Pong, Space Invaders, Pitfall, Chopper Rescue, Karateka, Day of the Tentacle, Ultima Underworld. These are a minor sampling of the games that consumed my waking hours after school, as well as weekends and school holidays. Even though I spent so much ‘quality’ time with these games, I’d actually forgotten about most of them until I first flicked through this new book by Rusel DeMaria and Johnny Lee Wilson.
Recommend this product?
Chronicling the growth of electronic gaming from an oscilloscope based game called ‘Tennis for Two’ created in the Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1958, right up to the Game Cube and Xbox, the book features not only games and gaming machines, but the people behind them.
High Score! is broken into four sections. The first chapter, Before the Beginning, charts the histories of the major console hardware gaming companies, and delves briefly into the prehistory of electronic gaming, such as pinball machines, the ‘Two for Tennis’ game above and the invention of the transistor.
The next three chapters are split into three decades: the 70s, with the creation of electronic consoles and arcade machines, the 80s with the rise and infiltration of those machines into the home and the adoption of the PC as a gaming platform, and the 90s when gaming took off with 3D graphics and the return of the console wars.
These three chapters are further divided among the hardware manufacturers and the games companies. Nothing is covered in major detail, as most of the page space is given to screen captures and box shots, but there are plenty of interesting facts and recollections from the interviewees included.
The authors set about creating a comprehensive book about electronic gaming culture, but even they acknowledge that there are many exclusions. Even though they did there best to include every game, company and person they could, you’ll find your own notable exceptions as you read through it (some of mine were Melbourne House, and a general glossing over the commodore 64). However, they’ve interviewed the top people from Atari, Electronic Arts, 3DO, Lucas Arts, Coleco, Sega, Origin, Sierra and more, including Sid Meier, Richard Garriott, John Romero, Roberta Williams and Ralph Baer. There is more than enough nostalgia packed into these 328 that the wealth of inclusions easily overrides the occasional exclusions.
If there’s a problem with High Score!, it’s that the authors have sacrificed depth for breadth. This is a pity as quite often the book reads like they could have written more, but couldn’t because they had to move onto the next subject. My impression is that with another 100 pages, they could have created a perfect book, but the truth is High Score! is close enough as it is. It’s beautifully laid out and is great for casual flip-throughs even after you’ve read it. Less a historical reference tome and more a walk down memory lane, High Score! is chock full of evocative pictures and stories about the creation of some of our favorite games and consoles.