I’ve been a gamer since I was six years old, when my parents brought home the NES. Mario, Link, and even that darn dog in Duck Hunt laid a foundation for me that has spanned every console generation since, having tried nearly every genre and gaming experience I’ve had the opportunity for. I only know of the great video game crash from pieces like The Comic Book Story of Video Games, an in-depth look at technology’s advance towards the life-like representations and simulation that we enjoy today. I took off with the resurgence of gaming consoles, so to have the ability to have the foundations of that experience presented in an insightful and quirky format was too good for me to pass up. Beginning with the foundations of the technology of video screens and TV and moving through the present day, Jonathan Hennessy guides the reader through the trials, tribulations, and near misses that have formed the interactive industry as we know it today. Filled with equal parts business acumen and developmental storytelling artistry, the history of every game you’ve ever played on your phone is laid out in a comprehensive narrative that, while sometimes dense (I’d recommend taking a few breaks.), clearly lays out the paths of the visionaries who would create the basic structure of all gaming from their moment on. So many of the early luminaries are still around today, trying new things and still pursuing that dream that so many had when they began: What can I make this thing do?
Other than the occasional dry feeling, Hennessy’s script is concise and informative. Once the tale reached the era with which I was more familiar, I felt that things of note were perhaps laid by the side too easily, or perhaps kept from the conversation entirely. The fun of the gaming industry is typically emphasized in the bleeding edge of the newest consoles, so when you come to the end, you’re left wanting more. I wish that perhaps more time and been taken with the dedicated retailers and the fate of those companies who pivoted successfully, like Sega. Gaming has always been an intimate way to tell a story, and the often clinical feel somewhat dampens that buzz for me, but the weaving path is truly fascinating to follow.
Jack McGowan was tasked with bringing this real world to life in the art of the panels, and he did a phenomenal job. Sprinkled among the scenes taken directly from historical stills are hundreds of cameos from all across the various gaming realms, showing up to tantalize and entertain the reader as they learn the vast intricacies of a world that’s proven to be as cutthroat and dangerous as your favorite digital playground.
If you’re looking to play with Power, you’re too late, but you can check this book out and see how the big developers and hardware guys have a lot more in common than you might otherwise think. With humor, a good sense of appreciation for the medium, and a solid handle on how best to present its story, this is one for gamers who want their tutorial time to really pack a punch.
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