What is it about Retro games that seems to have left an irremovable imprint on the minds of entire an community of all walks of life? From the 30-year plus crowd and even today’s generation have had their hearts captured by games old. Despite this love for retro games, there just isn’t a continuous supply of publications that caters to fans of those games. Though you can get your retro fix by using a mobile device, a tablet, or even a home computer (heck, even the retro hardware itself!), nothing beats holding a great book full of fantastic retro visuals and historical information of retro video game culture.
The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect, is one such book. Written by Chris Melissinos and Patrick O’Rourke, the book is filled with incredible information and visual fidelity and imagery from the early days of gaming from the Atari 2600 (VCS) to the seventh generation of home consoles (Xbox360 and PlayStation 3).
The book tries to fill a gap related to retro video games by covering the art of said games. I must say, however, that the way in which the content is presented feels a bit mystifying. You get a great foreword, from curator Elizabeth Broun of the Margaret and Terry Stent Director Smithsonian American Art Museum, explaining the book’s importance in covering how The Art of Video Games has changed and is now taken as seriously as any other art form, be it traditional or digital works. The Art of Video Games soles purpose is to celebrate just that. The Book is broken up into different time eras in video game history, starting with the 1970’s, the time of the Atari 2600 etc., with each time zone being colour coded at the base of the pages to separate itself from the previous era. Each of these era sections has a very nice and well written introduction. The book presents eight pages of vintage gaming imagery which is pleasantly broken up with an insightful interview with some of the pioneers of video games, such as Nolan Bushnell (does he ever take a break from all of this J ?), Steve Cartright and Ron Gilbert, to name but a few across the vast amount of content of this superb book.
Next we have the very influential game-changing period, the 8-bit era, which covers the likes of the Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and Apple II series of computers and consoles like the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and the SMS (Sega Master System) while showcasing their most stand-out moments. Certainly a sign of things to come in the early 1980’s! In this section, the book delivers a great collection of games as well as those wonderful interviews to break up the intensity of nostalgic flashbacks. As with all the chapters in The Art of Video Games, each game comes with a minimal and brief review or notation so not to steal any page real estate from the games themselves. This is something I love to see in books of this type and The Art of Video Games certainly delivers in that regard. The next chapter moves into the 16-bit console war, depicting some of the wonderful games that appeared on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo accompanied with a wonderful interview with video game composer Tommy Tallarico.
The transition from each chapter within the book is very well executed going from one video game era to the next. The way this is done seems to be a first in this type of book. PC gaming is covered as an art form and showcases some of its influential games. Though PC gaming is still alive to this very day, using artwork for PC Games works well as a great transition from just consoles and handheld gaming. The rest of the book covers the likes of the Nintendo 64, PlayStation One, Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast, so there is so much to see in this book. Never mind that I’ve yet to mention the presence of the sixth generation consoles (i.e., Xbox and PlayStation 2) as well as the seventh generation consoles. I’ll leave that up to you all to experience for yourselves in the over 200 pages of content.
Just to add some final thoughts, the book is a beautiful piece of video gaming literature and is one that everyone should have on their coffee table when friends and family arrive if only to stir their curiosity and at the same time educate them as to why video games are very important in our culture today. The quality of the book is second to none. The printing is exceptionally good, with a nice satin finish, and the book has a nice dust jacket to protect it. I have nothing to say negative about this book. I love it and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review it on behalf of Retro Video Gamer. The only thing I can say is that you all need to grab a copy of this book. I have to say that it is a shame that The Art of Video Games hasn’t gotten the publicity it so rightfully deserves. I also very much doubt any of you know that this book was actually published in 2012! Yep, three years ago! What are you waiting for? Head over to Welcome Books (http://www.welcomebooks.com/artofvideogames/index.html) right now and get a copy. You will not regret it.
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.