This bad boy is beefy. At just over 350 pages, Game Changers: The Video Game Revolution packs a lot of info into every page. Phaidon Press has taken 300 of what it considers the most influential and pioneering games, consoles, and publishers, and put them all into one place. There are two introduction essays, a handful of biographies, and a chronological map of the games covered in the book. But the vast majority of this 352-page book is about videogames. I was surprised by some of the entries, how little I knew from the biography section, and how cool it was to look at the chronological order of releases covered in the book.
There are two introduction essays before getting into the meat of Game Changers; neither one did much for me in terms of enjoyment. The first essay by Simon Parkin talks about the history of games, how they started, who makes them, and how they’ve evolved over time. I found his intro a bit too heavy. A lot of big words and phrases are used to highlight how important and epic this essay is. It feels like a highly intelligent person has written this for us peons to try to understand. It is informative, I did learn, but I did not care for it. The four pages of text took me two attempts to finish because I felt like I was being spoken down to while reading.
The second essay is by India Block. I found it more enjoyable and a better read. Block’s intro felt a little more welcoming; this one talks about the communities that games bring. But overall, it also didn’t do much for me. Gamergate is given about a page in her three-page essay. It might be because I am familiar with that situation that I didn’t feel the want to read more about it. I also don’t want to come off as not caring either. She is a woman writing about something I did not have to deal with and something that I did not have my eyes opened to until it took place. There is a line early on that feels very much like someone googling a best man speech the morning of a friend’s wedding. Oxford defines games as… It was fine; didn’t move my needle, though.
Enough about some essays; this is a book about video games. Right after the essays, you have a legend, breaking down into icons what each game, company, or console is all about. It is simple and easy to understand. Icons about what platform, how many players, and the type of technology the game utilizes are easy to understand. I was a little confused about the choices when it came to the genre of game. Genres like action and action-adventure are very similar, the strategy game icon looks like it would serve sports games better,
There are some great games that still hold a lot of nostalgia and love for me, especially from my youth. Games like Ape Escape, a game that sometimes feels like I was the only one who played. I was surprised to see it in the book. It makes sense, some of the gameplay elements utilized the dual stick of the PlayStation controller before anyone else had. Any game that I took a look at and read the excerpt from felt authentic to what I recalled. I never felt like the information provided, at least in the writing, was incorrect.
I was a little surprised to see how much I enjoyed the biographies and the chronological order of the games. I only knew of three names on the biographies, so I found reading about most of the people mentioned to be really enlightening. I also found the chronological order of games and developers to be something that was interesting. I knew how old Nintendo was, but comparing it to releases of other games and systems to help put that information into a better perspective. Who knew reading could be so educational and fun?
I don’t have much to complain about, but I did find a few items that made me feel a little less than satisfied. I saw a few games, like Bioshock, where I thought it was a bit of a misnomer. The Bioshock page talks about the original title, published in 2007. However, two of the three pictures on the page are from the third entry to the series, Bioshock: Infinite. All three titles are mentioned in the reading, but the focus is on the original. The other issue was the quality of the pictures being used. Some games, like Fortnite, look crisp, same can be said about the images used for Angry Birds. Others, like Animal Crossing, look terrible. I understand that the game being used was released well before the others, but being blown up to that size feels like an injustice to the game. The same can be said for plenty of other titles. I enjoy the big crisp images, but the ones of older games should have been smaller and perhaps included another screen capture to help.
It’s hard to talk about Activision Blizzard in a third of a page. What do you say? What do you leave out? I have no idea. The companies mentioned are so big in scope and in terms of catalog that I doubt you can truly do any of them justice with just a page that includes three or four pictures of a few of their games.
My copy of Game Changers has held up for the past month. I have been taking it to and from work to get a little reading done here and there. It still looks clean and crisp despite having a mostly white cover. I expect some wear and tear, but honestly for being the size that it is and as big as it is I am very happy with how it has held up.
Did Game Changers: The Video Game Revolution teach me anything new? Yes, quite a lot. Game Changers is packaged in a way that people who love video games, coffee table books, or just want to learn can all benefit from. I didn’t find much to disagree with, and with the exception of the two essays not a lot of bland filler I didn’t need to read. My wife and I are in the process of moving, and I am excited to have this be one of the books I will have out for others to glance through when they stop by to hang out.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).
While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).View Profile