As the summer months come to a close and school is starting back up, a frequent point of discussion among my peers has been required reading. Between my avid reader friends and vehement non-reader companions, there is a common memory of disdain for those forced book lists.
Many of the titles that were necessary for summer projects and autumn class discussion were totally unappealing books that seemed to frustrate kids right out of reading. Even when we were given the option to choose from a hearty list of books, this freedom was an illusion. These lists were rarely updated from the musty classics that are primed for structured teaching and bland schoolwork. The only respite from these tired titles was the rare moment when we could make a completely independent selection for a book report.
As a kid who was obsessed with video games, I would scour my local library for any tome of information on my beloved hobby. Most of the time, my searches would return outdated books on the history of computers or science fiction with elements of virtual reality peppered throughout. Outside of the fact that most of these titles would not get approved by my teachers, the tone of these books was not quite what I was looking for.
I longed for writing with a more personal touch; maybe a memoir of someone directly involved with the creation of video games, or how certain games reflected and affected the current world. At the very least, I wanted a book from someone who had been as influenced by video games as I was. Thanks to the efforts of some great writers (and roughly 1300 Kickstarter backers), these sorts of books now exist.
Boss Fight Books was founded in Los Angeles in June of 2013. They have five books to their company so far, with a sixth title hitting the digital shelves shortly. Each of these books focuses on a single video game; its influence, content, history, and contribution to the world outside of the screen. From their website:
“Some books will be about the history of the game’s creation, some will focus on particular elements like level design, story, and music, some will investigate the subculture that has formed around a game, some will bring in outside art, science, and media, and some will have a strong autobiographical element. Many books will be a combination of all these things.”
Since each book has been written by a different author, the content and tone of every title is unique. EarthBound is the story of a cult classic from the perspective of a former child actor who wonderfully retells the game’s tale of heartfelt Americana. Chrono Trigger is a sort of cultural cross-over, as a college researcher likens his experience teaching in Japan to the massive translation effort of a text-heavy RPG. ZZT takes the reader back in time to the early 90s, when the internet was in its infancy and homebrew designers used a friendly programming language to navigate their coming of age. Galaga uses the classic game’s design to express 256 “levels” of honest anecdotes, life stories, and arcade history. All of these books provide worthwhile information and reading experiences to both the avid game player and complete neophyte.
So as you are walking the shelves of your local bookstore or library, scrounging for your assigned reading or looking back on those titles through which you suffered in the past, be sure to hop over to Boss Fight Books once you’ve made it back home. Each one of these gems expresses the love and impact of video games on their authors and the lives of so many others. These are some amazing titles just waiting for your to pick them up, snuggle into your preferred reading corner, and dive right into their pages.