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Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution Hardcover – September 29, 2000
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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
About the Author
Stephen Poole is a journalist and writer who has contributed articles to the Guardian, the Independent, and the Times Literary Supplement and has worked as a composer for television and short films.
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It does an adequate job of describing the various genres of games, but if you've any experience at all with gaming, you'll find the first third of the book useless. I might recommend it to my grandfather to read as an overview, but no-one under 50.
Moving past the content, the writing style itself is horrid. It smacks of journalism school and grammatical showmanship. It swings wildly between "adverbially rich, and stuffily haughty" (a phrase one might expect to find in the book) and "tragically hip":...
And get your motion sickness bags out for this beauty on the subject of realism in games:...
Bottom line: it's just not a good read. I couldn't get past the writing style to enjoy the content, which, from what I could see, covered a hodge-podge of topics to an apparently random depth, leaving you wanting more at times and starved for the next chapter at others.
Unless your granparents are curious about why you spend so much time with videogames, pass this one up. For the love of Mike, pass it up.
I'm a game player, but nowhere near the enthusiast that
many young men (and women, says author Poole) have
become today. I don't own an expensive home system,
unless you count my computer, but I am old enough to
remember most of the video game revolution of the 70's.
I found `Trigger Happy' a little too dedicated to the
examination of form (and only a few sorts of forms at
Some of Poole's conclusions about the psychology behind
game-playing and game-evolution are interesting, but others
are downright tedious. (The evolution and complex
significance of the power up?) More interesting areas are
available that he jumps over, unless a companion effort is
in the making. There should be more testimony here. From
gamers, addicts, designers, doctors, marketers, Hollywood,
you name it.
Video games are huge, will become more huge, and might
some day begin playing us, who knows? As a person with a
possible future endlessly jumping over flaming barrels, I'd
like something a little more substantial.
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.
Trigger Happy succeeds because Poole examines games in much greater depth than any of his contemporaries. He looks at how games are made. He examines game players -- from a cross cultural perspective, and then he looks at the games themselves, applying literary, philosophical, and semiotic analysis to games. The book is thorough and well thought out -- enough that it could be used in an academic context. Fortunately, Poole doesn't lose the reader in technical jargon or philosophical babble; he keeps the focus squarely on the games, and what makes games fun.
More than any other published book to date, Trigger Happy lays the foundation for a field of electronic gaming criticism. Steven Poole gives great insight into what makes a great game, and offers the reader a useful set of conceptual tools to understand games. Although, Poole's goal is not really to provide an academic treatise, Trigger Happy is so articulate, so original, that it succeeds as an academic work as well as entertainment. Of course, there are minor details that the reader may quibble with - but engaging in a dialogue with Poole about games is half the fun of reading this book. If you're looking for thoughtful look at the games that entertain us...that make us Trigger Happy, you can't miss this book.