The Origin of the RPG has some good ideas, and the author has a lot of passion for the subject. They put a lot of time into writing this, but it needs more structure and an editor. While reading this, I wondered what I was supposed to take away from it. What were the two or three things the author wanted me to learn?
The other history books I’ve read tell a story. They start with some important people and then build off them to show the reader how they impacted history. Some of that is here, but it isn’t coherent enough to matter, especially when the book moves into the mid to late-80s.
The author doesn’t cite his sources, aside from the occasional footnote for pictures. I also couldn’t see how the first part related to the rest of the book. William Gamson is brought up and never referred to after the first chapter. This was odd, as I would have thought this would be a theme in the book. I was expecting this to tie the story together, but it isn’t all that relevant to the origin of the RPG.
It Needs to be Polished
The author is trying to write a history of RPGs, specifically focusing on video games. On top of that, the book tracks the genre changes during the 70s and 80s. However, those themes are muddled and need to be clearer as it meanders from game to game.
This would be better if the book were broken up into sections. Maybe talk about the different studies about Play (Huizinga, Gee, and Gamson), then transition into Dungeons & Dragons and the other tabletop RPGs. That sets up the origin and lets you transition into the early mainframe computer games.
While a timeline is in the book, it isn’t clear why some games are being written about. The author is taking examples to help explain something. However, that something isn’t always clear and often gets lost because of confusing terminology. The text needs to be polished as it is hard to read.
I found something here extremely interesting and was disappointed that the author didn’t expand on it. Bokosuka Wars is brought up. This is a game that I didn’t know much about, and I think it would have been a good pivot point to talk about RPGs being made outside of North America. That doesn’t happen, though, as it is used as an example of the RPG branching into different subgenres.
When discussing video games, fans and historians bring a regional bias to their work. Someone from North America will talk about the games made there and might not bring up games made in Europe or Japan. While they might not be related to the origin of a specific genre, there were games made outside of North America, and they can point to a simultaneous invention. The subject needs more study, and I’m not expecting this book’s author to bring everything together.
All of the parts of a good book are here. The author is passionate about the subject, they have done a good amount of research into it, and it could be good if it were edited and structured differently. I like the idea of exploring the origins of a genre of video games. However, this book needs a lot of work to achieve what its author wants it to do.
None of the information is sourced in this book. This usually happens with a self-published book about history. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen, and I doubt it will be the last time.
There is a chance that the author didn’t know how to cite sources. It probably wasn’t all that important to them, so they didn’t do it. They could have thought this was common knowledge and didn’t need to be cited. This is a thing, by the way. If something is considered to be common knowledge, it doesn’t need to be sourced. People know the Titanic hit an iceberg, and you don’t need to cite news articles about the event.
I don’t think video games fall into that category, especially when discussing obscure games programmed on a PLATO computer. It would also be nice to know where the sales figures are coming from and how the author defines “popular ” when talking about a video game only on college mainframe computers with limited access.
Not having sources bothered me a lot. It wasn’t the biggest problem I had with the book. There are more significant issues that should be fixed before addressing not having sources.
What it Could Have Been
This could have been a good book that explains where RPG video games began. It tries to be that and scratches the surface of the genre’s origin. However, it doesn’t dig deep enough to explain the origins or their impact fully.
All of the parts of making a book that outlines a chronology of RPG video game is here, but it isn’t as coherent as it needs to be. Too much time is spent on games that don’t point to the origin of the genre, and the success of those titles isn’t put in the proper context. Further revisions and more research can correct this.
This book can be what the author set out to achieve. What it needs to do is pick one idea and see that idea to its conclusion. Does it want to be a chronological story of the evolution of the RPG genre, or does it want to explore the origins of the genre? It doesn’t need to do both, and it becomes somewhat incoherent by trying to do both.
There is potential in this book. The author cares about the subject and is trying to write a good book. However, this version of it isn’t very good. All the parts are there, but they aren’t arranged in a way that makes sense.
In some ways, it reminded me of books written by Jamie Lendino. While Jamie’s books are written better, they are structured in a similar way. I think it would be a good idea for the author to rework this book in that format. Have an introduction section explaining what happened in a specific period, and then move into the games from that period and talk about why they’re important to the story.
I wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, it had too many problems. If it was edited and structured differently, it could be a good book.