Customer Reviews: The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon June 5, 2012
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.

The games are sorted by eras, starting from Atari's first game Combat in 1997 to 2009 with Flower developed by thatgamecompany. In each era, the games are strangely not ordered strictly to chronological order. The most recent game featured is actually Heavy Rain from 2010, before Flower as it appears in the book.

Each game has a writeup of around 3-4 paragraphs on one page. That is too brief to cover the game history, design concept, game play and technology. The criteria for the included titles are there, but they aren't justified in the text. Games released around the same time usually are similarly impressive in visuals. For example, not mentioned was Valkyria Chronicles which has an unique hand drawn art direction. Okami was included though. Because it sold better?

Screenshots are too few to give enough context on why each game is so visually spectacular. The included ones are not the best representatives of the games. The really old games are redrawn to look sharp, such as that on the book cover. New game graphics are still alright. It's those games in between that are bad as they cannot be redrawn, and don't have enough resolution to look good. I don't think it can be helped because of the nature of game graphics at that time but at least more should have printed at smaller sizes. If this book is about the art, I want to see more art from each game.

Also included are interviews with some game makers. Unless they introduce themselves, you won't know their role or the company they work for. A one-sentence short profile is missing. Sometimes I only get the context of what they are talking about after reading halfway in.

There are many other things I was expecting but not found in the book. There's no mention of games on handheld game devices, art direction taken by big games, newer ways of creating realistic animation like using motion capture such as in Uncharted 2, etc. Visual effects are limited by hardware but the book does not have any commentary on the systems that run these games. So there's no context on what's possible and impossible with each new hardware releases. There's also nothing about creating game music. But I guess we're talking about visual arts rather than the art form of games.

Gamers will expect more from the book. It lacks the breath and depth to cover a subject as vast as video games. It doesn't help when there are no compelling justification on why some game titles are included. Overall, a missed opportunity.
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on August 25, 2015
I was pissed. Got my copy. About half-way through, I had a bunch of missing pages. Amazon was no help, but I found one of the authors (Chris) on Twitter, and he got me through. Amazon sent a fresh and complete book.

The book is beautiful. It is an art book. Your friends will like it. It covers console video games, but no arcade games. Although the copy deals with arcade stuff too. It's a perfect book to read and display in your game room. Fun to flip through after you read from cover-to-cover. Highly recommended for a gaming library.
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on March 31, 2012
[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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on June 2, 2012
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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on April 18, 2015
My Husband and I saw this exhibit at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA and it was spectacular. I knew I had to own the book. Having the book is almost like having the exhibit in your hands. Although the exhibit used screens, artifacts, and interactive pieces (i.e. games you could play), the book captures the written portion and the overall feeling of the exhibit. With glossy pages and a unique organization system, it is clear much thought went into this book. The authors did a good job of harnessing and expression the idea that video games are more than just games, but an art form that incorporates the best thing about books, films, and technology. I agree. I enjoyed reading the history of the video game. And although they left out several of my favorites (World of Warcraft and Mortal Kombat), I see why they chose the games they did. A must read for any video game fan!
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on August 26, 2016
This is an excellent book, and a delightful visual guide to the progress of video game art through the last 40 or so years. It is written with passion and visually engaging. It's also very informative and includes interviews with many early video game programmers. It makes for a great coffee table book, and if you are someone who is amazed at the evolution of video game art like I am, this is a great addition to yor library.

Overall I love it, but here are some things I was slightly disappointed with.
• The book deals with home consoles only. It only references arcade games at times, in passing. I felt this was super relevant to the subject matter. The first chapter should have been on the huge arcade culture of the 70's & 80's.
• Some gamers will be disappointed that certain groundbreaking or inspirational video games are not included, but with that being said, the book does a very good job picking out the gems from thousands of titles and fitting them cohesively into this book. There are a lot!
• I felt some of the art deserved better arrangements and screenshots. Everything in here looks great, but some of the games have more iconic or impressive art in them than was selected. Also, there is no arcade cabinet art, cover art, and no concept art / game design sketches. Admittedly, this is a lot to ask, but I feel it all encompasses the big picture of video game art.

With that being said, this book still outweighs those nitpicks as a stunning visual guide, and yes you will probably pick up a little nostalgia as you flip through the pages. Enjoy! :-)
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This book makes an awesome coffee table book. The production is slick and professional. I own several other similar books, and I can say that this one is perhaps the best at really capturing the flavor and art of the classic videogame era. Incredible color photos and high-quality prints populate this hefty publication. The book isn't free, but I definitely feel that I got my money's worth. For geeks and nerds like me, you will love the book. HIGHLY recommended for the right audience!
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on September 4, 2013
This book is presented and displayed amazingly. The backgrounds, fonts, color schemes, and overall look of it is graceful and beautiful from start to finish. It represents decades of art from many games and information on each one that shows Chris Melissinos' love for the medium, and a true taste of gamings struggle for recognition for what it reall is, and that is art. Great reading or collectible piece, I recommend this to gamers, readers, artists, and anyone appreciative of expressive narrative in a museum quality works.
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on April 26, 2012
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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on March 16, 2012
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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