The History of Video Games – Charlie Fish

“While researching this book I’ve been blown away, again and again, by the scale of the video game industry.”

Billed as a ‘potted history’ of the video game industry, this is a slim volume with some interesting stories and a lot of facts and figures. The main plus is probably a huge dollop of nostalgia, especially if you’re of a certain age (the author was born in 1980, so we share a similar kind of experience of the gaming boom), but you might also learn a thing or two.

For instance, the first video game was released much earlier than I would have expected! And yet, the real ‘start’ of the culture wasn’t that much before my own experiences with the Spectrum ZX and the Commodore 64 (yup, aging myself here!). The first chapter – excuse me, ‘Level 1’ – is about platforms and technology, and how the available tech shaped what was possible in gaming.

Other ‘levels’ delve into the people and personalities behind both the tech and the biggest games. This was largely new to me, I don’t really think about the individuals behind the games – these days it’s all big teams for big games, I’m sure. We then move through the capitalism aspect, and the fascination here is with the companies that didn’t survive versus those that made it huge, and some of the stories behind those.

The last two ‘levels’ cover gender and representation, and culture and community. These felt a little surface-level, I felt, not adding too much – this is where we strayed from fact into more opinion, I suppose. 

Overall, this is a good attempt at a fun little book, but after some interesting history, the rest is neither in depth enough to capture the real hardcore gamers or quite entertaining enough for a wider audience. It’s a bit on the dry side at several points, and I skimmed a lot of the final ‘lists’ chapter on top games – so few of them meant anything to me, really. The mentions of games I remember and loved were all too brief, really, and I suspect that’ll be the case whether you’re enthused about Pong and Pacman, or Super Mario or Pokemon – or whatever the cool kids are playing now 😉

NetGalley eARC: 120 pages / 7 chapters
First published: March 2021
Series: none
Read from 17th-31st March 2021

My rating: 6/10

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