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All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture Paperback – 5 Apr 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (CA) (5 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307463559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307463555
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 694,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Glock on 7 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
I don't want to sound harsh, but it really feels like it was written by a 12 year old with little or no grasp of basic English.

There are also 'facts' dropped in randomly mid sentence (like *insert generic name* Adventure game from Microprose released in 1983 on the Spectrum, and in 1984 in the C64) to make the writer sound like he knows his stuff. That bit in brackets, give you an example of this.

It's distracting to read, littered with errors, and childish in writing style.

I'd try something else rather than this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 78 reviews
74 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Too Many Errors - but a good read overall 22 Nov. 2011
By LEONARD HERMAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I usually don't review other writers' books, but this one was so filled with errors that I was truely dissapointed while reading it. I'll list some of them. I have to say that, although I enjoyed the book, the errors were very distracting.

Page 1: "In 1966, Ralph Baer, a short, bespectacled man with a deep, radio-quality voice and a sharp wit, had been a successful engineer for thirty years."

If this is true, then Baer became a successful engineer in 1936 when he was 14 years old, and two years before he fled Nazi Germany.

Page 20: "The testing ground for Pong, the very first arcade game, was a newly opened bar in the Silicon Valley."

But Pong was not the first arcade game, Computer Space was. And the book says that on the following page.

Page 34: "At first, no one was interested in the home version (of Pong), even when the game was shown to retailers at New York City's famous and chaotic Toy Fair. Part of the Toy Fair debacle was due to Bushnell and his people being wet behind the ears. Their space for Toy Fair wasn't in the building at Broadway and Twenty-third Street where most business was done. It was far away (in the Jacob Javits Convention Center). Few stopped by."

Home Pong came out in 1975. The Jacob Javits Convention Center opened in 1986.

Page 42-43: "Wozniak pocketed $375, but Jobs kept the remainder of the $5,000. When Wozniak discovered what Jobs had been paid, his hacker heart, which had led him to work on Breakout for art's sake, was broken. Wozniak never really trusted Jobs completely again - even though they went on to create Apple together"

Wozniak didn't learn about how Jobs screwed him on Breakout until 1984, years after they started Apple, when he learned about it while reading a book about Atari during a flight to Fort Lauderdale.

Page 45: "Stella, with its eight-bit graphics processor, became the Atari 2600, proudly nicknamed the Video Computer System (VCS)."

It wasn't nicknamed the Video Computer System, it was called that. It didn't start being called the 2600 until 1982, after the 5200 was released.

Page 53: "On December 8, 1982, after horrible earnings were reported to the public, the stock plummeted. .....No eyes were sewn shut, and no one had to lie prostrate on the ground, but New Atari owner Jack Tramiel, formerly president of Commodore International, butchered the staff from two thousand to a few hundred."

Tramiel bought Atari in 1984.

Page 242: "In 1999, much of Sony Online Entertainment's early work was with casual games......Sony's PlayStation 2, which played games and DVDs, had been released that past March to great acclaim......Some of this chapter is informed by my firsthand experience in working with the casual genre while employed at Sony Online Entertainment."

The PS2 was released in Asia in March 2000 and in North America in October 2000.
60 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Game Over 23 Feb. 2011
By Jason Kirkfield - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Disclosure #1: I was an arcade junkie. Even today, I have a full-size Joust upright in my basement. Somehow I missed catching the online gaming bug, but I have enjoyed console games from the Atari 2600 through multiple PlayStations to my current Xbox 360.

Disclosure #2: I already own several books on the video game industry, from colorful coffee table books to inclusive price guides to encyclopedic references. Comparatively, All Your Base Are Belong to Us was disappointing.

Fair or not, this book got off on the wrong foot. The title is an in-joke: a poor translation from a forgettable game (Zero Wing*) not even released in North America. Choosing this broken English as a cultural touchstone seems an odd choice for a book which the publishers hope will appeal to a wide audience. Worst of all, the phrase is not elucidated in the book, and barely mentioned in an easy-to-miss reference between the Table of Contents and Introduction.

The book itself is juvenile and gossipy. It needed an editor. If it had an editor, it needed a better one. The writing level and jocularity might be acceptable for online newsletters (for which the author has much experience), but that same freewheeling familiarity falls short here. The overused idiom "so much so" appears in virtually every chapter, so much so that I found myself keeping track. I gave up counting after fifteen.

Essentially the book is a compilation of reminiscences from interviews. While primary source material is commendable, plenty of other books already cover this territory, and they do it better. Goldberg also fails to reap maximum value from contextual history.

Here are several other choices:

Steven L. Kent's The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon--The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World

Tristan Donovan's Replay: The History of Video Games

Leonard Herman's Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames

Bill Loguidice's Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time

Even David Ellis' Official Price Guide to Classic Video Games: Console, Arcade, and Handheld Games includes well-written history in addition to the exhaustive pricing guide.

