Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: The Art of Video Games

Over the course of 2010/2011, I was privileged enough to be invited by Chris Melissinos to sit on the advisory board for the Art of Video Games exhibit he was putting together for exhibition at the Smithsonian. The exhibition opened a couple weeks ago and I was unable to attend the opening due to overlap with vacation plans, but I plan on visiting it sometime in May.

In the meantime though I got a copy of the book Chris authored in parallel with it, also titled The Art of Video Games and had a delightful time going through it.

The book is a large format hardcover coffee table book. It is liberal with spacing given to artwork, screenshots and whitespace and this makes it easy and fun to flip through. The games are broken up into different eras, loosely coupled with the "generations" of home consoles, though it also covers many PC games* from those same eras.

[*If I had any contribution to the exhibit, other than voting on the games with the other board members, it was in the debate for the inclusion of PC games to the list. A few of us (John Romero and myself were most vocal) felt that it was important to represent the symbiosis of development on closed platform consoles and open platform PCs (C-64, DOS/Windows PCs, etc - though the Apple II was a notable omission) and each has helped push the progress of the other. Chris agreed and that lead to the inclusion of a number of games from those platforms, including Jumpman on the C64 - itself likely responsible for consuming 1000+ hours of my youth.]

The treatment given each game focuses in part on the game's art and gameplay, and in part on why the game was notable or revolutionary for it's time.

The book also has a number of interviews with industry luminaries including Nolan Bushnell and others. These lend a bit of context to the mindset at the time, challenges in developing the games, etc.

Its a beautiful book that every gamer should have sitting on their coffee table.

The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect

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