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20 Books About Video Games You Should Read

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Video games have indeed, turned into crucial elements of pop-culture. They have been on a commercial run for more than half a decade, with hundreds of titles recognized by admirers.

The video games industry has undergone zig-zags throughout the ages. It began with a sudden picking of its market in the 1970s due to a spike of people’s interest to purchase home-consoles, or visiting the closest arcade center to inspect this new form of entertainment.

Starting with a few makers during its experimental stage, gaming turned out to be the go-to refuge for fresh programmers trying to get employed, and/or try something new. It led to the emergence of third-party game developers, and after a certain point, their numbers as individual companies skyrocketed.

Then, in the early ’80s, there was a crash in the video games market due to an unforeseen glut in competition, and the introduction of PC. The industry recuperated in the ’90s and shortly underwent a boom.

This summary is nothing but a tip of the iceberg, compared to a plethora of information about video games out there. When you delve deep into one aspect, you uncover a cavern of knowledge about something else. Probably something bigger, and the cycle of discoveries become endless.

Video games are often construed as a form of entertainment, but when studied or researched upon just to enhance one’s knowledge over a subject in which he/she can personally relate to some interests, the person evolves from a fan to an enthusiast.

Here are 20 books about video games you need to read, as an ardent ‘phile’ of the subject.

1) Retro Gaming: A Byte-Sized History Of Video Games

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Image Credits: Amazon

A compact, easily readable compilation of all-time greats; alongside just a handful of humorous (in hindsight) lows. Containing details from over forty years of the arcade, computer, console, and handheld titles, which were highly sought after by gamers. From Atari’s arcade classics and home games consoles of the 1970s to the introduction of SEGA’s Tetris and Sonic, and the erstwhile release Halo and Tomb Raider, this book summarizes the significant, research and revolutions that have made the video games industry worth over a $100 billion today. For those who once were gamers but got preoccupied with life’s unfair endeavors, this is a perfect piece of literature to reignite their love for the subject.

2) The CRPG Book

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Image Credits: Bitmap Books

Published by Bitmap Books, the Computer Role-Playing Games (CRPG) is quite a special read. Spread over more than 500 pages, The CRPG Book: A Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games reviews over 400 seminal games from 1975 to 2015, covering the role-playing classics we all know and love such as Ultima, Wizardry, Fallout, and Mass Effect – all brought to life with vibrant and engaging in-game images. The book was written by fans, AAA and Indie developers, journalists, modders, and industry personalities such as Chris Avellone, Ian Frazier, Scorpia, Ferhegón, Richard Cobbett, Brian ‘Psychochild’ Green, Durante, George Weidman, and Tim Cain, to name but a few. with lots of hi-res photography, interesting interviews, and awesome in-game screenshots, this is a must-read for all lovers of Role-Playing Games.

3) The NES Encyclopedia

Image Credits: Amazon

A very enjoyable read about one of the most-loved consoles from the ’80s by Chris Scullion. The NES, being one of the most iconic video game systems of all time, is known as the tide-turner of the American video games industry back during the period, when it was suffering from the crash. It covers all 714 officially licensed NES games, and also more than 160 unlicensed games released during the system’s lifespan, giving for the first time a definitive history of this important console’s full library. With Nintendo launching an ever-growing library of classic NES games for download on the Switch (Nintendo’s current gaming console), a new audience of gamers is discovering the intricacies of NES for the first time.

4) Sega Master System: A Visual Compendium

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Image Credits: SEGADriven

Another amazing published piece from Bitmap Books, this is a beautiful compendium with gorgeous photography, lavish pixel-art, and detailed insight into swathes of the old SEGA Systems’ video games. The Master System was originally released as SEGA Mark III in 1985 (in Japan) and was a direct competitor of Nintendo’s Famicom video game console (called home system back then). The book, officially licensed by SEGA, is the first book of this kind to be released for the Master System console. The library of games on the Master System, though modest in volume, is still packed full of quality and gives out fun descriptions of video gaming’s most iconic franchises, such as Alex Kidd, Fantasy Zone, Shinobi, and Phantasy Star. And oh! It comes with a lenticular heavy board slipcase and also 3D Glasses!

5) The Nostalgia Nerd’s Retro Tech

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Image Credits: Goodreads

Everything from the Magnavox Odyssey to Microsoft’s Xbox, the book provides an introduction to almost every significant console which was/ is in the market, including franchises that you used to love (and possibly still do), history, some nice photography, and a range of games to see, play and avoid. An explosion of computers, consoles, and video games was genuinely unlike anything the tech world has seen before or since, and the ’80s was a frontier for these events to take place at a fast, consistent pace. This thoroughly researched book will take you through a geek-induced trip down memory lane, putting together the most entertaining stories from the era, and brings you the classic 8-bit tech that should never be forgotten for what it is: a revolution.

