Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World

Basic. May 2017. 304p. notes. index. ISBN 9780465039708. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780465096589. SOC SCI
OrangeReviewStarErvin (Burning Down George Orwell's House) traces the lineage of video games with engaging reportage that includes interviews, personal experience, and critical analysis. This work covers similar ground to Simon Parkin's Death by Video Game yet offers a unique range of examples and a fresh voice. From the charming position of a newly minted old fuddy duddy, Ervin describes his encounters with the most significant video game creators and their games, explaining their contribution to the genre. He also tells personal stories with contagious enthusiasm: restoring a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet, getting to play Adventure again on the original Atari 2600, on being slaughtered by Minecraft zombies (hidden from the prying eyes of his nephews) to name just a few. Not every pixelated encounter is sweet, however. His distaste for first-person shooters is strong, which makes sense as his analysis takes shape. He believes artful games aim to build empathy in their players and "offer a new means of thinking about more timeless existential problems."
VERDICT A thoughtful, personal, and enlightening look at the past, present, and future of video games.
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