thick of the competition at cyberathlete tournaments, and into the homes of gamers for whom playing a role in a virtual world has assumed more relevance and reality than life in the real world.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance journalists (and married couple) Chaplin and Ruby team up for a wide-ranging look at the video-game industry. They dwell extensively on the corporations behind the games, from Nintendo's humble origins as a playing card manufacturer, to the extravagances of today's most popular game designers, who have earned millions by applying their world-class computer programming skills to increasingly complex imaginary worlds for players to explore, both peaceful (The Sims) and violent (Grand Theft Auto). The game players are the other major part of the story, and Ruby's experiences in the gaming community prove especially helpful as his role-playing character becomes intertwined with that of one of his interview subjects in online multiplayer games like Star Wars Galaxies (Ruby writes this portion in the third person and mentions his wife's frustrations with the time he spends online without naming her, underscoring the duo's efforts to make themselves invisible in the story). Much of the reporting takes place at gaming tournaments and industry expos, reinforcing the circuslike atmosphere. A chapter on the U.S. military's interest in using video games as both recruiting and training tools adds some gravity, but overall it's easiest to appreciate this work as a whirlwind subcultural tour.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This thorough history in eight essay-style chapters begins at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2001 with CliffyB, a 26-year-old who already had nine years of experience in the industry. The story goes back in time to MIT in the late '50s and the development of the first video game. Moving onward to the present, readers meet developers at Nintendo, the creators of Doom, the developers of the Sims series, and players of Massively Multiplayer Online games. By the book's finish, the arrival of video games as the dominant form of contemporary entertainment could not be made clearer than by the embrace of gaming by two behemoths of industry-the U.S. Military and Microsoft. The essays consist of both first-person interviews and well-noted research and give a holistic picture of how the industry developed the way it did. Lots of numbers and facts back up the popularity of video games-for example, it only took a year for PlayStation2 to appear in 10 million homes, a feat that took the telephone 35 years to accomplish. This immensely readable book will have great appeal with gaming teens, but should also be required reading for librarians interested in learning more about gaming and its role in our culture and our teen-focused libraries.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 485 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (November 10, 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004OR1U22
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,999 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is more smart than bomb November 11, 2005
The genre of history books about video games is becoming crowded. Most of the books are good. All of the books repeat the same stories. Look, there are only so many legends to be written about in a history that is only 34 years old. Every book is going to talk about why Willy Higgenbotham created Tennis for Two, how Nolan Bushnell founded of Atari, how Shigeru Miyamoto explored the caves of Kyoto as a boy, and how the guys from id Software created Doom.
What separates the great books from the good ones is what the authors do next. Some books feel like they were cribbed from earlier works. You know what, Bushnell must be getting tired of every author asking him to recount stories about the creations of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese.
If you are looking for the same old stories, by all means you can find them in just about any book on video games. If you want something more, the field narrows. And that is where Smartbomb comes in.
The authors of this book made some great choices. Sure, they interviewed Bushnell and all the usual suspects, but they also went to Cliff Bleszenski (before his star rose to new heights) and to a host of new faces.
Chaplin and Ruby expanded the old stories--the sign of great interviewers--by getting Miyamoto, Steven Russle, Al Alcorn, and others to tell their stories in more detail than ever before.
I think this is their most valuable contribution. They have expanded and clarified some of the persistent legends. They have also captured the culture of modern gaming and modern game designers far better than any book since David Kushner's "The Masters of Doom."
And then there is the question of writing. Most books on gaming are written with in a straight forward, unsophisticated style.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A slice in time of the videogame revolution ... December 13, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is an engaging look at some of the movers and shakers in today's videogame production world. The author breathes life into the characters, and she makes you appreciate their humanity, although often her physical descriptions of people tend to be not quite right and sometimes just plain wrong. Is in no way comprehensive but is a quick and fun read on a slice in time of the videogame revolution.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! November 10, 2005
This wonderful book shanghais you into the world it describes; I read it in two sittings and my spouse read it in one. A couple of points worth stressing about Smartbomb in case no one else makes them:

First, only two of the blurb writers on the back of the jacket mention that the book is marvelously written: significantly one of them (Baker) is a major novelist and the other (Spiegel) is one of NPR's most gifted correspondents. Probably not many readers will consciously notice the terric writing, though it will be one of the things that will keep them reading.

