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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2000
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
on 27 February 2001
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
on 26 February 2004
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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on 26 August 2012
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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on 24 November 2000
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2000
It's the first book I've felt compelled to finish in years - an insightful, thought provoking look into how the gaming industry ticks, and what makes it tick. Anyone even remotely interested in games should pick it up straight away.
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on 15 May 2000
A book looking properly at videogames is probably way overdue. Look at the Matrix, one of the best movies of the last few years (if you like that sort of thing), and the way its aesthetics and the whole way it operated was completely derived from our familiarity with video games. Steven Poole's book manages to look at the phenomenon from all angles without ever losing the sense of fun and excitement (like, you can tell this is a guy who has probably spent way too much time with his hand round a joystick!), and seems as easy with the curvature of space as he is with the curvature of Lara Croft. But he can do his physics and philosophy and economics stuff too. Oh yeah, and his photo looks cute, and there are some good jokes.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2001
If all you want is a simple history of video games, this is not your book. Try Steven L Kent's The First Quarter or Leonard Herman's Phoenix.
Poole only covers as much factual history as he needs to in order to set the groundwork for his fascinating arguments. What Trigger Happy is trying to do is to figure out what makes video games unique as a brand new art form.
To do this, he covers many areas with startling, thought-provoking originality. The links between games and cinema, between games and narrative, and even between games and the history of painting, are all explored with a great deal of insight.
The book is arranged thematically, so that each chapter covers a certain way of looking at videogames. Eventually Poole lets rip with an incredible chapter about semiotics - which may sound forbidding and dryly "academic", but is actually the most useful new theory of just what makes games unique that I've ever seen.
The bottom line is that it is unfair to compare Poole's book to other books on gaming, most of which are more or less simple histories. If you liked the wit and style of J C Herz's Joystick Nation, though, then Poole delivers all that - with less annoying, flip Americanisms and far deeper conceptual thinking. This really is a brilliant, and (as the blurb says, rightly for once) ground-breaking book.
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on 31 October 2000
Flicking through the index, I expected this would be one of those books on popular culture (Michael Bracewell, Greil Marcus, Marina Warner etc.) that take an interesting premise but leave you stupefied by a monotonous blizzard of erudition. But Poole in fact has a pleasing respect for his readers, enough respect to set out his arguments clearly and elegantly so that you actually know whether you disagree with him or not (I often did). It's true that the writer of this book does seem to know and care as much about films, pop and the history of ideas as he does about Daredevil Dennis; but, for the most part, his references serve to illuminate rather than to dazzle.
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on 1 August 2000
Poole talks about the history of computer games some of which I spent hours playing when I was younger, a real blast from the past!
Some of the most interesting stuff he discusses are what he refers to as "incoherence" and the physics of the computer game world, especially how computer games do not follow some of the rules of reality as it simply wouldn't be as much fun!
If you've spent as much time zapping aliens and machine gunning people to death in deathmatch Quake then this book is probably the one time you will want to put your mouse/joystick down and actually read a book....
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