15 Great Books about Video Game History

February 28, 2012

Do you enjoy reading and learning about the history of video games? If you are into retro gaming, or even vintage computing, then here is a list of the best books about video game history - enjoy!

From Amazon.com: "The Ultimate History of Video Games reveals everything you ever wanted to know and more about the unforgettable games that changed the world, the visionaries who made them, and the fanatics who played them. From the arcade to television and from the PC to the handheld device, video games have entraced kids at heart for nearly 30 years. And author and gaming historian Steven L. Kent has been there to record the craze from the very beginning."

From the back cover: "Dungeons and Dreamers weaves together threads of influence from Gary Gygax's Dungeons & Dragons and Richard Garriott's Ultima through John Carmack and John Romero's DOOM and beyond. The story of computer gaming's early days stretches from California's balmy shores through the hill country of Texas to a sleepy little town in the south of England. It is the ultimate "revenge of the nerds" tale in which D&D players, Society for Creative Anachronism aficionados, science fiction fans, and young computer programmers come together to produce a multi-billion-dollar industry that merges with the burgeoning telecommunications industry and the Internet boom of the 1990s to explode into a mass-market phenomenon."

Classic 80s Home Video Games by Robert P. Jasonr and Jason W. Brassard.
From Amazon.com: "This guide takes an in-depth look at the classic consoles, games, accessories, and related merchandise manufactured between the introduction of the Atari VCS in 1977 and the great video game crash of 1984. The great consoles from Atari--the 2600 VCS, 5200 SuperSystem, and 7800 ProSystem are all covered in depth, as well as the amazing Coleco Vision, Intellivision, Odyssey-2-, and Vectrex gaming systems. More than 2,000 full-color photographs complement detailed listings for loose and boxed items."

The 8-Bit Book - 1981 to 199x by Jerry Ellis and Andrew Rollings.
From Amazon.com: "Computer and video games aficionado Jerry Ellis casts a nostalgic look back at some of the titles that helped to define the golden age of 8-bit computer gaming. As well as an essential selection of ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 games not featured in either of the first two books, The 8-Bit Book 1981 to 199x investigates some of the landmark BBC Micro, Apple II, Atari 400/800, Oric-1/Atmos, Dragon 32, TRS-80 Color Computer, VIC-20, ZX81, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 128, Acorn Electron, Commodore 16/Plus/4, TI-99/4A and MSX efforts that provided players with the prehistory of today s global gaming industry."

From Amazon.com: "This book focuses on the history of video games, consoles, and home computers from the very beginning until the mid-nineties, which started a new era in digital entertainment. The text features the most innovative games and introduces the pioneers who developed them. It offers brief analyses of the most relevant games from each time period. An epilogue covers the events and systems that followed this golden age while the appendices include a history of handheld games and an overview of the retro-gaming scene."

Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost.
From Amazon.com: "A study of the relationship between platform and creative expression in the Atari VCS."

From Amazon.com: "This reference work provides a comprehensive guide to popular and obscure video games of the 1970s and early 1980s, covering virtually every official United States release for programmable home game consoles of the pre-Nintendo NES era. Included are the following systems: Adventure Vision, APF MP1000, Arcadia 2001, Astrocade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, Fairchild Channel F, Intellivision, Microvision, Odyssey, Odyssey2, RCA Studio II, Telstar Arcade, and Vectrex."

1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by Tony Mott and Peter Molyneux.
From Amazon.com: "This is the first serious critical evaluation ever published of the best video games and is a testament to the medium's innovativeness and increasing emphasis on aesthetics. Organized chronologically and for all platforms (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, etc.) and covering all genres from the bold (Grand Theft Auto and Halo) and dark (Resident Evil and Silent Hill) to the spiritual (Final Fantasy) and whimsical (Legend of Zelda), the book traces the video game from the rough early days of Pong to the latest visual fantasia."

From Amazon.com: "Computer role-playing games (CRPGs) are a special genre of computer games that bring the tabletop role-playing experience of games such as Dungeons & Dragons to the computer screen. This genre includes classics such as Ultima and The Bard's Tale as well as more modern games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. Written in an engaging style for both the computer game enthusiast and the more casual computer game player, this book explores the history of the genre by telling the stories of the developers, games, and gamers who created it."