Another point, a lot of the significant people in the industry whom Chaplin and Ruby bring us warmly close to are notoriously hard to approach. This says something about the authors' gifts as journalists (and, I imagine, human beings).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a few points short of a high score... May 17, 2006
By skooly
THE GOOD: All things considered, Smartbomb is an excellent book. It's well paced and paints an exciting portrait of an exploding industry. Following in the footsteps of "Game Over", "Trigger Happy" and "Joystick Nation" the authors present a dynamic overview of the gaming scene. All the usual suspects are here (Miyamoto, Bushnell, Carmack...). Instead of just rehashing the same stories and personalities found in other books they manage to squeeze out a couple of new gems. Who knew that Will Wright has been working on "Spore" (aka "SimEverything") for 8 years now? Or that he wanted to call "The Sims", "SimDollhouse"? The bits on Miyamoto's family life and a clever retelling of his 'cave games' proved insightful. They also did a great job capturing the inventive atmosphere that spawned video games in the first place. Probably the most interesting (and frightening) section though, featured the American military's take on video games as a recruiting tool. The blunt nature of these conversations and giddy allusions to "Ender's Game" and kid soldiers left my jaw on the floor. The fact that the American government promotes this agenda while demonizing games as corruptors of youth speaks volumes.

THE BAD: As much as I enjoyed reading the accounts of those featured here, the overall aim of the book left something to be desired. While it's true that a Tony Hawk game can sell more copies than a Britney Spears album and no one will know who made it - generating some sort of "star culture" found in other industries won't help. If anything, it will damage the industry. There are already enough megalomaniacs chomping at the bit to earn the label of "the next Carmack" or "the next Miyamoto".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the story of a new industry December 17, 2005
Smartbomb tells of the rise of a vast new industry in just a few decades. Essentially, it was Pong, released in the 70s, that started it all. The first big hit. From which quickly followed Space Invaders out of Japan and then the flourishing of videogames in arcades, circa 79-83. This plateaued thereafter. But as computing power got faster and cheaper, and disks and memory got cheaper, the spread of personal computers led inevitably to games dedicated to those platforms.

The book also shows the surge of specialised computers, like the Playstation, that were meant only for gaming.

If any of you have played videogames, the book offers a good background on the industry. Key movers, like Nolan Bushnell, are described. You get a glimpse at the trends that have propelled large sustained growth, and an understanding of what the future might bring.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent writing. Fun history bits
Very entertaining. Excellent writing. Fun history bits.
Published 13 days ago by H.K.
5.0 out of 5 stars A prescient look at computer generated gaming history
If you are curious about why you no longer see your husband or former boyfriend, read Heather Chaplin's history of
gaming and gain insight. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Robert Inget
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Writing, important subject.
Smartbomb is a well written account that reads as much like a mystery as a history. (I made a rhyme) It is dated, but that is the point. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Craig Goldenberger
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of video game history
Smartbomb contains many details that I had not read before about the video game industry, especially the earliest games like Spacewar.
Published 23 months ago by C. Gerena
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
I liked the book... a must-read for anyone in the industry or who wants to open the kimono on the industry.

Published on October 21, 2009 by Matthew Heindl
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb Insights and Revelations from Game Land
This book is very well written, with a fun and engaging style a bit similar to other great books like "Hackers" and "Masters of Doom". Read more
Published on October 13, 2008 by Rui Ferreira
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book about the Game Industry
Simply put, Smarbomb is well-written and insightful. The words on the page are enjoyable to read, and the portrayals of the movers and shakers of the industry are the kind of... Read more
Published on April 16, 2006 by RossPW
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic overview
I read about the videogame industry constantly as part of my job, but I got more of an overview of the pioneers and personalities involved in the development & running of this... Read more
Published on February 24, 2006 by Stephen Grout
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of how this country become involved in video games
The video game industry is big money these days, powered by a blend of computer geeks and business mavericks who have turned it into a big business - and Smartbomb: The Quest For... Read more
Published on February 6, 2006 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book even if not interested in videogames
Although the first book by either of the authors, they manage to keep the reader engaged from cover to cover. Read more
Published on January 7, 2006 by Alexander Whitworth
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