Also read: Ascadia and the Other Mystery Seekers of SotC 

6) Blood, Sweat, and Pixels

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Image Credits: Goodreads

In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier writes about many more modern-day titles with a focus on the enormous human cost it takes to make almost every game you love. The creative and technical logistics that go into building today’s hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. Whether Indie or triple-A, and how unsustainable that may be for the industry as a whole. Documenting the 24-hour time crunches, red-eyed burnouts, and last-minute saves, the book will buy you a journey through development hell—and ultimately a tribute to the dedicated diehards and unsung heroes who scale mountains of obstacles in their quests to create the imaginably best games that exist.

7) The Comic Book Story of Video Games

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Image Credits: Target

Writer Jonathan Hennessey and illustrator Jack McGowan present the first colorful, chronological, and complete origin and history of video games in a beautifully illustrated fashion. The key highlights are the machines, games, and people, who have helped gaming turn into a worldwide billion-dollar industry. Readers will find everything they need to know about video games, including chief topics such as their early beginnings during World War II, the rolling of arcade games in the 1970s, and Nintendo’s boom, to today’s app-based games like Angry Birds and Pokemon Go. This book focuses on the innovators in the gaming industry, along with the devices and games that have been the most influential, and has become a worldwide bestseller.

8) Masters of Doom

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Image Credits: Kobo

It’s exactly what the second part of the book’s name says: “How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture.” The story of the makers of Doom and Quake, history’s most notoriously successful video game franchises. A groundbreaking true story of how they lived a unique and rollicking American Dream, by escaping the broken homes of their youth to co-create those games, until they eventually tore them apart. Masters of Doom is the first book to chronicle the video games industry’s greatest story, written by one of the medium’s leading observers. David Kushner takes readers inside the rags-to-riches adventure of two rebellious entrepreneurs who came of age to shape a generation. The vivid portrait reveals why their games are so violent and why their immersion in their brilliantly designed fantasy worlds offered them solace.

9) Jacked: The Outlaw Story Of Grand Theft Auto

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In another brilliant piece of Kushner, Jacked tells the turbulent and mostly unknown story of Grand Theft Auto’s (GTA) wildly ambitious creators, Rockstar Games. Alongside some description of the invention franchise and its evolution, the book mainly focuses on the cultural and political backlash it has provoked. How its release has become a lightning rod of debate, by spawning accusations of ethnic and sexual discrimination, glorifying violence, and ‘inspiring’ people to incite real-life crimes. The book also describes how GTA, though being the biggest and the most controversial videogame franchises of all time since its first release in 1997, has pioneered the use of everything from 3D graphics to the voices of top Hollywood actors and repeatedly transformed the world of gaming.

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10) Stay Awhile and Listen

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Two companies. Two opposing cultures. And a multi-billion-dollar video-game empire. Composed by David Craddock through conducting a painstaking amalgamation of exhaustive research, and hundreds of personal interviews the book speaks of How Two Blizzards (Blizzard and Blizzard North) unleashed Diablo, the clashes that tore them apart, and their transformation from grassroots democracy to forging a video game empire. It is a story of two companies where every employee worked almost constantly in crunch mode for years, including weekends, in order to complete videogame ports so they could (try to) focus on their own games. Other than interviews and notes, it also some interesting geek details like how the design of Diablo evolved. A great piece for all Diablo fans, devs, and gamers in general.

11) Console Wars

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Image Credits: Goodreads

By Blake J. Harris, Console Wars explores the actual rivalry between the Nintendo and Sega corporations that took place in the early ’90s. The battle was vicious, eventually sparking a global corporate war that would be fought on several fronts: from living rooms and schoolyards to boardrooms and Congress. It was a war of lawsuits. Sega, a small, scrappy gaming company led by an unlikely visionary and a team of rebels, took on the mega-corporation Nintendo and revolutionized the video game industry because the latter had a virtual monopoly on the video games industry, due to its patented technology. It had the potential to leave a lot of makers into obsolescence. The book is based on over two hundred interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees.

12) The Ultimate History of Video Games

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Image Credits: Goodreads

Steven L Kent in this engrossing book, reveals the incredible tale of how video games have transformed into a cultural phenomenon. Through meticulous research and personal interviews with hundreds of industry experts, the reader will seep in firsthand accounts of how yesterday’s games like Space Invaders, Centipede, and Pac-Man helped create an arcade culture that defined a generation, and how today’s empires like Sony, Nintendo, and Electronic Arts have galvanized a multibillion-dollar industry and a new generation of games. Many have called this to be the bible of video game enthusiasts, for the right reason that is. A beautiful piece of literature for anyone who has made a character move on the screen, with the help of a few buttons.

13) Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered the World

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Image Credits: Amazon

By now, you must’ve seen at least three books on the list that take a gander on Nintendo. But that’s the beauty of gaming when it comes to endlessness, when it comes to anecdotes from unmentioned experts. It’s a research of its own for readers, but rewarding. Written by David Sheff, the book talks about Nintendo’s fascinating origin story. Published in the mid-90s, the interviews are fresh from its time, and many of the key players were still in their roles when it was being written. The book primarily focuses on the story of Nintendo in America, but there’s plenty of attention devoted to the Japanese branch when needed. Sheff does a fantastic job humanizing the key players of the story, with a number of their personal stories interspersed with the overarching business narrative.

14) Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life

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Image Credits: Booktopia

Written by Chris Kohler, is a unique book that gives readers an entertaining and authoritative look at the indelible influence of video games, particularly Japanese gaming, that has given out to the world. Power-Up is the first English-language work of its kind to examine the reasons behind the success of Japanese video games, rather than focusing on the history of video games. Interviews, anecdotes, and personal accounts offer insights from giants of the industry, including Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, and others involved in the creation of Donkey Kong, Mario, Pokémon, and other games about how Japanese video games turned out to be a worldwide sensation. This enjoyable and informative survey explores the reasons, starting with how Japanese developers raised the medium to an art form. The book also traces the ways in which the developers’ ideas infused popular culture beyond the gaming world.

15) Replay: The History of Video Games

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Image Credits: Vgfaq

Replay is Tristan Donovan’s superb work on the global history of video games. He examines all facets of the history of the industry from the PC to Consoles to Handhelds across the globe. To map out gaming in a comprehensive, yet simple manner is a Herculean task just to hint at the scope and size of this billion-dollar behemoth of an industry. this engrossing work manages to touch on every vital facet of the industry, from the formative battles between Atari and Mattel, through the rise of the home computer to the emergence of the Japanese home console empire. Based on extensive research and over 140 exclusive interviews with key movers and shakers from gaming’s past, the book tells the sensational story of how game designers gave rise to one of the world’s most popular and dynamic art forms.

16) All Your Base Are Belong to Us

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Over the last fifty years, video games have grown from curiosities, fads, and trends to one of the world’s most popular forms of entertainment. But as the industry grows in numerous directions and everyone talks about the advance of the moment, few explore and seek to understand the forces behind this profound evolution. Through the stories of gaming’s greatest innovations and most beloved creations, journalist Harold Goldberg helps us explore the creativity, controversy, and passion behind the market’s dramatic rise to the top of pop-culture’s peak. From the eye-opening story of Dr. Pajitnov, Ralph Baer’s experiments, and the history of Stella, which later was rechristened as the Atari Home Entertainment System, the book covers many monumental incidents which have contributed to the growth of gaming.

17) The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia

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Image Credits: Amazon

This book published by Dark Horse comics (also teamed up by Nintendo) is a New York Times best-seller. Starting with an insightful introduction by the legendary producer and video-game designer of Donkey Kong, Mario, and The Legend of Zelda, Shigeru Miyamoto, this book is crammed full of information about the storied history of Link’s adventures from the creators themselves! Hyrule Historia features concept art, the official history of the world of Hyrule, and the work of a pair of Japanese manga artists, who go by the pen name of Akira Himekawa. Their combined previous manga works include The Dragon Dreams of Twilight (2011), Astro Boy (2003), The Legend of Zelda manga adoptions, and more. It’s one of those video game which made Nintendo what it is today.

18) Super Mario Encyclopedia

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Image Credits: Slideshow Collectibles

The Super Mario Encyclopedia is jam-packed with content from 17 Super Mario games and spans more than 30 years of the franchise’s history. Track the evolution of the Goomba, witness the introduction of Yoshi, and relive your favorite levels. This tome also contains an interview with producer Takashi Tezuka, tips to help you find every coin, star, sun, and mushroom–even explanations of glitches! With information on enemies, items, obstacles, and worlds from over thirty years of Mario, Super Mario Encyclopedia is the definitive resource for everything Super Mario. A really cool collectible, and also a treasure trove of information about the backgrounds of all characters in Mario games, this would be an amazing addition to the shelves of all gamers.

19) Mega Man: Official Complete Works

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With over 100 video games to his name, Mega Man (introduced as Rock Man in the Japanese market) is one of the most recognizable icons of gaming. Mega Man: Official Complete Works showcases 20 years of artwork from this classic series and features character designs, box art, promo art, and loads of rarely seen art pieces. Accompanying the designs are a lot of quotes from Japanese artists. They talk about the characters, ideas, and you can gain some interesting insight into their working environment. The lore of this franchise is known, but less looked upon due to the unavailability of the game’s earlier materials, mostly due to the lack of internet when the first few titles came out. The book’s a great tribute for Mega Man.

20) Art Of Atari

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Since its formation in 1972, Atari pioneered hundreds of iconic titles including Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. Creator Tim Lapetino is seeking to collect all of the 136 cover artworks that Atari commissioned for the boxes of its console games during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He worked with artists like Steve Hendricks and Cliff Spohn to gather the art, and to figure out what their particular manner of painting means today. One of the reasons the art is still eye-catching is because Atari spent millions on its packaging. The games themselves were considered marvels at the time, but visually, they were ultra-simple. Atari’s packaging connected the blocky graphics to more mainstream ideas about entertainment fantasies. ART OF ATARI includes behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived of, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life. A perfect addition to all gamers’ repertoire.

Ideas and materials sourced from Polygon, Forbes, IGN, Amazon, and Gamesradar

Written by Pramshu Peri