June 2024
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Review: All Your Base are Belong to Us, Harold Goldberg

all your base are belong to usFrom the first videogame to the graphics-intense shooters of the present day, using computers and consoles to play games has a long and fascinating history. Rather than try and cover all of this history, Goldberg focuses on snapshots in time, targeting specific games that changed the industry, pushed it to develop, and / or that succeeded against all the odds. Because it’s so wide, he covers everything from vacuum-tube computers to arcade games to handheld systems, picking and choosing which games to spotlight as he attempts to capture just what inspires us about gaming.

By the author’s choice of title, he’s captured the interest of anyone who has been a video game nerd in the last two decades. “All Your Base are Belong to Us” is a well-known translation error from the game Zero Wing which has taken on a life of its own amongst gamers (as you’ll see in the link above). Because it so clearly caters to me and other gamers like me, I was predisposed to enjoy this book, and enjoy it I did. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the title within the text, which I think will actually confuse people who have a more general knowledge of gaming, and who may actually enjoy this book the most.

Goldberg chooses some interesting moments in gaming, some of which I knew about previously and some of which I didn’t. Games like Pong, Myst, and Bioshock make an appearance, with their creation stories alongside Goldberg’s analysis of how and why they changed gaming. Goldberg is obviously a gamer himself and is able to easily recreate the feelings that make gaming so much fun through his writing. He has interviewed legions of personalities who featured in the games’ creation, adding primary source material to each chapter with his own commentary.

It’s a bit of an uneven book, though, simply by its very nature. He has left out games that had their own significant influence on the industry, because he only has a limited amount of space in this short book, and as a result it’s actually difficult to grasp the entire picture. It’s not really a history of video games either, it’s more a chatty selection of some games that influenced their development as a whole, a journey through interviews with some vibrant gaming personalities. There are some really excellent chapters in here, but I just didn’t feel at the end like Goldberg had achieved his goal of exploring why video games have such an effect on us.

All Your Base Are Belong to Us is a fun read, perfect for someone who wants a skimmable look into gaming history, but it doesn’t achieve quite the depth I’d hoped for. I’m still looking for the perfect history of the gaming industry, or books which focus on different sectors, and am very happy to take suggestions.

All book links to external sites are affiliate links. I received this book for free from Amazon Vine.


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