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Trigger Happy: The Inner Life of Videogames Paperback – 5 Mar 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New edition edition (5 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841151211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841151212
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 703,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steven Poole is the author of Unspeak, Trigger Happy, and You Aren't What You Eat. He was born in London, and writes for various publications including the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Times Literary Supplement, and Edge. More information at http://stevenpoole.net

Product Description

Amazon Review

Trigger Happy, Steven Poole's substantial examination of the world inside your console, combines an exhaustive history of the games industry with a more subtle look at what makes certain kinds of games more engaging than others. For example, what works in which genres--the RPG (role-playing game) versus the god game--and the relationship of video games to other forms of media.

A writer and composer, Poole makes the case that video games--like films and popular music--deserve serious critical treatment. "The inner life of video games--how they work--is bound up with the inner life of the player. And the player's response to a well-designed video game is in part the same sort of response he or she has to a film, or to a painting: it is an aesthetic one". Trigger Happy is packed with references not just to games and game history but to writers and theorists who may never have played a video game in their lives, from Adorno and Benjamin to Plato. At times this approach verges on the pedantic, dwelling at length on points that will seem obvious to serious gamers ("We don't want absolutely real situations in video games. We can get that at home"; "The fighting game, like fighting itself, will always be popular"). Nonetheless, Poole's book may be favoured bedside reading for both the keen gamer and the armchair philosopher looking to understand this cultural phenomenon. --Liz Bailey

Review

'A bright and beautiful writer . . . almost certainly the best book that could be written about videogames' -- Tony Parsons, Literary Review

'A critical contribution to our understanding of a still growing entertainment phenomenon which just won't go away . . . Essential reading.' -- The Guardian

'A delightful and insightful romp across pastures largely unexplored . . . Poole never loses sight of the job at hand, which is not simply a defence of videogames but an argument for their inner life.' -- Evening Standard

'A witty, erudite treat.' -- Select

'Finally, there's a book that really gets to the heart of the videogame experience . . . Steven Poole knows his stuff. He's succeeded in writing an excellent "aesthetic history" of videogames which is academically worthy, thoroughly contemporary and eminently readable.' -- ***** Arcade

X'More than a timely reminisce over games history, Trigger Happy is a critical look at the creative achievements in games and the experiences they offer. . . It is perhaps the first serious attempt to understand just what makes some games great . . . A seminal piece of work.' -- Edge

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
I bought this book after seeing the reader reviews here & i thought wow, at least it arouse some strong passions. Having read it, I can say that it just is the best book about gaming out there. I have been in the games industry myself for ten years & found it very refreshing to see video games from a wider cultural angle. Sure I don't agree with a lot of it. For instance, I love games like SimCity and Stephen Poole says he finds them boring. Fair enough, but then he makes some interesting points about them anyway (they're "process toys" and offer the chance to play with time, as well as having subterannean political points buried in them). And the demolition of "interactive storytelling" and the touted convergence of games with films are wonders of clear and tightly constructed argument. Pretentious? No; just a new, and very interesting, point of view.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback
This 'revised' edition of Steven Poole's work makes an interesting read for anyone fascinated in the relatively short history of gaming. The decrease in price, plus the inclusion of coverage of Sony's PlayStation 2 launch certainly make it more attractive than the previous edition. The book is fairly comprehensive, covering gaming hardware through the ages, how gaming dynamics have changed (for better and worse) and who were the major players in this evolution. This approach makes it fairly generic, but Poole handles the themes well, using discussions with major luminaries such as Jeremy Smith of Tomb Raider fame and reflecting on how he believes games can be made better. Because of this it may not capture an unforgettable period in as much detail as David Sheff's Game Over (which handled Nintendo's business up to the birth of the SNES console), but Poole's enthusiasm is contagious, and his knowledge and experience unquestionable. Where he lets himself down is in his persistence in exemplifying certain basic examples of the genres; Tomb Raider and Resident Evil are constantly referenced, it seems, simply because they are good games with one or more major and easy-to-spot flaws. However, apart from the aforementioned Game Over and The First Quarter by Steven L. Kent (available from Amazon.com on import, and perhaps the most appealing book ever to cover the topic), this work is something that should still be in any discerning gamer's collection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Furlong on 26 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
As an avid gamer from the early eighties I acquired this book on the pretence that it would give me a better understanding of my addiction. Firstly I must say that the book does exactly what it says, it presents an incredibly well researched study on the life of the video game and places itself as a great guide for any video game company wishing to understand their niche a little better. However, it is this word "Understanding" that I have such an issue with - quite simply, most of it I didn't understand! I consider myself clever, even academic and my vocabulary is above average but did this guy swallow the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Oxford English Dictionary and every book on Philosophy ever written? In his self-obsessed goal of stringing together his findings and opinions with as long a words as he can possibly muster, he has failed to achieve the most important part of writing a book i.e. keep the reader interested. I literally had to kick myself into finishing this book and many times fell asleep reading it. Occasionally I would read sentences or paragraphs out to my wife and she'd frown and say "What does that mean?" - well, my apologies for not having the vocabulary needed to enjoy this read but it just didn't work for me.
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By DavidStrife on 26 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A captivating book that lures you in gently before prying open your eyes, giving you the complete spectrum of possibility within the world of Video Games. This was on my reading list for my Video Game Development course, and it isn't hard to see why. Rather than give you the technical descriptions of how games operate and how they are made, the book serves to primarily inform and offer case study related examples of how design decisions are executed and what this means in the scope of the overall game/genre. This is an excellent first book to read if you are getting into Video Games for the first time on an academic/career based path, or just treading your feet gently into the shallow waters to see if this is something you're likely to pursue further than just a hobby. For those wanting a light read and learn more about Video Games with no intention of practising the art, then this book is still an enjoyable read.
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By A Customer on 24 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
I found that this was a book of two halves. The first half was immensely enjoyable, as the author takes us through the history and development of computer games. This was a nostalgia trip for me as I grew up using a Spectrum, and graduated onto the next generation in exactly the same way as the book describes.
However, this was marred by Poole's lack of knowledge and empathy with the most important people in the business - those that play the games. He came across as a definite outsider. Just imagine someone who hasn't watched a film for fifteen years writing a book on the development of films in that period. Pointless.
The second half was slightly better from this point of view, concentrating on the future, but as for the philosophy nonsense, you can keep it. None of it applied to me.
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