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Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution Paperback – 15 Sep 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; Reprint edition (15 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559705981
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559705981
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.6 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,110,191 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

Product Description

About the Author

Steven Poole is a journalist and writer who has contributed articles to the Guardian, the Independent, and the Times Literary Supplement. He has also worked as a composer for television and short films.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Monty on 14 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
Trigger Happy is a must read for the interlectual gamer. Steve Poole brilliantly elaborates on the history and evolution of the games industry in to the art form it now is. Gaming culture, production styles and influences are all discussed in an often comical and always entertaining way, with knowledge only known by a true fan of the games industry. A book for somebody who knows what a good video game is and what goes into it.
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By Jan van der Crabben on 17 Jan. 2008
Format: Paperback
Trigger Happy is a good starter if you want to get into Game Studies academically. It's definitely a good read if you aren't using this book for academic purposes. Sadly, though, it lacks depth. It is more of a descriptive exercise that does not probe the theory of games very much. Do not expect to find critical theory here.

Also, on the history side, this book is a good introduction, but for those looking for an overview of the history of computer games, I would recommend Dungeons and Dreamers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 21 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Doesn't go far enough 23 July 2002
By Peter Tupper - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An intelligent, broad ranging discussion of videogames. Poole is right to regard videogames as a medium, and one that needs to be evaluated on its own terms instead of compared with books or movies. He brings in an intriguing array of references on art, semiotics, literary theory and other topics to the discussion, and his writing is accessible and smooth.

The flaw in this book is focussing too narrowly on twitch games, mostly the combat/exploration games like Tomb Raider or Metal Gear Solid. Poole can't be bothered with god-games like Populous or Sim-City or pure exploration-puzzle games like Myst, and says as much. He misses out on a huge realm of other styles of game and playing experience. This is a shame, because Poole looks like he has the intellectual chops to write a comprehensive book on this subject.

Pool is on to something in the last chapter, when he theorizes that the next frontier is making the player feel responsible for his decisions in the game world. You might feel bad when Aeris buys it in Final Fantasy VII, but it was in a cut scene so you don't feel responsible because it was beyond your control.

For the reasons Poole discusses earlier, this is hard to do in an adventure-style game. If a character dies in a cut scene, it isn't your fault. If she dies in gameplay, you just keep playing it through until she lives. (Kirk didn't accept the no-win situation; why should you?)

However, this is where his distaste for god-games trips him up. Players of Civilization or other management games don't have easy replay buttons. Anybody whose sim-city burns because they under-funded the fire department knows all about actions and consequences. We care about a place if we build it. We don't care about a place if we just wander around shooting things in it.

Also, instilling responsibility in games may be a dead end. Arguably, the whole point of play is to avoid responsibility. Play is a separate realm in which success or failure don't matter in the rest of world. Creating consequences for our actions in a game world would make it too much like work.

This may be why some people find on-line games so addictive. They become like work, instead of play, because there are consequences if you don't play hard enough. You can let down the other players, and your enemies can attack what you have created.

