Many books about video games have been released in the last decade. I’ve been reading many of them over the last five years. There have been some good books and some not-so-good ones.
It can be hard to know where to start regarding books about video games. There are novels, historical books, and autobiographies. It can be a bit daunting.
Here is a short list of some books I think are worth reading. Think of this as a summer reading list. I’m still reading one of the books on this list. The other four are the books that I enjoyed reading. There is also a list of other books to check out.
From Pinball to Pixels by Ken Horowitz
This book covers the pinball and video game companies in Chicago. These companies have been very influential in the arcade industry for decades, and I’m glad that Ken has brought their history together in this book. The four companies, Bally, Midway, Williams, and Gottlieb, made iconic games over the years.
I’m glad that a book like this exists. I’ve read bits of these companies’ history in multiple books. Some have been focused on one series of games, or they have been autobiographies about one of the developers that worked there. Having the story in one place is excellent.
At the time of writing this, I’m still reading this book. It is terrific so far (About 100 pages in), and I’m looking forward to finishing it. Ken has written several detailed books about Sega, and I’m glad he has written about these companies.
Golden Eye 007 by Alyse Knorr
This was a great book. Alyse goes over the story of Rare and the development of Golden Eye for the N64. There is a lot of nostalgia in this book, and it brought up many memories of playing the game with my friends.
The story of Golden Eye’s development is fascinating. It is described as a AAA game made like an Indie game. The team was inexperienced and made some mistakes along the way. They were given the freedom to try things and experiment, resulting in an excellent game. While it doesn’t hold up as well today, it did create many things that would become standard in first-person shooters today.
Alyse tells the story of this game and the other James Bond video games very well. The book is excellent and brings up a lot of nostalgia for Golden Eye. It was also nice to hear about the single-player mode, as I only remember the multiplayer modes. It is a great book!
Minesweeper by Kyle Orland
This was a book that I wasn’t expecting. Minesweeper is a simple game that was given away for free back in the 90s. It might even have been the first PC game that many people played due to it coming with Windows. I remember playing it and returning to the vastly superior Rattler Race.
In this book, Kyle gives the reader an extensive history of the game. Minesweeper is one of those stories that included several other stories. Each of them is fascinating on its own and is needed to tell the whole history of Minesweeper.
The part of this book that I found interesting was the talk about the high-score community. It wasn’t something I expected, but it was fascinating. The problems that the community ran into when tracking high scores is gone over. I liked this part; it leads into the clones and remakes of the game.
This is a book that I had no idea I wanted. Minesweeper is a simple game that has a ton of history connected to it. It was a fantastic book to read.
Sid Meier’s Memoir! by Sid Meier
This was the first in a series of autobiographies about people in the video game industry that I’ve read in recent years. It seems they started coming out just before the Covid 19 pandemic started. This book tells the story of the creator of Civilization and many other classic PC games.
You learn a lot about Sid’s life and his philosophy for making video games. He didn’t throw anything away and would follow an idea to its end to see if it could become a video game. Sid brings up revisiting ideas to see if they could be reworked into a game or if they had to go back into whatever storage container he had it in.
Microprose is a significant part of this. Sid doesn’t talk much about the business side of things because he says he wasn’t involved in that much. I wish there were more about this side of things, but if he didn’t know, then he didn’t know. Firaxis and making games for the home console are also brought up.
If you were wondering why his name was added to so many games, then this book gives you the answer. It is a wonderful book filled with interesting thoughts on game development. It doesn’t give you that much insight into the business side of things, which might be disappointing if you wanted to know why Microprose went away.
Creating Q*bert by Warren Davis
Warren has lived a very interesting life. In this book, he talks about his career in the video game industry and acting career. I wasn’t expecting to learn about his acting career, but it was one of the book’s more fascinating parts.
Warren worked for several video game companies in the 80s and is best known for creating Q*bert. He also worked on other arcade games and helped to make the digitized graphics that would be used in several of Midway’s games. There are plenty of stories in this book. It was terrific when he started talking about the production side of things.
This is one of the books I’ll recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about the arcade industry. Warren provides many insights into how the games were made and what made the 80s an interesting time for arcade games. I hope that he writes another book about his career or anything else.
I had to cut the list off at some point. While writing about these books, I kept thinking about other books I could have added to the list. I put them here in case people want to check them out.
- Day of the Tentacle by Bob Mackey
- Animal Crossing by Kelsey Lewin
- Doom Guy by John Romero
- Not all Fairy Tales have Happy Endings by Ken Williams
- Imagine That! by Ed Smith and Benj Edwards
- PaRappa the Rapper by Mike Scholas
- Once Upon Atari by Howard Scott Warshaw
- Disrupting the Game by Reggie Fils-Amie
This is a short list of the books I would recommend. You can think of it as a summer reading list. Each of these books is fun to read.
There are a few that I’m looking forward to reading when they get released. Doom Guy by John Romero is the one I’m most looking forward to. There are many other books about Id software, but we don’t have a first-hand account yet.
Many other books are out there, and many more are being written. I’ll keep my eye out for them, and as I get around to reading them, I’ll post more reviews and lists like this. Let me know what some of your favorites are, and if you’ve read these, let me know your thoughts.