Homebound: A couple more Retro Gaming Books

While I’m smashing through my latest gaming books I was also looking back at others I have sitting on my bookshelf and I really felt like talking about them too. I held back initially because I wanted to keep my last post brief and focus on my new arrivals but while the topic is still fresh in my head I think it’s as good a reason as any to keep going! These two are a mix of recent and (very) old purchases but I found both very readable.

Breakout: How Atari 8-bit Computers Defined a Generation, by Jamie Lendino

Another for fans of Atari’s computer platforms but this one is focused on their 8-bit platform whose lifespan intersected with much of the company’s own history from the 2600 and it’s 16-bit successor the ST. Unlike later generations of computers that leveraged graphical user interfaces, users here had to make do with the command prompt and a built in BASIC interpreter which is only touched on lightly so if you’re trying to understand how to use the old computer your Dad’s packed away this won’t help much but will at least explain what you’re seeing. It also goes into the different models and peripherals that were part of the line including some that never made it past prototype or limited release. Much of what defined the company in terms of products and services started here from the ultimate system seller in Star Raiders to an early platform for indie publishing in the Atari Program Exchange (APX). Between this and Jamie Lendino’s book on the ST which I just finished reading, this one presses my nostalgia buttons a lot more simply because this was the platform that got me started on computers. I drew plenty of pictures, wrote assignments, dabbled in programming and played a LOT of games! The ST would solidify the pathway to my career as a developer but the 8-bit Atari was where it started and this book helped to remind me of how much I achieved thanks to that little brown and beige computer.

Masters of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture, by David Kushner

This is one that many will find interesting as it covers the early history behind one of the industry’s most influential developers in id Software whose games helped accelerate the PC to a place where many games played best there over consoles. You may not like Doom (or it’s 2016 reboot created WAY after this) but how the company came to be and the stories revolving around two of its most prominent developers in John Carmack and John Romero makes for fascinating reading. Worth adding though that it doesn’t always paint everyone in a positive light, especially when everyone started to go their separate ways from the company. Romero probably gets the worst of that due to what happened during the Ion Storm years which even now he admits was a humbling experience however he’s been in a lot of panels and interviews over the years and it’s still clear he loves what he does and is quite open about talking about those days. The book was first published back in 2003 and a lot of water has passed under that particular bridge which helps! If you’ve ever read any in depth articles or books about the trials and tribulations of games studios I feel they may not have existed if it were not for this book paving the way.

There’s so many specialised books available now on gaming that it’s likely you can find one that’ll press your own nostalgia buttons. Some of them may even convince you to dig out that old computer or console and relive some good times. 🙂

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