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Customer Review

58 of 81 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great reference but disappointing..., October 27, 2010
This review is from: 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die (Hardcover)
This book really left me with very mixed feelings. It's a fantastic idea and it works great as a coffee table item but, overall, its actual execution left me disappointed.

The game reviews are written by several journalists and, when there are too many hands writing a book, a lack of consistency in style and quality becomes apparent. While most reviews are entertaining and some make you wish to really pick up a few old games that most people may have forgotten by now, the superficiality and lack of important information in others really left me appalled.

For example, take Atari's game Breakout. The review just quotes Nolan Bushnell as the one who came up with the original concept but completely forgets to mention that the actual game was designed by Steve Jobs and programmed by Steve Wozniak! This game is fundamental because it deeply influenced the whole computer industry as it inspired the development of the Apple II besides helping Jobs to kickstart Apple thanks to the thousands of dollar bonus he received from Atari! But all these important bits of information, which make the game unforgettable and worth playing today, are missing. Omissions like these are unforgivable, IMHO, and seriously compromise the value of the whole book.
But that's not all. While the selection of the actual 1001 titles is obviously subjective and I won't get into any debate on why they picked title X instead of Y, the book is obviously skewed towards very recent games: there are more than 100 entries from 2009 alone while there are only a few dozens from the classic days. Was 2009 the best creative year in the gaming industry? I doubt it.

Actually, now that I think about it, I have a comment about game X or game Y too :P In the foreword Peter Molineux quotes Ico as one of his favorites games (indeed, it's one of my favs too) but then Ico, while quoted in "Shadow of the Colossus", doesn't find a place for itself among the 1001 titles while, on the other hand, we have 8 (yes, eight!) Grand Theft Auto games! Can you believe it??

This book would have really been much, much better with a little more effort and research. What a pity.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 20, 2011 10:44:40 AM PST
Actually the history of Breakout is even more sordid. Jobs paid Wozniak to do the job, but then lied about the bonus Atari paid Jobs. Atari paid a bonus for every chip they could get under a fixed number. Wozniak did a brilliant design and earned a hefty bonus. Jobs lied about how much of a bonus he received (they were supposed to split it) and paid Wozniak even less than he originally promised. Jobs didn't use the money to start Apple, he took a vacation overseas with the money. Wozniak was inspired by the job and made the Basic in the Apple II computer able to make games of that level so the Apple II computer shipped with a version of Breakout called Brickout (I still have my copy) written in Apple Basic by Wozniak. Years later Wozniak found out that Jobs cheated him out of the bonus and they had a falling out over it (even though both were millionaires by the time Woz found out). Wozniak really never trusted or respected Jobs again.

Posted on Apr 3, 2011 1:13:26 PM PDT
A customer says:
Thank you for this very informative review. The descriptions of the book gave me the impression that it was a neat overview of videogame history, without any claim for completeness. That could have been a nice idea, and I was close to buying it. Thanks for pointing out the slants of this book. More than 10% of the most important games, 1971 to 2010, released in the year 2009? Hardly. I have also since seen a review with snapshots of some pages-Resistance 2, Modern Warfare 2, or Army of Two as absolute "must-play" titles? Well...

Thanks for your info on this book. I was looking forward to a nice, heavy-on-pictures and light-on-words, coffee table book on videogame history, as a whole. Guess that idea is still waiting to be realised. Let's hope for the next try.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 5, 2011 12:51:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 5, 2011 12:52:26 PM PDT
Strategos says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2011 7:56:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 22, 2011 9:21:28 PM PDT
Melante says:
Hey, thanks for the comments: I'm very happy to see so much attention for books about the old games we all loved so much years ago (and I didn't know Jobs was so mean to use those money for an overseas trip!!)

I love "High Score" too while I still have to read "All your base are belong to us", though my first impression is that it doesn't add much to "Replay".
Going back to "1001 Video Games you must play before you die" I maintain my view that is a great coffee table book but the lack of important information and bias towards modern games (and these are facts that can't be denied) don't make it a good encyclopedia.

Interestingly, I just came across another just published book ("The golden age of video games") that seems to cover the most important and influential games ever made while also telling the early history of the industry in a comprehensive and entertaining way despite being a fraction in size of other tomes on the subject... I guess I should write a review for it once I finish reading it.
In the meantime I also found another small book on the subject which seems worth of attention (but I didn't read it yet): "100 Computer Games to Play Before You Die".

Anyway, it seems video game nostalgia is really getting more and more widespread and we're getting more and mre good stuff to read ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2011 4:13:40 PM PDT
Another good book for those more interested in the history of game design and development, (rather than another history of the game industry), is Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time by Bill Loguidice & Matt Barton. I use this and The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven Kent as the required texts for a course I teach on the Evolution of Electronic Games.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 7:05:45 PM PDT
Melante says:
"Vintage Games" is a great book and one of my favorites too. On the other hand "The Ultimate History", while still entertaining, didn't really age well IMHO for a number of reasons. As a textbook, I'd say that "The Golden Age of Video Games" is a more logical choice and I guess it is indeed being used in game history classes at DigiPen, for example.

Posted on Aug 23, 2013 1:18:44 AM PDT
Aristotle says:
I couldn't agree with you more.
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