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Have you ever wondered how your favourite video game was created? Or maybe you’re looking for some design inspiration from one of your favourite game developers? Either way, as much as we like playing video games, sometimes you want to know how the sausage is made. And one of the best ways to do that is to crack open a book about the production history of the video game industry.
From going behind the scenes for the production of iconic titles to documents of the 1990s console wars and the musing of Nintendo’s former president, these are our favourite books about the video games industry.
The only caveat here is that art books don’t count. If you want to see some of our favourites, you can find a list of those here.
Masters of Doom
While avid modders try to figure out a way for us to play Doom on an eReader, we offer you the next best thing. David Kushner’s Masters of Doom does exactly what it says on the tin. It follows the lives of John Carmack and John Romero, from how they first met, to the formation of id Software and the release of a little first-person shooter named Doom.
This book is a great piece of video game history, delving into the world of game development in the 1980s and 1990s. Kushner goes behind the scenes, profiling how the two Johns were able to combine their idiosyncrasies to create the most important FPS game ever, the fame it brought id Software and the rising tensions between the two developers.
Masters of Doom is a great reminder of just how much of a major achievement Doom was upon its initial release and how influential it remains to this day.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($28.62) | Book Depository ($21.83) | Booktopia ($32.75)
If you’re old enough to remember the console war between Nintendo and Sega during the 1990s, there’s a good chance you’re in your early thirties and probably have at least one bad knee. The good news is, while you ice up that knee you can re-live those salad days with Console Wars.
It’s weird to think that just over 30 years ago Sega was not only one of the major players in the videogame world, but was seen as an equal to Nintendo. Blake J. Harris’ Console Wars lays out the heated rivalry that ran between the two videogame companies throughout the ’90s, following Sega’s rise from an underdog studio to a major player, and its fall by the end of the decade.
The book is meticulously researched and sourced from over 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees. Harris does take some dramatic license with events by writing embellished dialogue from the perspectives of his subjects. Much like Sega’s 32X, it’s an unfortunate add-on that feels more like a distraction than an enhancement.
Where to buy it: Angus & Robertson ($37.95) | Book Depository ($38.64) | Booktopia ($37.95)
Blood, Sweat and Pixels
If you’ve been reading Kotaku for long enough, Jason Schreier’s name is probably familiar to you. The former news editor of Kotaku US, Schreier’s book, Blood, Sweat and Pixels goes deep into the production of some of the biggest video game releases of the last 20 years.
Blood, Sweat and Pixels journies into the world of game development, from the disastrous launch of Diablo 3 to how Yacht Club made Shovel Knight and Eric Barone’s intense mission of creating Stardew Valley all by himself. Schreier even dives into the development of Star Wars 1313 and what happened to the game – and LucasArts – after Disney bought LucasFilm in 2012.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to make a video game, this is the book for you. Sourced from over 100 interviews with various game developers, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a portrait of the good, the bad and the ugly of the industry. By the time you finish it, you can’t help but marvel at the fact that any video games get made at all.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($23.09) | Booktopia ($24.25) | eBay ($28.25)
Asks Iwata is a collection of insights and wisdom about making video games from the late Satoru Iwata. Compiled from the “Iwata Asks” columns, the former president and CEO of Nintendo offers his various philosophies of what it means to be a leader, what goes into game development and the importance of design innovation.
As much as this book is about making video games, Iwata’s insights are the kind that could be applied to almost any facet of your life, with motivational quotes like: “Through the process of trial and error, all kinds of things that seem impossible at first can wind up being a success”.
The book also includes interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto and Shigesato Itoi, which were conducted after Iwata passed. The two reminisce about their friend and how he affected both their lives and countless Nintendo fans.
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($21.75) | Booktopia ($21.75) | eBay ($25.75)
Tetris is an incredibly fun take on your standard making-of book. Presented as a graphic novel, cartoonist Box Brown covers the eponymous game’s development, from its creation as a side-project by Soviet software engineer Alexey Pajitnov to its journey from behind the Iron Curtain and the intense bidding war to secure its publishing rights.
Brown uses Tetris as a reference point, to give us a snapshot of the video game industry of the mid-to-late 1980s when it was a bit more wild and freewheeling when compared to our current landscape. Although, in the case of Tetris, this is both a blessing and a curse, as the game’s popularity spans waves of copycats in the wake of its release.
Brown delves into why Tetris has remained such a popular title over three decades after its release – both in terms of sales and the psychological aspects of the game (aka the “Tetris effect“). Why exactly do we continue to keep playing it again and again and again?
Where to buy it: Amazon Australia ($28.53) | Angus & Robertson ($27.95) | Booktopia ($28.25)
Did we miss any titles that you reckon deserve a spot on our sagging bookshelves? Let us know in the comments.
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