‘The Comic Book Story of Video Games’ Offers an Overly Broad Look At the Origins of Video Games

Title: The Comic Book Story of Video Games
Author:
 Jonathan Hennessey
Artist: Jack McGowan
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Review Spoilers:  N/A
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Rating:
If you’re a fan of video games and comic books then The Comic Book Story of Video Games may be the perfect book for you. Just understand that when they say ‘story’ they mean the whole story. This book goes back all the way to the 1800s to the invention of some of the earliest technology utilized by video games… and then inexplicably ends with little mention of the current generation.

I’m going to be honest with all of you from the start, I had a hard time getting into this book at first.

The Comic Book Story of Video Games really does start in the 1800s. That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, nearly all of the first half of the book focuses more on the technology and historical events that would ultimately lead to video games becoming possible.

I’m not saying that the eras covered and the information provided isn’t interesting, but it is a hard slog at times. The latter half, which focuses more on the history of actual video games from tic-tac-toe programs straight out of WarGames and Pong to the modern era, is far more interesting.

Still, Jack McGowan keeps things interesting by adding modern characters into the historical scenes. It’s almost as if they are revisiting their own history, watching as technology catches up with them. And occasionally we see them help tell the story.

At one point Phoenix Wright pops up in a reference to a legal challenge being represented by Phoenix Wright. A zombie from Plants vs. Zombies comments on CPUs. And Kirby helps the reader understand the importance of transistors.

Occasionally, modern technology is shown next to it’s earlier predecessors which helps add some perspective to the historical context the author focuses on so heavily. 

I just think it was probably a mistake for the book to cover the history of video games with such strict chronological order. Admittedly, there is a section where they flash back to feudal Japan in order to build up to the founding of Nintendo, but that’s a pretty brief change in direction.

For the most part, it moves slowly from start to finish, rushing a lot of the modern history that readers would likely find most compelling into the latter portions of the book. Box Brown used a similar chronological narrative at the start of his book, Tetris, but he framed the early history of video games through the idea of play — not technology, which is far more complicated.

All that said, The Comic Book Story of Video Games, can be an entertaining read.

It’s a fun book with tons of great references that video game fans are going to love. As I said before, there are well-known characters sprinkled throughout the book and that alone will keep fans reading just to see how they get worked into the story.

And you can expect to see a lot of familiar games and faces. The Comic Book Story of Video Games highlights a lot of important games and individuals, which helped video games become with they are today. If you recently binge-watched the second season of Stranger Things, check out Dragon’s Lair on page 128.

Plus I really liked Jack McGowan’s artwork. He does a good job of capturing the story and adapting iconic characters to his own style.

This book was just really hard for me to get into – especially at first. But if you’re a fan of video games and you’re okay with an overly broad understanding of what video game history includes The Comic Book Story of Video Games could be the right read for you!