Replay: The History of Video Games Illustrated Edition
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"An amazing work. Comprehensive and wide ranging - yet engrossing and splendidly entertaining. If you read only one history of video games - Replay is it." --Eugene Jarvis, creator of Defender, Narc and Smash TV
"Tons of interviews with creators, a window into early US and Europe PC industry stuff I'd never read about before at all... very enjoyable and informative reading." --Christian Nutt, Gamasutra
"Tristan Donovan's account is the most comprehensive thus far...He details with great insight the people and events that led to what is the most powerful creative field today." --Richard Garriott (aka Lord British), designer of the Ultima series
I cant think of a reason that you shouldnt go and order a copy of it immediately...If you enjoy reading about games, theres absolutely no way that youre not going to find spending quality time with this rewarding. --Kieron Gillen, Rock Paper Shotgun
Whether you grew up with your eyes glued to Adventure or Super Mario Bros, with your hand around a joystick or inside a Nintendo Power Glove, this is one history lesson worth its weight in quarters. --Rob Lott, Bookgasm
Striking a near-perfect balance between art and commerce, Replay is the most comprehensive history of videogames so far. --Edge
Essential reading --GamesTM
About the Author
- Publisher : Yellow Ant; Illustrated edition (April 20, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 516 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0956507204
- ISBN-13 : 978-0956507204
- Item Weight : 1.66 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.29 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #370,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The only major drawback in my mind is that the book ends rather abruptly. I expected some sort of concluding chapter with Mr. Donovan’s grand-scale opinions on how games have shaped our society and vice-versa. Or an exposition on how hobbyists and enthusiastic geeks continue to wrestle control of a multi-billion-dollar industry back from suits and marketing types in a back-and-forth struggle for the soul and wallet of the gaming public. Instead, what we get is a line or two in the final chapter which falls just short of “Well...there you have it...history lesson is done; I’m going to go eat a bowl of soup now, so I guess we’ll chat later.” It almost seems as if the author tired of the subject, which is a shame.
This book is about 7 years old now, so a ‘v2.0’ would really work well if Mr. Donovan chose to update it. You could almost see him extending from the final chapter on independent studios into the rise of the App Store phenomena like Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, etc., and then move into accidental blockbusters like Minecraft and how the can function as gateways to coding for the next generation. It would also be nice to see subsequent chapters on the co-branding of media enterprises (e.g. Lego-based games seem to come out with every live-action movie title these days), the development of gaming as a televised and sponsored competitive endeavor, and maybe a better treatment of sporting games (which receive oddly light treatment here).
All in all, this is a book that opens with a lot of fun and excitement that eventually bogs down under the sheer weight of the subject’s history and infinite branching. Mr. Donovan begins with a historian’s interest in videogames’ origins, a nostalgist’ interest in the heady heydays of Atari and Nintendo, and a sociologist’s interest in the development of stylistic differences on a global basis. Although he eventually falls into a near-catalog of major turning points and low-grade back story, this is still far better-written and more-cohesive than any other gaming history I have read. I’d definitely recommend it to both the gaming enthusiasts and anyone interested in global pop culture.
And yet, it’s an absolutely essential read for anyone that wants to broaden his/her understanding of video games, and how they came to become what they are. Not only is it hands down the most interesting book I’ve read on the subject, it’s also one of my favorite non-fiction books of all time. A clear example of substance over style, if there ever was one.
Chronicling 40+ years of video game history will never be done comprehensively, even in 400 pages of dense text. But Replay is certainly the most convincing attempt at covering everything of importance. And it doesn't compromise on the width to achieve its remarkable depth. It's a history of video games, but it's also a history of the people who create them, of the hardware they run on, of the companies that make them their business, of the economic issues they had to face and of the social debates that games have raised. It gives balanced attention to the arcade and the home games. Even more remarkable, Replay is a true worldwide history, covering people and events in all the places that ever mattered for the hobby: the USA, Japan, Europe (the UK, of course, but you might be surprised to learn exactly how much happened in Spain, France or Eastern European countries), Russia... There's even a whole chapter dedicated to the very peculiar history of video games in South Korea. Very, very little bases are left uncovered.