Poole doesn't write about on-line multi-player games, because they barely existed when he wrote this, only a couple of years ago. I think he could write another intriguing book on the subject, if he would just take his eyes off Lara Croft and take a walk through Riven.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant aesthetic History of video games 2 Jan. 2001
By Kurt Squire - Published on
Format: Hardcover
With Trigger Happy, Steven Poole offers a critical look at the aesthetic history of games. To the informed reader of gaming literature, this subject matter may sound vaguely familiar: Another journalist - game aficionado writes a personal history of games based on personal reflections, email interviews with industry insiders, and the obligatory field trip to E3. Great. , I already read JC Herz's Joystick Nation four years ago; why should I read this? I'll have to admit that after reading Jon Katz' latest "up up down down", piece which discusses Trigger Happy, I was prepared to be disappointed. If all that Katz took away from the book was that games are an important part of contemporary culture, the electronic entertainment industry is as big as the movie industry, and Lara Croft has a hot body, then reading Trigger Happy would be a waste of time.
Thankfully, Trigger Happy is more than an update of Joystick Nation; in fact, Trigger Happy is the most thorough deconstruction of the games themselves written to date while retaining the same witty, irreverent style that made Joystick Nation so engaging. Poole offers a fresh, entertaining, and insightful look at games that is accessible to novices and seasoned gamers alike. At its heartTrigger Happy is an aesthetic history of games, tracing their development from primitive black and white 2 player games into complex popular-art accomplishments. Poole, a journalist, writer, and composer brings a keen eye (and ear), to his subject matter, interweaving semiotics, personal history, critical analysis, and a love for games into a creative, cleverly written aesthetic discussion of games. In doing so, he raises the ante for game designers, critics and aficionados looking to examine games as an art-form.
Trigger Happy succeeds because Poole examines games in much greater depth than any of his contemporaries. He looks at how games are made. He examines game players -- from a cross cultural perspective, and then he looks at the games themselves, applying literary, philosophical, and semiotic analysis to games. The book is thorough and well thought out -- enough that it could be used in an academic context. Fortunately, Poole doesn't lose the reader in technical jargon or philosophical babble; he keeps the focus squarely on the games, and what makes games fun.
More than any other published book to date, Trigger Happy lays the foundation for a field of electronic gaming criticism. Steven Poole gives great insight into what makes a great game, and offers the reader a useful set of conceptual tools to understand games. Although, Poole's goal is not really to provide an academic treatise, Trigger Happy is so articulate, so original, that it succeeds as an academic work as well as entertainment. Of course, there are minor details that the reader may quibble with - but engaging in a dialogue with Poole about games is half the fun of reading this book. If you're looking for thoughtful look at the games that entertain us...that make us Trigger Happy, you can't miss this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
art? sport? other? 15 Mar. 2001
By A. Pai - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"If architecture is frozen music, then videogames are liquid architecture."
Poole gives us a series of essays that take a serious look at videogames. What kind of artform are they? How have they drawn influence from, and influenced, more traditional artforms like movies and novels? Not all of Poole's insights are revolutionary, but he's obviously a bright guy who's not afraid to drag out the heavy hitters (Adorno, Wittgenstein) when he needs to. Nevertheless "Trigger Happy" has a light touch; it's easy to read and quite entertaining. Poole isn't just an armchair theorist; the games that he holds in high regard (e.g. Metal Gear Solid, Wipeout XL, Space Invaders) are all standouts, and he writes about them with obvious affection.
I particularly enjoyed the section where Poole contemplates future possibilities for gaming. He points out that, just as advancements in art through the ages were initially characterized by increasingly 'realistic' representation techniques (e.g. vanishing horizon, perspective), so are videogame graphics advancements characterized by increased realism. But while art branched off into abstraction, impressionism, etc., videogames have so far avoided similar exploration. To put it in a nutshell-- why aren't there more games that let you move around in an MC Escher type space?
The hilarious analysis of laser weapon verisimilitude in videogames is priceless.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The best book out there, period. 10 Feb. 2001
By Tom DiCillo - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you love games like I do - I've been playing 'em all my life, and developing 'em for 6 years - you *need* to read this book. I've never read such a fascinating angle on gameplaying, situating video games in an illuminating context among art, cinema and books, and doing some really excellent thinking about how they work on your mind. This book was like a breath of fresh air to me.
I gotta defend the author too against the factually incorrect attacks by a reviewer below. The reviewer says: "this man touches very lightly the fact that videogames came into fruition and refinement in Japan". Hey, Poole rightly points out that Taito saved the gaming industry with Space Invaders, he calls Miyamoto "the god of videogames", and most of the games he says are great - Metal Gear Solid, Zelda 64, etc - are Japanese. What more do you want? Jeez, of course this reviewer says he didn't even finish reading the book! Don't listen to him. Buy Trigger Happy: you won't regret it.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Simply Excellent... 6 Jan. 2001
By Rew - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Poole knows games and writes a compelling academic look at where they came from, where they're going, and what makes a game, good. I picked the book up and read almost all weekend until I was finished. This isn't a dry history of video games, or a heavy-handed defense of games as art. This book is about looking at why we like video games, what makes some better than others, and where the industry might be heading. Poole has read almost everyone else's `history of video games' book, and cites things he has found as worthwhile. He also has read and researched the heck out of this subject leading to an amazing set of references not to mention 200+ pages of thoughtful dialogue. This book will lead you to other worthwhile subjects and solidify your current understanding of the `aesthetics' of games.
Bottom Line: If you like video games at all, or are in any way involved with the it, read it, read it.
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