* See link in Comments section below

Jason Kirkfield, Vine Review, February 22, 2011
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
All Your Base Are Belong To Us. Somebody set up us the book 21 Mar. 2011
By Jason - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Harold Goldberg's inappropriately titled All Your Base Are Belong To Us (AYB) - more on that later - is a comprehensive and thoroughly researched look into the people behind the last 50+ years of video games. From moving dots to bits and bytes, AYB provides readers with a fantastic dissertation on game development. With such an ambitious goal, there are bound to be successes and failures that mirror those of the geeky innovators who provided everything from Pong to World of Warcraft. For the most part, however, the book moves along pretty well for what amounts to a biographical compilation of programmers, investors, companies, and games.

While perfect for someone wanting to know the history behind the rise of gaming, and perhaps ideal for someone with dog-eared copies of old Nintendo Power magazines, I found the book a bit lacking for me, an actual geek. That is neither a slight upon this book nor Goldberg's work, merely a note for other game-playing, computer-programming geeks out there. Had a little more technical information been thrown in, I'm sure it would have satisfied my unfed cravings that were, for the most part, satisfied by the linear content. Two other faults, in my opinion, concern the book's title. First and foremost, the Engrish origin of AYB (FYI - Zero Wing) should have been explored, and could have seamlessly fit into any number of Japanese influences in gaming's rise in popularity. Second, as an avid gamer who has owned nearly every console from the Atari 2600 & Colecovision to Xbox and Wii, I felt there was a glaring omission of the fighting genre that swept the world in the late 80s and early 90s. The Street Fighter franchise alone has turned into a multimedia franchise, and several other titles such as Mortal Kombat gobbled up quarters at an unprecedented rate. Otherwise, the highlights covered in this book hit most of the significant steps of game development.

If searching for information about the games that made history is your goal, then: Game Over. On the other hand, if you want to know about the brilliant, daring minds who cultivated a world in which gaming is widely accepted, then it's probably worth the handful of quarters - regardless of a slightly unfocused connection to actual pop culture influence - required to play games in an arcade today.

Jason Elin
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Just an addendum to more of the same 13 Mar. 2012
By DRJacks83 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A lot of reviews have mentioned that the writing style for this book is poor, if not outright bizarre. Goldberg pulls analogies seemingly out of nowhere, and then takes them way too far:

"[Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell]'s management style was, in the words of the Big Bopper, loose like a long-neck goose."

"After indulging [in the Wild West-themed game Sheriff], you wanted to swagger like John Wayne and quote lines from True Grit, like 'Young fella, if you're looking for trouble, I'll accommodate ya.'"

A lot of people have also pointed out the fact that the narrative jumps around in terms of chronology, that there are several games and systems that Goldberg merely glosses over (if he mentions them at all), and that he never really answers the question as to how video games have influenced our society.

What no one has said is how he gets some facts completely wrong. I know that it'll look like I'm flying into a nerd rage, but you're writing a book about video games so it would be appropriate to check up on your facts. A simple Wikipedia search would have revealed these mistakes.

First, he says of the mushrooms in Super Mario Brothers, "Orange ones with green dots gave you an extra life." The mushrooms are green with white dots.

Second, he says that the subtitle of King's Quest V is "Absence Makes the Heart Go Younger." It's "Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder." To change it to "Go Younger" wouldn't even be a pun.

Third, talking about Twisted Metal, he said that it featured "a grinning clown character called Calypso, who was as insanely creepy as a serial killer." Calypso was actually the founder of the tournament, and although he's had several looks during the series, he's never been depicted as a clown. True fans would know that the character he's referencing is called Needles Kane (though he's more commonly referred to by the name of his ice cream truck, Sweet Tooth). What's more, the character IS a serial killer, so that kinda takes any cleverness out of the metaphor.

I'm sure that there's more examples of his in the book, but I admit that I don't know as much about all the games that he covers. Then again, I'M not the one writing a book about the history of video games!
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Essays of variable quality with no overarching thesis 10 Mar. 2011
By J. Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Some chapters are quite interesting, while others are tedious. That is why it took a while for me to finish this book and write my review. The book is written as a series of essays, each usually covering a specific game, company, developer, or platform. The author chooses his favorites to laud, and his favorites to criticize. There really is no overarching thesis, and the author does not explain "how fifty years of videogames conquered pop culture."

The beginning chapters dealing with the history of videogames are derivative, although fairly well researched. I do not personally agree with some of his choices for non-coverage. Space Wars! got inappropriate short shrift, and the lack of any meaningful discussion of the Commodore 64 (a game machine masquerading as a home computer) was a serious flaw. The book hits its stride with the chapter on Electronic Arts. This continues for several chapters, and the chapter on Bioshock is excellent. The higher quality continues almost to the end of the book. The chapter on Will Wright and Sim games is good, but sometimes dull. The author neglects an important step the development of the franchise, Sim Earth. The book ends with coverage of the Wii and a mediocre essay on the future of videogames.

The book could have benefited from a good editor, or possibly a co-author with more book writing experience.

Finally, if you are going to choose a clever title, such as AYBABTU, you could at least spare a paragraph explaining its origin (Zero Wing).
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