Tuesday, August 22, 2023

All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture by Harold Goldberg


ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US is a book that I've been waiting about ten years to read. It covers fifty years of video game history, from the oscilloscope tennis game made by the same guy who worked on the Hiroshima bomb, to modern classics like Bioshock or Bejeweled. In between, it covers various other key points of video game history, like the Atari crash, the console war between Nintendo and Playstation, and the constant race to do what was previously thought impossible by the current limitations posed by speed and graphics.

I thought this book was only okay. It's one of those history books where the narrator clearly has an opinion, and that opinion colors the tone and the commentary of the book. It feels like you're being taught about these subjects by a fratty hipster, and that's okay since I guess, you know, this was written in the late aughts and that was the vibe. But it also makes it come across as kind of dated now. I'm 100% sure this wouldn't be written the same way if it were published today.

My favorite parts of the books were probably the wild wild west of the early Atari days, the creation of Mario and-- much later-- Crash Bandicoot. And surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the parts about Myst and 7th Guest, even though I never played either of those games. The behind-the-scenes of Bioshock was also great because whether you play the game or not, the storyline of it is truly fantastic and I really liked hearing about how it was created. Some of the chapters were so boring that I skipped over them entirely, like the one about EA Games, and others were bland, although I tried to trudge through because I loved the games they were about (this was true for PopCap's Bejeweled and The Sims).

Overall, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to anyone except die-hard video game history buffs.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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