TOAt this stage of the pandemic, you may have begun to question the amount of time you spend playing video games. Publishers have reported huge increases in the number of players in titles such as Call of Duty Warzone and Fifa 21, while Animal Crossing, released in the first weeks of last year’s close, has sold more than 30 million copies, mainly thanks to to his seductive promise to bring friends together for tea parties on cute little islands.
However, maybe now you want to spend some time away from games, but without abandoning them. Or maybe you want to find out why Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has unassailable control of your attention. Either way, here are 20 books that tell us more about games, or are probably interesting to people who play them a lot. I own and love them all, and they will definitely make you feel better by spending 500 hours on Crusader Kings III.
If you like this article, check out the 10 Books Every Gamer Should Read, which lists the books I’ve seen the most frequently in game development studios over the past 25 years.
Part memoirs, part history, part treatise on the intrinsic value of games, Pete Etchells’ book, subtitled Why We Play Video Games and What They Can Do for Us, is an emotional and compelling read, with plenty of information on violence and video game addiction. , as well as why we play and what we get out of it.
A Game Design Vocabulary: Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark
This excellent manual, one of the most accessible books on game design I have ever read, gives you a complete framework and language for thinking about how games are built. Anthropy is particularly brilliant at dissecting popular games to show how they work.
Gamish – Edward Ross
A beautiful and thoughtful graphic novel about the history of games, which looks at both the culture of the medium and technical advances. Ross’s previous work, Filmish, is also worth a read.
Latest Video Game History – Steve Kent
There have been many simple video game stories, but this is the one I mean the most. Now it is a bit outdated, but it is packed with information and anecdotes and is very comprehensive. It was an indispensable manual in the industry until the early 2000s.
A Theory of Fun for Game Design – Raph Koster
The first game design book I read, A Theory of Fun is an extremely accessible guide, setting out a series of questions about what games are and the problems designers must overcome, all in a chatty writing style, with many illustrations. .
Manga – Nicole Rousmaniere and Matsuba Ryoko
Published to accompany the excellent British Museum exhibition in 2019, Manga is a beautiful volume in its own right. It’s packed with information and interviews on the history and culture of Japanese comics, which have had a great influence on game developers in the country.
Earthsea Saga – Ursula K The Guin
Whenever I’ve interviewed fantasy RPG developers, they’ve referenced this series as much as they’ve referenced The Lord of the Rings. Le Guin’s magic and adventure tales evoke an incredible sense of atmosphere and immersion, and as you read them now, you will appreciate the influence they have had on game creators, authors and screenwriters.
Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us (About Life, Philosophy, and Everything) – Jordan Erica Webber and Dan Griliopoulos
Can we learn about dualism, free will, and cognition by playing Bioshock or Call of Duty? Yes, according to Dan Griliopoulos and Guardian games contributor Jordan Erica Webber, who take us on a fascinating journey through the philosophical canon, showing how games illustrate key existential questions.
Virtual cities – Konstantinos Dimopoulos
Essentially an architectural travel journal of imagined places, Virtual Cities: An Atlas and Exploration of Video Game Cities takes us on a guided tour through some of the most exquisite cityscapes in gaming history, from the blocky ruins of Before Ant Attack, to Deus Ex’s cyberpunk New York. Dimopoulos is an urban planner and game world designer, and his knowledge of play space architecture will make you appreciate familiar games in whole new ways.
Snow Shock – Neal Stephenson
I first read Stephenson’s dense and fascinating story on computer hacking and Sumerian mythology when I started working at the video game magazine Edge in 1995. It fit perfectly with the dawn of online gaming, internet forums, and epic adventures of role-playing games and is still a fascinating, almost a gaming experience today.
Men, Women and Chainsaws – Carol Clover
This book, subtitled Gender in the Modern Horror Film, on the psychology and gender dynamics of horror entertainment, focuses on movies, but as I’ve mentioned in almost everything I’ve written about Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Dead Space. , deserves to be here. A fundamental work of analysis of pop culture.
Masters of Doom – David Kushner
Along with David Sheff’s Game Over (out of print, sadly), this was the must-read book for game journalists in the early 2000s, providing a witty, turning-the-page account of the development of Doom and culture. wild and barely functional at id Software.
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter – Tom Bissell
Another book that considers the meaning and validity of games as cultural products, Extra Lives is a fascinating collection of essays on key titles such as Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Fallout. Bissell is a video game critic and writer, and his observations are always challenging and informed. The book is best known for its personal take on GTA IV, discussed in conjunction with the author’s own drug use.
Blood, sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant and Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made – Jason Schreier
Tech journalist Jason Schreier takes us behind the scenes of the game’s development, showing the great effort, excitement, and often panic that the process entails. If you’ve ever been frustrated with a developer for repeatedly delaying a release, or releasing a buggy game, or not updating a game quickly enough, read this book.
A Long Way To An Angry Little Planet – Becky Chambers
Chambers used to write about games before becoming a best-selling sci-fi author, and her novels exude the energy and interpersonal dynamics of great action adventure and role-playing games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Read everything you write.
Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games – Walt Williams
Williams was the writer of the acclaimed “anti-shooter” Spec Ops: The Line and has contributed to games like Borderlands, Star Wars Battlefront, and Mafia. His memoirs on working in the industry (including its darker elements, especially the crunch) is an eye-opening and compulsive read.
The Game Console – Evan Amos
Amos is a talented photographer who is best known for providing royalty-free images from consoles and computers to Wikipedia. This book brings together its magnificent images into a visual history of games, and it is such a nostalgic pleasure to study it closely.
Japansoft: An Oral History – edited by Alex Wiltshire
For scholars of the Japanese game industry, this collection of interviews with designers from companies such as Sega, Capcom, Hudson Soft, and Enix is a must-read, as it provides endless insight into the history of the country’s development scene.
How games move us – Katherine Isbister
Isbister’s short academic study of how video games evoke emotional responses is so interesting and so well written that I think all gamers are curious as to why games make them feel like things should read it. It analyzes a wide variety of games and reveals how elements such as choice, character animation, and social play affect us. If you enjoy this, MIT Press has an amazing array of video game books, and I would also recommend Bernard De Koven’s The Infinite Playground: A Player’s Guide to Imagination.
Homo Ludens: a study of the playful element in culture – Johan Huizinga
The classic study of why we play games, their central place in society, and how they have evolved throughout history is as relevant now as it was when it was published in 1938. Along with Men, Women, and Chainsaws, this is the book. I’ve stolen most of my ideas for features and editorials from. Sorry, Johan.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism