8-Bit is another RVG exclusive review in the form of a brand new book review brought to you by the producers of a unique coffee table book that was “Push Start” which covered video games greatest moments in a wonderfully bound and highly polished printed affair. This is Ear Books new entry into the ever-expanding world of retro gaming related books.
8-Bit is their second publication covering, yes.. you’ve guessed it the world of 8-bit graphic splendour, it explores the origins of the 8-bit pixel and how far it has come and has this form of design has returned to influence many indie developers to produce brand new games for today’s generation using the charm and beauty of 8-bit pixelated graphics taking many of us back to the golden age of when the pixel ruled the gaming world.
This book’s premise is to deliver those golden memories in a highly polished manner and present them to you the reader, the art of the pixels and the artistic power it presents, If you were lucky enough to have lived through the golden age of video gaming of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s then you know that you’re in for a fantastic journey as you relive the moments when you were wowed by the games, the art and the music. 8-bit is essentially a fantastic gallery books to those of the Bitmap Book compendiums or the Masters of the Pixel books. You are given a 7-page introduction by the book’s author “Stephan Guenzel” detailing the history of video games and how 8-bit pixels were utilised to create these worlds of fantasy we all adored as children, either when you were in front of you Atari VCS home video game system as you moved blocks (pixels to the experts) or sprite taking out the bad guy or standing in queues at local arcades mesmerized and eager to play the latest arcade hit of the 1970’s and 1980’s. The introduction also covers and detailing the rise of the PC Engine console and the diversity of how closed off the video game industry was to the general public at the time and is quite insightful, even if you are very familiar with the video games industry back in the 1980’s etc..
The first thing that catches your eye as you open the book is the minimalistic approach the book takes to its predecessor “Push Start” it doesn’t need to force the reader to have deep focus on the content but is presented in the clean and clear manner and is all about the wonderful games during the 8-bit era and it’s designers for which we are all extremely grateful for. The book is broken into 5 sections, you have the introduction section which is a great read, but just to note at this point the book has been created by a German Author and I presume the thinking was to also include this in both English and German. English been in Yellow and German being in white across the page spreads.
The second section covers a vast range of the 8-bit Artworks spanning from 1975 to 1993 with short descriptions and antidotes about the game including the platform, developer and Designer of the game, all are numbered in accordance with their release dates over the decades, followed by single pixel perfect image in their respected aspect ratios, all covered across a two-page spread and showcasing 3 different game on each page. You have your Pacman’s, your Space invaders in all their pixelated original glory with enlarged sprite touted with a mini write-up of what made Space invaders or Pacman so unique etc. which I thought was a nice touch to include, picking out games that are included and giving them their own validation and place in the hall of video game fame.
This theme is carried throughout this section of the book, I was amazed by the timeline of a lot of the games covered, most of us only ever associate them by name or recognition but never by the year in which they were actually released, this book set this right. You will know when and who released what game making you more of an expert on the 8-bit era of video gaming. It is always a flood of nostalgia to see these games once more reliving the moment or remembering ones long forgotten about, once more this book offers such an effect.
Most of us Retro Gamers remember the games we played and loved both at home and in arcade halls in the 1980’s and 1990’s and I was delighted to see most if not all of them covered here in some form or another, You see the progression of Arcade hits, to 8-bit home computers, 8-bit consoles and 8-bit handhelds games here too, so it really is a multi-format gallery coffee book which at this point is a must own purchase. The majority of the book is all about the Artworks covering 100 8-bit gems for your enjoyment.
The third section of the book covers my favourite section the “Sprites” not only does it represent them across a two-page spread but gives a real insight at how brilliantly and cleverly the artists that produced them. It’s not just characters sprites included, you also get treated to car sprites and ship sprites too from 1971 to 1995 which was a great element to include in the 8-bit book. The fourth section of the book covers the Platforms for which all these amazing 8-bit masterpieces were showcased on and all in chronological order accompanied with console generation progression, computer and handheld imagery finalised with acknowledgements to the companies and developers who made this book possible in the first place. All in all, I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s a wonderful addition to the ever-growing retro gaming publication scene, but yet it’s able to stand on its own two feet without having to fight for your attention, it’s beautifully presented and stylish throughout and covers and ticks all the right boxes to the audience it is aimed at, Also did I mention this book comes with an exclusive 8-bit Sprite poster? like his previous book which included a full-sized vinyl record with classic video game music, you get a full-sized poster this time around at not extra cost, now that’s great value. It’s author Stephan Guenzel is Professor of media theory at the Berlin Technical Art School. He previously lectured at the Humboldt University of Berlin and at the universities of Jena, Klagenfurt and Trier. From 2008 to 2010 he was the coordinator of the Centre for Computer Game Research(DIGAREC) and researcher at the institute for arts and media at the University of Potsdam so he knows a thing or two on the subject matter.
So my final thoughts..well I’ve said what I pretty much wanted to on this book review, if you are a lover of everything 8-bit across the board, then this book is for you if you’re a general retro gaming enthusiast I can highly recommend it as part of your retro book collection. I actually couldn’t find any flaws with the book it really delivered on its promise, I’m sure or can most definitely bank on it that their next book will cover the 16-bit era which in itself will be another winner for them. Treat yourself today and pick this awesome book up. 8-BIT – Size: 28 x 28 cm · Hardcover – 240 Pages · 200 Photos – Text: English / German – Limited Edition incl. Sprite-Poster and Priced at £ 29.99 / € 49.99 and will be available shortly at http://www.funstock.co.uk or contact Ear Books for more information.
Creator of forth coming Coin-Op:Arcade Guide and creator of the Atari Gamer Magazine and the Atari ST Gamer Magazines. Retro gaming expert & fact finder.