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The First Quarter : A 25-year History of Video Games

35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0970475503
ISBN-10: 0970475500
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Editorial Reviews


"...the best video game history book I've ever come across...a definitive overview of how it all started." -- John Romero, Founder of Ion Storm

From the Publisher

Review from Next Generation Magazine

"Ok, we admit we're biased. Like most NEXT GEN readers, we've been waiting for years to get our hands on Kent's opus -- the entire history of the videogame industry, writ large through the words of the men and women who created it. Can such an anticipated book possibly live up to our expectations? In a word, yes.

The result of more than 500 interviews (he failed to bag only Yamauchi, Kuturagi, and Sam Tramiel) and years of research, the book delivers an authoritative yet personal view of the game industry, packed with great quotes and anecdotes. While some of the book will be well known (especially to readers of Next Gen), frequently the book exposes totally new (and fascinating) behind-the-scenes secrets. More than that though, it delivers the personal stories behind the facts, brining you the faces behind the games, and giving you a feel for what it's like to work with those people.

If Phoenix is the game industry's textbook, this is its unauthorized biography. Both books are great on their own, but they also complement each other amazingly well -- reading one makes you want to reread the other immediately.

We did have a few quibbles with The first Quarter. Frequently the text is too wordy, and several times we felt Steve was devoting too much space to minor issues that weren't worth it -- like a multi-page anecdote about Nintendo buying the Mariners --or glossing over bits we wanted to hear more on. (Sega's famous "Sega Scream" campaign gets far less ink than their nearly forgotten "Sega does what Ninten-don't" ads.) Those issues aside, though, this book is a major triumph, destined to stand with Hackers, Game Over, and Phoenix as "must reads" for anyone who cares about the game industry."
--Chris Charla


Selected by the DigiPen Institute of Technology, the only school offering degrees in video game creation, as a textbook for the Game150 class.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: B W D Pr (September 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970475500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970475503
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,445,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven L. Kent has published several books dealing with video and computer games as well as a series of military science fiction novels about a Marine named Wayson Harris.

Born in California and raised in Hawaii, Kent served as a missionary for the LDS Church between the years of 1979 and 1981. During that time, he worked as a Spanish-speaking missionary serving migrant farm workers in southern Idaho.

While Kent earned a Bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in communications from Brigham Young University, he claims that his most important education came from life.

Many of the lessons he learned from the Mexican field workers in Idaho have appeared in his stories. Later, from 1986 through 1988, Kent worked as a telemarketer selling TV Guide and Inc. Magazine. His years on the phone helped him develop an ear for speech patterns that has been well-reflected in dialog in his stories.

As a boy growing up in Honolulu in the 1960s, Kent developed a unique perspective. He spent hours torch fishing and skin diving.

In 1987, Kent reviewed the Stephen King novels Misery and The Eyes of the Dragon for the Seattle Times. A diehard Stephen King fan, Kent later admitted that he pitched the reviews to the Times so that he could afford to buy the books.

In 1993, upon returning to Seattle after a five-year absence, Kent pitched a review of 'virtual haunted houses' for the Halloween issue of the Seattle Times. He reviewed the games The Seventh Guest, Alone in the Dark, and Legacy. Not only did this review land Kent three free PC games, it started him on a new career path.

By the middle of 1994, when Kent found himself laid off from his job at a PR agency, he became a full-time freelance journalist. He wrote monthly pieces for the Seattle Times along with regular features and reviews for Electronic Games, CD Rom Today, ComputerLife, and NautilusCD. In later years, he would write for American Heritage, Parade, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and many other publications. He wrote regular columns for MSNBC, Next Generation, the Japan Times, and the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

In 2000, Kent self-published The First Quarter: A 25-year History of Video Games. That book was later purchased and re-published as The Ultimate History of Video Games by the Prima, Three River Press, and Crown divisions of Random House.

During his career as a games journalist, Kent wrote the entries on video games for Encarta and the Encyclopedia Americana. At the invitation of Senator Joseph Lieberman, Kent has spoken at the annual Report Card on Video Game Violence in Washington D.C.

In 2005, Kent announced his semi-retirement from video games so that he could concentrate on writing novels. Though he still writes a monthly column for Boy's Life, he has mostly concentrated his efforts on writing novels since that time. His first efforts in science fiction, The Clone Republic and Rogue Clone were published by Ace Book in 2006.

