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Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution Paperback – September 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559705981
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559705981
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,272,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Steven Poole's substantial examination of the world inside your console combines an exhaustive history of the games industry with a subtle look at what makes certain kinds of games more engaging than others. For example, what works in which genres--the RPG (role-playing game) versus the god game--and the relationship of video games to other forms of media.

A writer and composer, Poole makes the case that video games--like films and popular music--deserve serious critical treatment: "The inner life of video games--how they work--is bound up with the inner life of the player. And the player's response to a well-designed video game is in part the same sort of response he or she has to a film, or to a painting: it is an aesthetic one." Trigger Happy is packed with references not just to games and game history but also to writers and theorists who may never have played a video game in their lives, from Adorno and Benjamin to Plato. At times this approach verges on the pedantic, dwelling at length on points that will seem obvious to serious gamers ("We don't want absolutely real situations in video games. We can get that at home"; "The fighting game, like fighting itself, will always be popular"). Nonetheless, Poole's book may be favored bedside reading for both the keen gamer and the armchair philosopher looking to understand this cultural phenomenon. --Liz Bailey, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steven Poole is a journalist and writer who has contributed articles to the Guardian, the Independent, and the Times Literary Supplement. He has also worked as a composer for television and short films.

More About the Author

Steven Poole is an English writer, and the author of You Aren't What You Eat, Unspeak, and Trigger Happy.

Customer Reviews

Simply one of the best books I've ever read.
Jasper Milvain
Poole argues convincingly that video games are a putative art form, and supports this fascinating thesis through reference to literature, drama, art and film.
Izhbin Huad
We don't care about a place if we just wander around shooting things in it.
Peter Tupper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Tupper on July 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
An intelligent, broad ranging discussion of videogames. Poole is right to regard videogames as a medium, and one that needs to be evaluated on its own terms instead of compared with books or movies. He brings in an intriguing array of references on art, semiotics, literary theory and other topics to the discussion, and his writing is accessible and smooth.

The flaw in this book is focussing too narrowly on twitch games, mostly the combat/exploration games like Tomb Raider or Metal Gear Solid. Poole can't be bothered with god-games like Populous or Sim-City or pure exploration-puzzle games like Myst, and says as much. He misses out on a huge realm of other styles of game and playing experience. This is a shame, because Poole looks like he has the intellectual chops to write a comprehensive book on this subject.

Pool is on to something in the last chapter, when he theorizes that the next frontier is making the player feel responsible for his decisions in the game world. You might feel bad when Aeris buys it in Final Fantasy VII, but it was in a cut scene so you don't feel responsible because it was beyond your control.

For the reasons Poole discusses earlier, this is hard to do in an adventure-style game. If a character dies in a cut scene, it isn't your fault. If she dies in gameplay, you just keep playing it through until she lives. (Kirk didn't accept the no-win situation; why should you?)

However, this is where his distaste for god-games trips him up. Players of Civilization or other management games don't have easy replay buttons. Anybody whose sim-city burns because they under-funded the fire department knows all about actions and consequences. We care about a place if we build it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Squire on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With Trigger Happy, Steven Poole offers a critical look at the aesthetic history of games. To the informed reader of gaming literature, this subject matter may sound vaguely familiar: Another journalist - game aficionado writes a personal history of games based on personal reflections, email interviews with industry insiders, and the obligatory field trip to E3. Great. , I already read JC Herz's Joystick Nation four years ago; why should I read this? I'll have to admit that after reading Jon Katz' latest "up up down down", piece which discusses Trigger Happy, I was prepared to be disappointed. If all that Katz took away from the book was that games are an important part of contemporary culture, the electronic entertainment industry is as big as the movie industry, and Lara Croft has a hot body, then reading Trigger Happy would be a waste of time.
Thankfully, Trigger Happy is more than an update of Joystick Nation; in fact, Trigger Happy is the most thorough deconstruction of the games themselves written to date while retaining the same witty, irreverent style that made Joystick Nation so engaging. Poole offers a fresh, entertaining, and insightful look at games that is accessible to novices and seasoned gamers alike. At its heartTrigger Happy is an aesthetic history of games, tracing their development from primitive black and white 2 player games into complex popular-art accomplishments. Poole, a journalist, writer, and composer brings a keen eye (and ear), to his subject matter, interweaving semiotics, personal history, critical analysis, and a love for games into a creative, cleverly written aesthetic discussion of games. In doing so, he raises the ante for game designers, critics and aficionados looking to examine games as an art-form.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Pai on March 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"If architecture is frozen music, then videogames are liquid architecture."
Poole gives us a series of essays that take a serious look at videogames. What kind of artform are they? How have they drawn influence from, and influenced, more traditional artforms like movies and novels? Not all of Poole's insights are revolutionary, but he's obviously a bright guy who's not afraid to drag out the heavy hitters (Adorno, Wittgenstein) when he needs to. Nevertheless "Trigger Happy" has a light touch; it's easy to read and quite entertaining. Poole isn't just an armchair theorist; the games that he holds in high regard (e.g. Metal Gear Solid, Wipeout XL, Space Invaders) are all standouts, and he writes about them with obvious affection.
I particularly enjoyed the section where Poole contemplates future possibilities for gaming. He points out that, just as advancements in art through the ages were initially characterized by increasingly 'realistic' representation techniques (e.g. vanishing horizon, perspective), so are videogame graphics advancements characterized by increased realism. But while art branched off into abstraction, impressionism, etc., videogames have so far avoided similar exploration. To put it in a nutshell-- why aren't there more games that let you move around in an MC Escher type space?
The hilarious analysis of laser weapon verisimilitude in videogames is priceless.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tom DiCillo on February 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you love games like I do - I've been playing 'em all my life, and developing 'em for 6 years - you *need* to read this book. I've never read such a fascinating angle on gameplaying, situating video games in an illuminating context among art, cinema and books, and doing some really excellent thinking about how they work on your mind. This book was like a breath of fresh air to me.
I gotta defend the author too against the factually incorrect attacks by a reviewer below. The reviewer says: "this man touches very lightly the fact that videogames came into fruition and refinement in Japan". Hey, Poole rightly points out that Taito saved the gaming industry with Space Invaders, he calls Miyamoto "the god of videogames", and most of the games he says are great - Metal Gear Solid, Zelda 64, etc - are Japanese. What more do you want? Jeez, of course this reviewer says he didn't even finish reading the book! Don't listen to him. Buy Trigger Happy: you won't regret it.
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