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The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect Hardcover – March 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


This is a lushly illustrated coffee-table book that offers readers full-page, color photographs and succinct summaries of video games, descriptions of their significance, and interviews with many of their creators. Slick and gorgeous, the book offers an important permanent, widely distributable, inexpensive complement to the exhibition. – Ian Bogost, American Journal of Play, Fall 2012

If Ready Player One was a fictional love song to video games, The Art of Video Games is the visual poem to gaming—simply a beautiful book filled with gaming nostalgia, inspired innovation and flat-out fun…Every gamer needs to have The Art of Video Games just like every English major needs to have the collected works of Shakespeare.  – J. Jay Franco, Bookrastination, 3/9/12

This book belongs on the shelf of every highbrow gaming geek, but it’s also an important read for anyone interested in media studies or human expression. I want to hand this book to every naysayer who sees games as nothing more than cheap, violent, meaningless entertainment. With its engaging pictures, rich interviews, and neatly bundled history lessons, The Art of Video Games makes a solid case not just for the validity of games as an art form, but for its rightful place as one of the defining storytelling mediums of our time. –  Becky Chambers,, 3/16/12

I heartily recommend The Art of Video Games, not only to every gamer, but also to anyone interested in technology, and especially to those who feel games are harmful and childish…it’s a fascinating journey through time, showing how this incredible industry has become one of the most lucrative and fastest growing in the world. When next your parents ask why you play video games, just give them a copy of this book and I’m sure they’ll apologize for ever questioning your love for this truly special and important medium. – Benjy Ikimi,, 3/16/12.

The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect is a worthy companion piece to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibit.  Melissinos and O’Rourke do an excellent job of laying a foundation for any reader to educate themselves on video games and their place as a modern artform.  Video game enthusiasts have a lot to enjoy here, too.  Besides the first-rate production values, it is a lovingly crafted narrative of the industry’s evolution from its most rudimentary beginnings to the multi-billion dollar cultural powerhouse it is today. Any fan of video games will enjoy the opportunity to pick this book up from the coffee table, flip to a random page, and immediately begin to “remember when…” – Paul Marzagalli, NAVGTR (National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers), appeared in Eclipse Magazine, 3/16/12

Filled with illuminating insights and insider perspectives, these interviews will speak volumes to teens considering careers in the video game industry. In addition to YA readers, the book may also be of interest to educators looking to examine media trends, or launch a classroom discussion about viewing video games as an art form. – Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal, 3/21/12.

Designed for us short attention span readers, the well-paced, large format, $40 hardback  from Welcome Books  features big image screen grabs and short blocks of history and insight on 80 noteworthy games, arranged historically and by console format eras….Also rallying for  the cause  are short essays in the book from industry innovators like "father of Atari" Nolan Bushnell - who "knows for a fact"that gaming  doesn't just  keeps you sharp, but  "delays the onset of  Alzheimer's." So go do something artful and important - buy  the book, visit the exhibit and go play a video game! – Jonathan Takiff, The Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News/, 3/15/12. Widely syndicated.

In Chris Melissinos and Patrick O’Rourke’s book The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect — the accompanying book to the Smithsonian exhibit of the same name on display starting in March 2012 – the authors offer a compelling read, intriguing to both the gaming nerd and pretentious art student in me, that reads like a warm meet-and-greet without being too casual or too stuffy… the full-page screen-shots will have any reader enthralled…They have the capacity to capture us, for an instant, and draw us into an experience that is more than simply wasting time — that is potentially transformative. ­– Kaitlin Tremblay,, 3/27/12.

You cant’ go wrong with this book. It makes fo a fun read and you might learn something…coffee table worthy…fascinating…it screams “I’m smart, I like to play video games and I appreciate ART!”  – Classic Game Room: Retro Video Games Book Club, video book review on YouTube Channel (201,000+ subscribers), 4/2/12.