From Amazon.com: "Through the stories of gaming's greatest innovations and most beloved creations, journalist Harold Goldberg captures the creativity, controversy--and passion--behind the videogame's meteoric rise to the top of the pop-culture pantheon."

Replay: The History of Video Games by Tristan Donovan.
From Amazon.com: "A riveting account of the strange birth and remarkable evolution of the most important development in entertainment since television, Replay is the ultimate history of video games. Based on extensive research and over 140 exclusive interviews with key movers and shakers from gaming's past, Replay tells the sensational story of how the creative vision of game designers gave rise to one of the world's most popular and dynamic art forms."

From Amazon.com: "Vintage Games explores the most influential videogames of all time, including Super Mario Bros., Grand Theft Auto III, Doom, The Sims and many more. Drawing on interviews as well as the authors' own lifelong experience with videogames, the book discusses each game's development, predecessors, critical reception, and influence on the industry. It also features hundreds of full-color screenshots and images, including rare photos of game boxes and other materials"

From Amazon.com: "The Atari Story is the classic tale of an independent entrepreneur who turned a simple invention into a major cultural, financial, and technological phenomenon. In 1972 Nolan Bushnell, the enterprising young engineer who invented Pong (the great-granddaddy of all video games), founded Atari with a mere $500. By its tenth anniversary, Atari had become a $2-billion-a-year empire--making it the fastest-growing company in the history of American business. Today, however, the company that once controlled over 80 percent of the video-game market has lost its hold over the estimated 17 million American households with video games to its numerous competitors, and scandal has rocked Wall Street. In Zap! Scott Cohen profiles Atari from its humble beginnings in Silicon Valley, California, through its multi-nillion-dollar sale to Warner Communications, to its headline-making present."

From Amazon.com: "Masters of Doom is the amazing true story of the Lennon and McCartney of video games: John Carmack and John Romero. Together, they ruled big business. They transformed popular culture. And they provoked a national controversy. More than anything, they lived a unique and rollicking American Dream, escaping the broken homes of their youth to produce the most notoriously successful game franchises in history - Doom and Quake - until the games they made tore them apart. This is a story of friendship and betrayal, commerce and artistry - a powerful and compassionate account of what it's like to be young, driven, and wildly creative."

Videogames: In the Beginning by Ralph H. Baer.
From Amazon.com: "Mr. Ralph H. Baer is an electronic engineer and engineering consultant with nearly 60 years of hands-on engineering management and product licensing experience. Mr. Baer has over 150 US and foreign patents. He is probably best known as the "Father of Videogames" and holds the pioneer patent covering video games. His work in the sixties resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system which was the first commercial home videogame. His early videogame hardware already resides in such places as the Smithsonian and the Japanese National Science Museum. For over fifty years Mr. Baer has been active in both the commercial and defense electronics development and production business; and in electronic toy and game invention, design and licensing. Many well-known handheld electronic toys such as Milton-Bradley's Simon came from his lab."

Bonus - Book #16! - From Amazon.com: "The Video Games Guide is the world's most comprehensive reference book on computer and video games. Presented in an A to Z format, this greatly expanded new edition spans fifty years of game design--from the very earliest (1962's Spacewar) through the present day releases on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and PC. Each game entry includes the year of release, the hardware it was released on, the name of the developer/publisher, a one to five star quality rating, and a descriptive review which offers fascinating nuggets of trivia, historical notes, cross-referencing with other titles, information on each game's sequels and of course the author's views and insights into the game. In addition to the main entries and reviews, a full-color gallery provides a visual timeline of gaming through the decades, and several appendices help to place nearly 3,000 games in context. Appendices include: a chronology of gaming software and hardware, a list of game designers showing their main titles, results of annual video game awards, notes on sourcing video games, and a glossary of gaming terms." - Thanks to Stefano for suggesting this book!

Do you know any other good books about video game history? If so, let me know and I'll add them to the list!

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-Rusty