December 17, 2008

Wolf, The Video Game Explosion

The Video Game Explosion: A History from Pong to Playstation and Beyond, edited by Mark J. P. Wolf (who has also written nearly half of its 42 chapters), is something of a mixed kettle of fish. It starts off with an almost unhealthy fascination for the Atari 2600 and vector displays, only grudgingly beginning to acknowledge 16-bit computers halfway through, before ending on a withering note with some mumbling about the future and ethical games while trotting out a hoary chestnut of a quote from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.

On the way, we see a few specious claims starring Wolf's personal hobby-horses such as Pac-Man's supposed non-violence — did Wolf miss the part where you eat the ghosts? FMV adventures get a much-deserved dressing-down, though this doesn't go into it as deeply as I could have wished. Personally I found the most interesting bit to be Bob Rehak's remarks on FPS great-granddaddy Mazewar, seeing and being seen; there's also Brett Camper's analysis of Elasto Mania as recontexualizing gameplay conventions.

It's slightly poorly edited; the style varies wildly (arguably always a problem for anthologies) and it has at least one its/it's error. With the last page turned, the impression left by this book is an inconclusive flickering of meaning, dissipating like some sort of semantic mist. I wouldn't recommend buying it sight unseen, but it's still in-depth enough that it's worth plucking off a library shelf.

(Or looking at the preview on Google Books.)

EDIT: Sorry about this. I'll try to fail less in the future.

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