Both in my own time and working at Gamers.com I did some print reading on the world of video games. Here are some of the books I read and some quick summaries/reviews, or links to longer considerations.
Arcade Treasures With Price Guide - by Bill Kurtz
A picture book of arcade game history. It focuses especially on pinball, although you'll find a few of the early video game classics in there. Plenty of obscure information, and a ton of color photos. The text concerns the history of the games and the companies behind them.
Extra Life - by David S. Bennahum
A Gen-X writer considers his youth growing up with computers and video games. Might bring back some memories or give you some context on the early history of computer games, when many gamers made their own.
Joystick Nation - by J. C. Herz
The author examines her fascination with games and the development of video gaming as a cultural phoenomenon. The book consists mostly ofa broad view of the society and culture of gaming - it has less specific game history. Some in the classic gaming community have not received the book well, perhaps because her mission is not to honor the hardcore, but more to understand games in the mainstream. Herz was the games columnist for the New York Times; though she resigned in early February 2000, she will likely be a voice on gaming for some time to come.
Finite and Infinite Games - by James P. Carse
This is a different type of game book - think of it as "way meta." Carse draws parallels between the basic structure of games, with rules, competition and cooperation, and human existence. A good choice if you're feeling philosophical - it's a quick read and it's one of those books that might make you say "a-ha!" about your everyday life.
Playing for Profit : How Digital Entertainment Is Making Big BusinessOut of Child's Play - by Alice Laplante
Entertainment and technology are converging! The Internet! Business opportunities and lessons! Browse the table of contents to find the chapters about the games business in particular or just read the whole darn thing.
Phoenix; The Fall & Rise of Videogames - by Leonard Herman
The definitive history of console gaming. Herman has a vast store of knowledge that spans from 1970 to 1996. Every console you've heard of and thousands you haven't are included here, many with black and white photos. Reading the book takes some work - there's a lot of data he has to share, and whatever story there might be suffers for it. But by the end you will know an enormous amount about the history and continuity in console games business. An invaluable research tool for classic console gaming.
Game Over: Press Start To Continue - by David Sheff
Young Children, Videos and Computer Games : Issues for Teachers andParents - by Jack Sanger
Some British people followed kids around and observed their interactions with video games. As you can see from the attached photo, they didn't always get it quite right. This is good stuff to read if you want to weigh the role of games in education and the development of young minds.
Homo Ludens : A Study of the Play-Element in Culture - by Johan Huizinga
Howard recommended me this one. A deep anthropological meditation on why we play. Haven't got more than a third through it yet. Dense.
Game Design : Secrets of the Sages - by Marc Saltzman
This book is pitched as a primer for people looking to learn how to design games. It's better considered as a collection of interviews and stories from over a hundred famous and not-so famous game designers. Each of them reflects on a past game design project, some with illustrations. "Better for game players than game designers" said one reviewer, and well, that probably suits us just fine. Includes commentary from both console game makers and computer game makers.
Games War : Video Games - A Business Review - by Michael Hayes, Stuart Dinsey
A quote here from an Amazon review: "Although certainly not something to cozy up to the fire with, this book will certainly provide you with a barrage of facts and statistics from the European war between Sega and Nintendo during the 16-bit era. "
Computers As Theatre by Brenda Laurel
Pretty highbrow examination of the way we interact with computers with an eye towards the future of computer-human interaction. Written in the 1980s, she presages things like advanced VR and the worlds of Quake 3. Laurel was a part of the Atari Systems Research Laboratory, a short lived outcome of the success of Atari in the console games business; they studied future technologies and digital storytelling. There's some of that here, between the references to greek dudes and geometric diagrams of story-arc. Note: that is a picture of her on the cover, lookin' kinda wacky!
The Art of Human Computer Interface Design edited by Brenda Laurel
This giant tome contains essays by and interviews with major thinkers in the realm of interface design. While the book is a bit dated, being from 1990, you'll find a lot of computer interface design fundamentals here. The essay/interview format makes for some good quick education chunks.
Digital Dreams: The Work of the Sony Design Center by Paul Kunkel
Consumer electronics pornography. Beautiful photos of beautiful products. A history of Sony design in pictures and text. The section on the PlayStation includes a bunch of the PlayStation logos that were considered and abandoned. Covers up through the recent products, including the memory stick technology.
Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation by Dan Tapscott
From Amazon.com: "Don Tapscott, author of The Digital Economy, turns his attention to the way young people-surrounded by high-tech toys and tools from birth-will likely affect the future. In Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, Tapscott parlays some 300 interviews into predictions on how today's 2- to 22-year-olds might reshape society. His observations about this enormously influential population, which will total 88 million in North America alone by the year 2000, range from the kind of employees they may eventually be to how they could be reached by marketers." This book has won praises for turning a studied eye on the digital literacy of young people and you might hear it mentioned at some game conferences. Useful data for the people who sell and tell stories to young minds.
Sony: The Private Life by John Nathan
Fantastic articulate biograpy of Sony. The author had incredible access to very high level people at Sony, accordingly, the stories behind new product launches and design decisions are peppered with the dense stuff of relationships and commentary from Sony people on the differences between American and Japanese ways of doing business. Sony is a major company in the games field (the launch of the PlayStation is in here), but besides that there are fascinating stories of how they created the market for personal listening devices - Walkmen were to be called "Sound Around" in the US and other such fascinating trivia of our times. It's deep too.
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
A seminal modern work of visual literacy. McCloud breaks down the visual language of comic books and in so doing describes the shape of storytelling when you bring graphics and text together. Kinda like a lot of PC adventure/role-playing games, you end up reading a novel on screen. Wish those guys would read this book and dress up their words a little bit! McCloud is an accomplished comic book style illustrator, and in this book he demonstrates a ready grasp of some of the deeper scientific and cultural properties of visual perception.