Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Popular histories of video games?

 Thanks to Humble Bundle, I have discovered a publisher called Boss Fight Books that specializes in popular histories of video games.

Popular history, according to my family, is when you still use facts, sources and interviews but simplify and flatten things into order to create a narrative. And probably sanitize things. That definition might say more about my family than the concept of popular history :P

Boss Fight Books has each book be about a specific video game. More than that, if I understand it correctly, the authors got to pick what the game they wrote about. And it’s usually clearly been a game that was meaningful to the author.

That being said, having the bias completely out in the open makes it more acceptable to me. I don’t view it as propaganda but as fan testimony.

I’ve been reading the books like they are the literary popcorn. They are very light and fluffy. And I’ve been wondering what book would make me feel like blogging about the publisher.

It turns out that it’s the book about NBA Jam called NBA Jam. A wildly successful and influential video game that I never heard of about a subject I’m not really interested in.

(I think basketball is an AMAZING game for hobby and recreation, even though I am beyond abysmal at it. It works perfectly indoors and outdoors and is easily adapted to the half court. But I think sports work better as activities than as entertainment)

And I now know how BOOMSHAKALAKA became a part of global vocabulary.

But the book was actually more about the people who designed the game (particularly Mark Turmell) and the last days of Midway Games. (A history of Mortal Kombat would probably cover the exact same ground as far as Midway’s history is concerned)

And it kept me interested and entertained. Many of the books (not all of them) just use video games to frame the lives of their creators and the fortunes of their publishers. NBA Jam does that in spades. Quite frankly, it was framed like a classic tragedy with a video game back drop.

As I’ve already mentioned, the Boss Battle Books books are written by fans, push the narrative and polish the rough edges. However, they are entertaining and you will still end up learning something.

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