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The Ultimate History of Video Games

From Pong to Pokemon, the Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World by Steven L. Kent 

Review by Jonathan Imberi

My wife Sara bought me The Ultimate History of Video Games and I just couldn’t put it down until I had read the whole book, and even now I find myself going back to re-read certain sections!

Steven L. Kent has done his homework and it shows! He has interviewed hundreds of the most influential and important people in the industry and includes their direct quotes on just about every single page. The important fact here is that it’s their real stories and not just the standard rumors we are used to hearing. The book refrains from being ‘author opinionated’ by allowing the people who were involved to speak their minds.

This comprehensive book covers the entire history of video games, from the first pinball machines right up to before the launch of the Gamecube and Xbox. This book will give gamers and non-gamers alike a better appreciation of video games and the changes that they have brought to the world.

There are all kinds of interesting tidbits and trivia. Did you know Masaya Nakamura started Namco by putting two used mechanical horse rides on the top of a department store? Or that Coleco stands for the Connecticut Leather Company? When Atari got their first big order they were desperate for labor, so they hired everybody at the local unemployment center and ended up with people smoking marijuana at work, shooting up in the bathroom and stealing monitors for their drug habits.

I'm sure many of you know the standard trivia like Space War was the first video game, but did you know that Pong was originally by Magnavox not Atari? Did you know that Steve Jobs worked for Atari and was always unclean and smelled so bad that no one wanted to work with him?

It's amazing to me just how fresh some of my memories are. It mentions games that I haven’t thought about for years, and instantly flooded my mind with memories.

I think the best thing about this book though for me is that it brings most of the people down to earth. Reading about their beginnings is inspiring in that most of them don't seem like ‘out of the ordinary’ people; they just seem like normal guys that knew what they wanted to accomplish and succeeded.

If you are at all curious about the history of video games, you will want this book. A word of caution though, if you are looking for big colorful pictures you won’t find them. This book is almost all text, but for a very good reason - This is the Ultimate History of Video Games, and at 624 pages it makes sure to cover just about everything.

Ultimate History of Video Games Home Page

First Published February 2005