…the book is a really great piece for retro video game lovers. It mixes art with nostalgia as it caries you though the different ages of gaming, showcasing classic video games in stunning layouts, drawing attention to the creative and cultural impact, all in one very classy, and affordable package. – D.S. Cohen, Classic Video Games, April 1, 2012

The Art of Video Games exhibit was base on the book written by Chris Melissinos and Patrick O'Rourke. The book is amazing. I highly recommend it to any gamer or fan of games. – Fan, RPGMachine86, 4/4/12

In the end, The Art of Video Games puts in a very admirable effort.  They get the list (in my humble opinion) mostly right, and they fill out a lot of interesting history about each game, often from the perspective of the developer themselves.  The interviews are top-notch, giving two full pages of insight into the past of your favorite developers, how they make their games, and what they were thinking when they did so.  Want to know just what Ron Gilbert was thinking when he made Maniac Mansion (also not on this list) or Monkey Island?  Here is your chance. – Ron Burke,

About the Author

Chris Melissinos, former Chief Gaming Officer and Chief Evangelist for Sun Microsystems and founder of Past Pixels (, is the curator for The Art of Video Games exhibition, which runs from March 16 to September 30, 2012, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
Melissinos has been an active member of the video game development community for more than a decade and is best known for his role in web-based video game technology development, video game preservation, virtual world application, and lectures on the future of games and computer technology in society and education.  An avid collector, he maintains a large personal collection of video game consoles, computers, and artifacts that span the 40 year history of the video game industry.
He is a frequent speaker at game and technology conferences such as the Game Developers Conference, E3, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Penny Arcade Expo, and JavaOne, and lectures at universities and computer industry events across the globe.

Patrick O'Rourke
and Chris Melissinos were connected by a passion for all things video games while co-workers at Sun Microsystems in the late 1990s. The friendship grew as careers diverged bringing O’Rourke to Los Angeles to produce photo shoots for Smashbox Studios. Now a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and video editor, O’Rourke continues his gaming ways and likes to deliver angry lectures on game strategy to pets and friends, both real and imagined, while maintaining his status as a frequent industry show attendee.

Mike Mika is Chief Creative Officer for Other Ocean Interactive. He has been developing games for nearly twenty years, running the gamut from engineer and designer to animator and writer. Most of his career was spent at Foundation 9 where he was Studio Head for Backbone Entertainment - running day-to-day operations as well as spearheading creative and business development. Mika helped launch mobile game developer ngmoco:) with some of the industry's top talent, and is a prominent figure in the preservation of videogame history. He's professionally shipped games for every platform since the Game Boy, and still enjoys writing games in his spare time. In total, he's been involved in more than one hundred games during his prolific career.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Welcome Books; First Edition edition (March 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159962110X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599621104
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.9 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Melissinos is the former Chief Gaming Officer and Chief Evangelist for Sun Microsystems, Inc., as well as the Guest Curator of "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. A highly regarded speaker, Melissinos is an authority on the intersection of technology and popular culture, trends in future technology application, and the impact of technology and new media in an increasingly connected world.

Over his career, Melissinos has contributed to and led the development of several technologies, including Java technology focused on media and entertainment industries, mobile technologies, and server technologies for massively connected, global experiences. His expertise in technology adoption, social platforms, developer communities, and impact of technology as a change agent has made him a sought-after speaker around the world. Offering insight into transforming education, social changes in youth culture, next-generation technology development and emerging development communities, Melissinos' speaking resume includes high profile conferences such as JavaOne, SISCTI, Game Developers Conference, NUTN, E3, PAX, 3GSM, Stanford's AlwaysOn, and Harvard's Cyberposium, in additional to lecturing at universities around the world.

Melissinos is also the guest curator for "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The first show if its kind, "The Art of Video Games" explores the 40 year evolution of video games as an art medium and the impact of video games on American culture. He is also the author of the companion book "The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect".

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Parka TOP 50 REVIEWER on June 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Length: 1:28 Mins
This is the companion book for the exhibition of the same name, held at the American Art Museum from 16 March 2012 to 30 September 2012.

The book title is quite broad, and maybe ambiguous. This isn't an art book with pretty pictures or concept art of video games. Rather, it's about the evolution of video game graphics, the artistry of making video games. All explained in a brief and simplified manner.

