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on 23 May 2010
Video Game entertainment at its very best!

I have certain nostalgia for the days of monochrome video games. Endless hours locked in a room watching a white square bounce across a screen controlled with two `paddles', later Sunday mornings in the pub with 10p to play the space invaders. I therefore approached this book with a degree of expectation; and was not disappointed.

Tristan Donovan's book explores the growth and development in games from their scientific origins through the multi million marketing budgets of today's epics. The book also does so much more, investigating the social and economic drivers of the market as well as the technological enablers. It also happens to be funny, entertaining and very well written.

Replay will be of as much interest and entertainment to a student of sociology or cultural anthropologist as it will to us 40-something `Geeks' with a longing for the golden times of video gaming.

A great book - highly recommended.
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on 9 July 2013
I teach the video games industry to yr13 students and ordered this and a few other academic texts to use and I have to say that not only was this the best and most useful for teaching, but also an extremely interesting and entertaining book in its own right. If you have any interest in the subject matter this is the book for you, from the birth of the video game to the modern consoles and massive global appeal. Each chapter has its own theme yet create a chronological narrative history. The interviews come out with insight you wouldn't otherwise get. I particularly liked the chapters on European, Russian and Korean games industries; as these are often neglected in favour the bigger Japanese and American developers. The chapter on the UK's industry of the 80s was also very funny and informative.
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on 7 September 2011
Entertaining and informative, and covering nearly every continent, which gives a nice view of the differences between cultures. Clearly a lot of work has gone into it - in a 500-page book, what you might consider as the 'meat' ends at page 369, with the rest being extensive lists of games and hardware platforms, and lots of references.

It is, however, a shame that small inaccuracies - such as a game character being given the wrong name, or a game being called by a similar-but-wrong name on the same page that it is named correctly - cast doubts in my mind as to the bigger subjects. But, I suppose, if you're covering this much material, you are going to make some errors.

Well worth reading if you're interested in games, and missed the early history of the medium, as I did.
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on 14 July 2011
As a lecturer in Computer Games Development at degree level I would have to say this book has to be essential reading for any student planning a career in the Games Industry. It lays out clearly and concisely the whole gamut of video games from it's very beginnings to the present day.
I had a ZX81, Sinclair Spectrum, C64 and then moved up to a Mac Classic (Prince of Persia rocks!!). So this history is doubly interesting as I was there for the first Pong game, Space Invaders et al. And now I find myself actually fortunate to be teaching about Games Development. In conclusion an excellent buy and I also recommend Richard Rouse' Game Design Theory and Practice. Great Stuff!!
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on 22 November 2013
This is a really good book for lovers of video games, who have an interest in how it all came about. I haven't quite finished it yet, but have read enough to know it is really interesting. I bought it to research Mel Croucher and his software industry, which includes Deus Ex Machina, (of which he has a new release waiting in the wings complete with his own book, etc), and was not disappointed. This book covers so much video games history, it really is a great buy.
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on 16 January 2014
I bought this for my husband for Christmas and he was thrilled! He said the reading is heavy, but it is very full of historical info. Perfect for any die hard gamer.
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on 10 May 2010
Let me make clear that I am NOT into video games.

I don't really play them and know nothing about them. I was, therefore, surprised that, when I was asked to read this, I loved it.

Much in the way that Forrest Gump is just not about a single character but the way the world changed around him, Replay looks at the way technology, politics, culture and even feminism have changed and affected video games and those who play them. It also doesn't take its subject matter too seriously an is a seriously good giggle in some places.

The history of games spans the globe, and so does the book and reference material. It was fabulous to read an author who had obviously gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get fresh interviews with those who influenced game development rather than just use a few soundbites gathered from old material.
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on 24 June 2010
As a life-long player of video games, I was happy to discover Tristan Donovan's book 'Replay', which promised a solid and entertaining general history of the people and technology behind the rather dry business of videogame production.

I did enjoy the book, with reservations, and I'll explain why.

First of all, I'll be clear - outside of articles in Edge or Retro Gamer, I've never read any kind of canonical history of the medium. Therefore I had no preconceptions and no frame of reference as to how this book may compare to others available (and there are a few).