Despite his "retirement," Kent continues to write the occasional game article or review. His sixth novel, The Clone Empire was released in October, 2010, and a seventh novel is due in 2011.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ed Boon on November 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Incredible insight into the creation of some of the biggest video games. What's fascinating about this book are the revealing details behind the creation of these games. Having been in this business for 14 years, I was amazed with the amount of information that was acquired and only wish the book could have been even longer. Highly recommended!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ivan Shepperd on January 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a well researched book on the history of video games, starting from its roots. It is full, and I mean FULL, of anecdotes from the people who were there. The author does a good job of clarifying and expanding upon those stories.
I have a few quibbles: In the early '80s the author goes into great detail about Atari and even Coleco but doesn't cover Mattel's contribution enough. And later the Nintendo Game Boy is covered appropriately but the Sega Game Gear is hardly mentioned. There are also some minor formatting errors but my biggest gripe and the reason for 4 rather than 5 stars is the lack of an index. I don't think I've ever seen a nonfiction title like this one without an index. Want to find out who programmed Pac-Man? It's in the book but you won't find it easily. Still, I really enjoyed reading it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Not being able to find "The First Quarter" I emailed Mr. Kent. He told me that the book he wrote being published by Prima, "The Ultimate History of Video Games," was was a rewrite of "The First Quarter" with a little added material. (So if you're loooking for this one and can't find it there you go.) This was the most interesting book I've read in a long time. Reading the stories and history from an insider's perspective was truely fascinating. If you're a gamer I highly recommend this title.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Chris Peters on December 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book doesn't study video games so much as it studies the people who created them. That's a good thing, because the heroes of the early video gaming industry are fascinating. I'm talking about colorful personalities, cut-throat business deals, and bizarre corporate cultures. You'd think that these things would scare a fan away from the book, but I was only drawn in more. Author Steven Kent interlaces his words with hundreds of quotes from the very people he talks about.
This book gets 4 stars because it tries to do too much with too little space. The author himself admitted that he originally planned to end the book with the launch of the Sega Saturn and Playstation, but instead he carries the book through to just before the launch of the Playstation 2 - five years of intense history which deserve a book of their own. Kent should have saved these extra 80 or so pages and spent more time on the NES, Super NES, and Genesis. There were so many important games throughout video game history that Kent gives passing mention, or no mention at all.
As a side note, I was able to find ROMs on the internet of the very games Kent mentions, thus able to play video game history on my own PC. You can legally play these games if you delete them from your hard drive within 24 hours, so don't worry. Although they are incredibly easy and have terrible graphics by today's standards, they were still fun to play.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Stories have been floating around the video game business for years about Steven Kent's book on the history of video gaming. Now it's out, and it's everything I had hoped for.
Kent's book does more than just cover that dates and events in the history of the video game business. He brings to life the colorful characters who built it. He also let's his subjects tell their stories in their own words.
I've been in this business for over a decade, and can attest to the fact that Steven really captures his subject well. I even learned things for the first time about companies where I worked for years!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Ryan Arnold on January 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
As books on gaming history goes, this one is excellent. It does an extremely good job of meshing together concise narrative with compelling quotations from industry luminaries. Mr. Kent does a good job of distilling the chaotic early days of Arcade games and the eventual boom of home video game systems. His gift is for making connections between seemingly disperate events. I have read several books that chronical the early days of Atari, but few of them provide such a rich background as to the influences on Nolan Bushnell and his band of pot smoking, hot tub soaking programmer-savants.

My only caveat is that this book has been entirely reprinted as "The Ultimate History of Video Games". So closely do these two books resemble each other that there are a number of typos that passed from one book to the newer edition.

Had I known that "The Ultimate History of Video Games" was a reprint I wouldn't have had this so high on my Wish List. My girlfriend search and searched and picked this book up for 75 bucks on ebay. The bonus for me is that it was signed by Mr. Kent...and the signature is vague enough that I can go...oh yeah...I saw him at E3. I don't mind having both this book and the reprinting in my collection and if you to are building the definitive video game history library, you should get it otherwise...I'd say track down the "Ulitimate History of Video Games" and be confident that you aren't missing out on anything in this book.
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