Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

Five of the best books about video games
Culture Games

Five of the best books about video games

There is a lingering misconception about video games that they exist entirely in their own sealed subculture, utterly untranslatable to books or movies. But this has never been the case: in the 80s and 90s, games (and by extension, virtual worlds) became a major theme of cyberpunk fiction, from the jacked-in hacker dystopia of William Gibson’s Neuromancer to the narcotic alternative reality of Jeff Noon’s Vurt.

Video game history and culture have also been widely explored in book form, whether that was the How to Beat Pac-Man manuals of the 1980s or current investigations of the game development process by journalists such as Jason Schreier and Tom Bissell. Avid gamers and utter newcomers alike will learn much about video games and our modern digital world from these five books.

Masters of Doom by David Kushner

An experienced New York Times and Rolling Stone journalist, Kushner brought keen reporting skills and cultural nous to this examination of seminal 1993 shooter Doom and the young men who made it. Masters of Doom captures the haphazard and anarchic process behind game development in the 1990s – the late nights, the pizza, the questionable personal hygiene – but it’s also a thrilling and emotional story about inspiration, friendship and, yes, creative genius.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

A surprise bestseller following its publication in 2022, Zevin’s beautiful and gripping novel follows a trio of young game designers fulfilling their dreams and falling apart in the process. Although there is plenty of accurate detail about making games, this is really a novel about love, care and inspiration, which just happens to take place in a development studio.

Invasion of the Space Invaders by Martin Amis

First published in 1982 and cruelly out of print for many years (a close friend of mine is still racked with guilt for stealing a copy from his local library), this bizarre artefact is an examination of the dawning arcade culture written with Amis’s droll, deadpan wit and detached intelligence. A one-time games addict himself, the author relays his experiences in sleazy New York coin-op palaces as well as providing hints and tips on beating the best titles of the era. Now available in a modern edition filled with historical photos and screenshots, it’s an absolute delight.

Gamish by Edward Ross

Video game histories can often be somewhat insular and workmanlike, overlooking the cultural impact of the medium while obsessing about games console release timelines. Gamish is different – an accessible and fascinating graphic history written and illustrated by comic book artist Ross. It gathers all the landmark moments, but also ponders what games mean to players and the wider world, as well as the issues around sexism and representation that still haunt the industry and its fanbase.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

An absolutely vast labyrinthine techno-thriller, Reamde rockets around the world from Idaho to Cambridge to Taiwan, recruiting an army of hackers, misfits and criminals en route. It mostly concerns an online massively multiplayer game named T-Rain, which becomes infected with the eponymous computer virus to devastating effect. Combining trenchant observations on computer culture and the socio-political weirdness of the digital era inside a rollicking page-turner, Reamde is to games what Infinite Jest is to tennis.

Source: theguardian.com