Content:

'Replay' moves chronologically through the entire known development of video games, beginning in experimental labs at the end of the 1940s and ending with the current generation of hi-def consoles. In the early going the book is revealing, and describes early forms of computer games whose evolution was invariably cut short due to the cost of the equipment and the fact that, put simply, no-one seems to have thought they were a viable business proposition.

The chapters devoted to Atari, and particularly Nintendo in the 1980s, are very interesting - I could have read even more on Nintendo's corporate and creative culture, which seems to have always configured existing technologies in novel and cost-efficient ways, instead of pursuing vanguard technology, which, as the PS3 proved for Sony, usually proves to be a black hole into which money disappears.

Chapters on British game design in the 1980s are also well told - as is the brief history of the C64 and ZX81. But the entrance of Sony into the market, and eventually of Microsoft, is oddly given short shrift. Sony's ten year dominance with the PS2 and Microsoft's gamble to challenge them with the Xbox is hardly dramatised, despite the fact that this period represents the apex of success of video games in mainstream culture. It's as though Mr Donovan ran out of interest, or time, and this was seriously anti-climactic. The book's story, well-told up to this point, just fizzles out. On the plus side, there is a comprehensive index of key games and game genres at the end of the book - something approaching an attempt at a canon - with brief notes on each game and who designed/produced it.

Intent:

Mr Donovan sets out his stall very ambitiously at the start of his book, in a forward in which he states that he intends to make a case for video games as an art form which can rival film and literature. However, the book he ended up writing is a readable breakdown of a series of business manouevers made by individuals in the pursuit of profit, some of whom were more organised - and thus more successful - than others. Despite sixty years or more of video games, and over 500 pages, he does not have much more than this to report.

Mr Donovan may well be delighted by games, but I suspect that even he doesn't really believe they're an art form. Most of the moments of insight or joy in the book describe hardheaded businessmen going after their vision - like Nintendo's CEO, who refused to give up on the NES despite all the signs telling him it was a stinker. Actual moments of creative joy - either playing the games themselves or in creating them - are hard to come by. The creator of Tetris describes how he came to discover that game's perfect form, but he is clearly solving an engineering problem, whose ideal outcome was "I couldn't stop playing". Tetris offers no insight into the human condition, and nor does its maker suggest it should. The game provokes a compulsion, and it's creator is justly proud of having perfected an elegant design.

In fact Tetris, the most perfect of all video games, is a simple example of why video games will most likely never evolve into an art form, and suggests perhaps why Mr Donovan himself, despite his best intentions and his intelligence, never gets around to pursuing the argument. What video games do is provoke, manage and regulate behaviour in the player, in ways that produce, hopefully, pleasure. Like Skinner's Box, they stimulate self-rewarding behaviour and issue punishment when the rules are broken. I have played and enjoyed all the modern classics, and, probably like Mr Donovan, enjoyed most of them for what they were. Their value as feats of engineering, and even as psychological experiments to which we willingly subject ourselves, is self-evident, and you can call this art if you like.

For me, though, and I suspect for Mr Donovan, they're 'simply' games, which people create out of a very real need for play, and have enjoyed for time immemorial. But if the game isn't fun, then no-one plays it. And I don't think that anyone, no matter how much he wants to believe it, thinks that art has to be fun to be art. Games, instead, live or die by this definition.

Overall Mr Donovan has written a very good book, which is certainly fun to read, and is very informative. Despite my disappointments with some of it, I do recommend it as a good overview of the business of video games.

One final note for the publisher - "Replay" contains more grammatical mistakes, type setting errors, and spelling gaffes than I've ever come across in a book. It's truly bizarre!
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on 12 November 2010
Nice review of the birth of video games, seems to have all the bases covered USA, Japan and Europe/Britain. Excellent book
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on 23 August 2013
I haven't read a book for ages, but I couldn't put this down. I remember the Pong Games, but the start of video games for me was on the ZX Spectrum and arcade machines in the local chippy.

This book covers most of the games that I grew up, with the history behind them and the lead up the Video Games scene in 201Xs.

A great read, and I would hearty recommend it.
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