Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What is the best way to self-study on video game history?

Video game media maven Patrick Scott Patterson recently posted this on his Facebook page, regarding a question he was asked: "What is the best way to self-study on video game history?"
Here's his answer:
Perhaps I'm fortunate that I got interested in the backstories of video game history earlier than most. When I got hooked on studying that stuff we didn't have the Internet...and since it was during the upswing of the NES getting hot, used bookstores were filled with old video game books and magazines and local libraries were filled with early video game books that nobody else wanted to check out anymore.
These days... both the early consumer video game magazines such as Electronic Games, Joystik and the such... and trade magazines such as Play Meter and Replay... are hard to find, but they are filled with the history of this industry and culture AS IT WAS HAPPENING. I can't stress enough how important that is, as you won't find very much accurate history on the internet. Wikipedia and KLOV entries are cool but many are filled with incomplete or simplified information. And don't get me started on some of the video game documentary films out there. There are some that do it right... World 1-1 very much among them, as is Atari: Game Over and some others... but most are just as simplified or even skewed by people who want to boast up their own relatively minor roles in the much larger tapestry of the industry history.
Total pot luck to find these old mags and books... the 59-magazine lick I got recently is by far the largest I've ever found at once in the 28 years since I started hunting for them (Melissa can tell you stories about such hunts and just how many of them come up empty). Some show up on eBay and Amazon but not often enough to set your watch by it. You'll have to be patient and, these days, typically pay up.
As such, there are some great books published in the modern day that you can hit up as well. The Ultimate History of Video Games (originally printed as The First Quarter) by Steven L. Kent is filled with not only a great deal of video game history but a lot of information that I haven't seen noted in many other places. Blake J. Harris did a great job with Console Wars as well, looking into the 16-bit Wars to a deeper degree than I've ever seen previously, and from a great first-hand point of view that makes it feel more personal. Brett Weiss does a great job of adding in historical notes and value into his write-ups in 100 Greatest Console Video Games and is a person who I'd suggest reading anything he does going forward.
And here's where I post something I only first mentioned in public at the end of the PAX South panel I took part in. I'm aiming down adding the title of author to my many hats with a book that deeply covers a section of video game history I don't feel has been studied enough... and that I might even have studied more on than anyone. I'll be less non-specific in due time smile emoticon
Study this stuff. This is the history of our industry and culture here... and it's going to be up to all of us to carry it forward. Take it seriously.
And if you are fortunate enough to encounter an industry pioneer... ask them questions. Confirm information you've read with them. Ask them about things you haven't seen out there. Many of them are personable and will tell you all you want to know. They lived it, and they leave that legacy with us.

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