The early history is told in an essentially chronological manner. It may be the most fascinating part of the book: it's an era of heroic deeds by individuals, or small groups, who single-handedly created games and/or game machines with the reluctant agreement of companies that believed so little in the projects that they only allocated pennies to them. An era of teenage boys creating both complex and surreal worlds in their basements, and then squeezing them into the very few kilobytes of memory available on the early home computers. If you're a younger video game player, this part will probably make you wish you were born sooner!
More recent times have seen the rise of bigger studios, with big-budget games rarey associated with a single creative mind, and the release of hundreds, if not thousands of games each year, render the chronological approach impractical. That's why Tristan Donovan logically switches to a more theme-centric discussion. Chapters in the second half of the book tend indeed to each focus on a couple of themes. At first, these themes appear unrelated, but he nonetheless always comes up with an elegant transition. Finally, the last chapter covers the rise of indie video games and we go sort of full circle, back to visionaries making the most of limited means. It has to be said that, being published in 2010, you won’t get coverage of the last three years.
Going back to the stylistic aspects, Donovan's writing is elegant and enjoyable. Many quotes from hundreds of interviews are interspersed within his narration, making the people come alive in the reader's mind. My one and only complaint with the book would be the rare but annoying grammatical errors. I'm talking about horrible, "could of been"-style errors that one can expect to find in a teenager's Facebook wall, but certainly not in an otherwise excellent history text.
Two large annexes close the book. The first is a "gameography", listing some 600 games by genre, with short comments. Many of those have already been discussed in the main text, but the annex's interest lies in its organisation: it's a sort of evolutionary tree, explaining, for example, when fighting games got split into the beat-em-up's and one-on-one fighting subgenres. The second annex lists all systems discussed in the text, with a definition in one or two sentences. It may occasionally come in handy, but is little more than a glossary.
Overall, Replay is about as perfect as a history of video games can be. It's pleasingly written and entertaining enough for the general public who would like to know more about the hobby. It's also deep and rigorous enough to satisfy the more scholarly-minded reader. In short, it's an essential read for most everyone.
The best asset is that it's not Americentric, and offers a great history of the European market, in particular. I found the details about the European hardware market, along with the history of European software developers (French Adventure gaming, for example) fascinating. Much of the European stuff was completely new material to me. The descriptions of the type of innovation or idiosyncrasies each nation tended to bring to gaming was also fascinating, since it shows how the different cultures contributed along the way.
Finally, for something being published in 2010, the book ends abruptly in the early 1990's. It's kind of jarring, because there are a lot of pages left and stories to tell. Unfortunately, the last 200+ (of 500 some) pages are not-very-interesting mind map of games and the hardware to play them. It's a shame, because two or three more chapters would have really rounded the book out.
Still, video games are embedded into our culture and there is room for many accounts of the first 50 years of this nascent art. This is definitely a worthwhile read, but probably not the ideal choice for someone looking for the 'comprehensive history' condensed into one book.
Top reviews from other countries
This isn't a bad book per se, just quite dull. It is basically a chronology from oscilloscope-based beginnings in the late 40's through to 2010. Everything is pretty much "x and y designed game z. They made or lost some / lots of money, then they left and formed a new company. Then a new kind of technology came along" - rinse and repeat for over 350 pages.
The author could have been discussing the development of the domestic vacuum cleaner, to be brutally honest.
It starts from the first hand built video game console cabinets and continues through to the era of the PS3 and XBox360, covering most if not all consoles in between. The history of PC gaming is also covered extensively.
There were also plenty of nostalgic moments for me as a long time gamer having started with the Commodore VIC20 who is still gaming today well into my 50s!
A well researched book that should appeal to all keen video game players.
Perhaps one day an updated, or dare I day, levelled up (sorry!) edition could include the development of gaming on your mobile phine and the advances in VR.
This book covers most of the games that I grew up, with the history behind them and the lead up the Video Games scene in 201Xs.
A great read, and I would hearty recommend it.