a visual history of the videogame age (1971-1984)

Review by Jonathan Imberi

My initial thoughts after purchasing this book was that I would most likely end up just flipping through looking at all the pictures. However, once I started reading I found an amazing amount of information presented in a very easy-to-read format. The introductory material is interesting and original and the time line provides an enticing clue as to what lies on the pages ahead.

Author Van Burnham has worked very hard to make this much more than just a listing of videogames and awe-inspiring pictures. By structuring the book so that it is broken down into yearly subsections the reader is taken on a visual tour of the development and growing sophistication of arcade videogames and home entertainment systems. Each section is filled with historical facts, trivia and detailed reminiscences from many of the early videogame pioneers. The author also throws in her own two cents from time to time, which provides yet another welcomed perspective on this captivating subject.

Detailed information is provided about each game covered in the chronological tour, and at times some of the original flyer slogans are offered verbatim presenting an almost comical flash back to days gone by. Where appropriate, the author discusses how some of the more classic titles, most notably Space Invaders and Pac-Man, entered the mainstream of American pop culture and helped to establish and validate the videogame industry.

The historical portion was all encompassing covering Tennis For Two at Brookhaven National Labs, Spacewar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the invention of home TV game systems and the rise of the Golden Age of videogames. This book provides an in-depth, and yet easily understood history lesson on videogames – a media that is too often grossly misunderstood and under appreciated.

The only minor complaint I had with the book was the obvious use of MAME™ Screen captures throughout with no apparent acknowledgement as to their source. This was a little disappointing since sole the purpose of the MAME™ Project is to document and preserve the history of these wonderful games. This is though, as I said, a very minor complaint and the book easily makes up for this oversight with the creative layouts and use of these exceptional pictures.

I can’t think of a more fitting description for this book than, a visual history of the videogame age (1971-1984). At 448 pages the book is able to completely cover the golden years of videogame history, and with pages roughly 10.5 inches by 10.5 inches it’s sure to make an enormous impression in any videogame enthusiasts’ library. From the glossy colorful full-page photographs to the time line and sectional breakdowns by year, this book has it all.

I recommend this book to anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of videogames, especially the gamers who lived and played through the Golden Age of videogame history. You can find more information on this book and its author at

Until next time, enjoy life one dot at a time… Wocka! Wocka!

First Published November 2005