aka The Frazzled Mom
A complete, illustrated history of video games–highlighting the machines, games, and people who have made gaming a worldwide, billion-dollar industry/artform–told in a graphic novel format.
Author Jonathan Hennessey and illustrator Jack McGowan present the first full-color, chronological origin story for this hugely successful, omnipresent artform and business. Hennessey provides readers with everything they need to know about video games–from their early beginnings during World War II to the emergence of arcade games in the 1970s to the rise of Nintendo to today’s app-based games like Angry Birds and Pokemon Go. Hennessey and McGowan also analyze the evolution of gaming as an artform and its impact on society. Each chapter features spotlights on major players in the development of games and gaming that contains everything that gamers and non-gamers alike need to understand and appreciate this incredible phenomenon.
Unlike my son, I don’t take what I read as immediate truth. I like to check things out. That’s how I started out with this book. But as I flipped from one page to the next, I found true and interesting history about the start of what eventually would lead to the creation of the video gaming industry. This book goes alllllllll the way back to the mid 19th Century and works from there. Chapter 1 covers the evolution to cathode ray tubes. Covering investors, scientists, and physicists such as Heinrich Geissler, Sir William Crookes, and Karl Ferdinand Braun. That farther back than I’d expected with a history of video games. Still, it makes for an interesting read to learn how they arrived at the CRT.
The book covers early computers, gaming systems and such. One part that caught my eye was when covering the oscilloscope. According to the author, on December 7th a large blip was noted on the oscilloscope and was reported, only to be explained as friendly B-17 fliers. Unfortunately, that blip turned about to be Japanese fighters and dive bombers.
A book on video games would not be complete without the mention of Alan Turing. And this book, though briefly, did do him justice to his importance in history. But the history doesn’t stop there. The book covers the earliest video games, such as the Cathode Ray Amusement Device. An interesting, yet primitive game. I’d like to see what kids these days think of something like that. What’s nice is that the author covers just about everything I could think of: Atari, Arcades, computer games, console systems, handhelds. He even mentioned games I’d forgotten.
When I was a kid, we had a text-only game. It was a haunted house and you’d received a description on the screen along with some options. Such as, you’re in the living room. To the left is a door, to the right is a window. In front of you is a desk. And you’d tell the computer to go right, left or maybe open the door or desk. I loved that game. I could even see the house in my mind. Zork was another game that was similar, though I played more of the updated Zork Nemesis. And shareware? That made me laugh. I’d completely forgotten that Doom used to be shareware.
This is a thorough, and thoughtful look at how video games came to be. What makes this book even more special is that it’s all done in comic book style. So for a 10-12-year-old, this would hold their attention more than if it were a chapter book. The illustrations in here are colorful, attention-grabbing and work well with the text. Not only is the comic well done, it includes video game characters throughout that the kids will recognize. I think they’ll find this book a really interesting read. I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
Side note: After reading this book, I was curious about the man who noted the blip on the oscilloscope. Was it true? Did someone explain it off as friendly flyers? According to this article, yes. I’ll still check it out more in detail, but it’s an interesting read.
“On Dec. 7, they received an order to shut it down early at 6:54 a.m., but George, who had little experience and desired more, kept it running, and at 7:02 a.m. he picked up an enormous blip coming in 137 miles from the north. According to George, Joe expressed no interest in his discovery and was more interested in getting breakfast. Regardless, George insisted that it be reported, and Joe agreed that George could telephone the Information Center 50 miles away at Fort Shafter. He left a message with their operator, and at 7:20 a.m. the lieutenant on duty called back and told Joe that the blip was a dozen B-17 bombers flying in from San Francisco.”