Since this is an exhibition companion book, it's not surprising it's not that technical. I get the idea that the target audience are probably exhibition goers first and then gamers.

I enjoy the sense of nostalgia from looking at the old games I used to play. As with any list that ranks games, there's always the surprise element when you see games you've never seen before. From the text, you get some brief insight into how the games came to be.

I've several issues with the book though. The first is the selection criteria. Author Melissinos selected an initial group of 240 games based on criteria that included visual effects, use of technologies and how world events and popular culture influenced the games. Then, voters online were invited to to choose the most popular games. Finally, 80 games are picked.

In general, I don't expect the gamers to know anything about how the graphics were created, nor the technologies used in the game making. The public voting element goes against the selection criteria. At times, it's difficult to tell whether the games are included because they are innovative or just fan favourites. There are peculiar inclusions as well as omissions. A search online for bestseller lists will yield results for fan favourites instantly.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Browneyedgirl0617 on June 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I live in a house hold where we are very nostalgic for old video games systems and this product is fantastic. The text on the pages is very crisp and easy to read and the colored photos look amazing. It is great that this book covers old systems up to the most recent. I would recommend this to anyone that loves old video games systems! It is a fun read and quite educational as well! It makes a great addition to any video game collection :).
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By moettinger on March 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to attend the opening of the Art of Video Games Exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and can say that this book is just as awesome as the exhibit. Every page was like walking down memory lane as I saw video games that I hadn't seen for years. A truly nostalgic and inspirational book. Well done!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Phil on October 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The quality of the images is terrible. They are too dark and blurry and appear to be random screenshots that don't depict the important aspects of each game.

I realize we are only talking about video games here but it seems like a presentation of the art of Vincent Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso or Rembrandt would not consist of images captured by strapping a video camera to a baboon's head and having it run round an art gallery until the battery died but I think if it was then it would be about as illuminating as this book is.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kim Pallister on March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
[Disclosure: I was on the advisory board for the exhibit related to the book]

Over the course of 2010/2011, I was privileged enough to be invited by Chris Melissinos to sit on the advisory board for the Art of Video Games exhibit he was putting together for exhibition at the Smithsonian. I recently got a copy of the book Chris authored in parallel with it, also titled The Art of Video Games and had a delightful time going through it.

The book is a large format hardcover coffee table book. It is liberal with spacing given to artwork, screenshots and whitespace and this makes it easy and fun to flip through. The games are broken up into different eras, loosely coupled with the "generations" of home consoles, though it also covers many PC games from those same eras.

The treatment given each game focuses in part on the game's art and gameplay, and in part on why the game was notable or revolutionary for it's time.

The book also has a number of interviews with industry luminaries including Nolan Bushnell and others. These lend a bit of context to the mindset at the time, challenges in developing the games, etc.

Its a beautiful book that every gamer should have sitting on their coffee table. It's not a deep examination of the "are games art?" question, but rather an appreciative view at the layperson's level. In that sense it does well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dana M. Serrano on April 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for my teenage son who is a true gamer. This book shows the history of games (game design from the game "Combat" to "Mass Effect"). I recommend this book to anyone who loves games and those who are new to games and want to learn more.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NeerajKA on September 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Gaming has always been an enormous part of my life. Some of my fondest childhood memories were formed with a controller in hand. Back in those days video games were visually limited by the processing power of the time. Despite that, I was still able to have rich and immersive story experiences as I dove into exciting new worlds in ways no fictional universe had been explored before.

As I grew up, so did gaming. Now the medium allows for beautiful visual and audio artwork to compliment the stories that designers are trying to tell. This book does a wonderful job of chronicling that transition. With stunning visuals and highly insightful developer/designer commentary, I am able to flip through and be consistently amazed at the revolution which is happening every day in the industry.

Beyond education, the book has changed the way I game. Since picking it up I find myself appreciating the games I play more than I ever thought I could. When playing I am now keenly attuned to the way every detail comes together to tell its story in a uniquely powerful way. It's almost as if I catch myself stopping to smell the roses in-game.

This is a must-have book for anyone who loves gaming.
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