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The Art of Video Games by Chris Melissinos and Patrick O'Rourke, my review

Like opening a scrap book and viewing my gaming life, I flipped through the digital pages of this forthcoming illustrated book from Welcome Books (who graciously provided me with a digital version to review), and I started to realize just how much a part of my life video games were--and are-- and as I grew, they grew along with me.

In conjunction with The Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibit, The Art of Video Games, a full color celebration of video games tie-in book will be released by Welcome Books. Check out the retro clip packed promotional video here.

The Art of Video Games transported me back to the very beginning of gaming, as I read about one of the first releases for the Atari, Combat, which I recall fondly playing on my cousin Jeffery’s Atari (which I did not own) in his parent’s house in Brooklyn. It was a gaming love at first sight, a love affair which continues  to this day. 

The impeccably researched discourse brought me through to my Intellivision days, my favorite console from my youth, where I frantically hunted in the basic and pixel-minimal Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The authors specifically commented about the excellent use of sound effects in this now unabashedly basic game, something I completely agreed with, recalling with fright the heavy breathing of what could only be a dragon in the next cave.

All the classics are covered such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, as well as modern favorites like Fallout (and Fallout 3), and Mass Effect . This gamer learned lots of interesting things from the insightful text, such as, did you know that the “invaders” in Space Invaders were inspired by H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, hence the tentacled sea creature-inspired design looking like squid, crabs and octopi? Fascinating.

Early gaming legendary pioneers, such as Nolan Bushnell (the founder of Atari and arcade friendly Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theaters), are interviewed, and these interview pieces break up the lavishly illustrated (in all their pixelated glory) screen shots and gaming design, with some great historic tidbits on early design and the free flowing creativity and hard work that went into early game design. Also many of today’s gaming pioneers are also interviewed.

The book covers all the stages of video game history, including what the authors call the “8-bit revolution” of 1985, when an obscure Japanese company released its new Nintendo Entertainment System to a U.S. audience, thrusting the lagging console market into future, and all of gaming along with it.

The only thing missing from this trip down gaming-memory lane were emulator codes so I could go back and re-play each game painful obsession, because at the time of their release, they were the coolest and most creative escapes and only added to my love of fantasy, adventure, comic books, novels, and even working with science fiction and fantasy, then working for a time at a gaming company myself.

Who would have thought it all those years ago, trying to angle my tank so that I can shoot and ricochet my shot off the wall from behind a barrier to take out cousin Jeffery’s tank, that gaming culture would have grown to be a vivid and enrapturing art form?

If Ready Player One was a fictional love song to video games, The Art of Video Games is the visual poem to gaming—simply a beautiful book filled with gaming nostalgia, inspired innovation and flat-out fun.

As much as I loved reviewing this in digital form, I can’t wait to pick up the printed book as well. I’m sure it’ll be beautiful. And I plan to try to see the exhibit when it comes to New York.

Game Over


Kerry M said…
Sounds lovely! Wondering if I should put this on the list for Kevin... sounds like it could be his cup of tea.
Jayf said…
Hey Kerry--yes, it would make a great gift for any gamer. Thanks for stopping by!
The Art of Video Games exhibition will explore the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects, the creative use of new technologies, and the most influential artists and designers. This website offered participants a chance to vote for 80 games from a pool of 240 proposed choices in various categories, divided by era, game type and platform.

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