Video gaming is a billion-dollar industry, but it’s all too often reduced to the excitement of its players or the numbers that it generates. The reality is often far more complex. Video games are the microcosm of technological innovation, one of the key predictors of cultural trends, and a market force that can send ripples across other industries.
For those looking for new perspectives on how to view the video game industry, these books are good resources for understanding games and gamers.
One Up offers an in-depth look into the business side of video gaming—taking the spotlight from gamers and shining it on the companies that create the games that they play. It’s written with the goal of helping gamers and non-gamers alike understand their part as a consumer in the video game industry, giving them more insight into why the video game companies of today make the decisions that they do. Supported by a historical and data-backed analysis of the evolving trends in the video game industry, this book will entertain and inform casual gamers and curious investors alike.
Joost van Dreunen provides a fascinating glimpse of what exactly makes video games tick, backed by his years of experience in the video game industry. Joost was a co-founder and CEO of SuperData Research, a games market research firm, which was acquired by Nielsen. As a startup advisor and lecturer at NYU Stern, he draws in the reader to examine the history of video games from the eyes of an investor, offering a top-down view of what makes today’s video games what they are.
What we like: van Dreunen writes One Up from the lens of someone looking at video games as something to analyze, rather than to discuss. The book presents plenty of data spanning years of video game development and innovation, giving readers a new perspective on the decisions behind the games that they play.
Data analytics is more crucial than ever with the expanding landscape of video gaming, especially with many gamers now holding significant purchasing power. Freemium Economics gives any video game creator and enthusiast an idea of how to leverage the core advantages of the freemium model. The book is backed by industry trends and insights.
Eric Seufert draws on his experience with analyzing data in the complex world of freemium games, using quantitative marketing to show how these models can generate significant revenue.
What we like: Freemium Economics answers one of the most confusing questions in video gaming: “How can you make money by giving away things for free?” Readers gain a sharp understanding of how the freemium model works and how important analytics is to video game development.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is one of the most compelling reads that describe the absolute chaos that video game development can go through before releasing a polished product. The book takes a close look at some of the biggest video game releases from the past few years. It covers AAA titles and one-man teams that wanted their passion projects to grow into something bigger.
Drawing on his experience as an investigative journalist and video game enthusiast, Jason Schrier gives a harrowing account of the highs and lows that development studios go through, with first-hand accounts from the people on these development teams.
What we like: Blood, Sweat, and Pixels doesn’t hold back with its account of how demanding video game development can be.
Updated to its tenth edition, Entertainment Industry Economics continues to offer data-driven insights into how the entertainment industry works. It frames the already significant industry of video gaming into the wider entertainment market, showing how far it has come. More importantly, it explores how much further it can still go.
Harold Vogel’s many years of experience as an economic analyst frame his analysis of the media and entertainment industry, with key insights into how video games find their place within the world of entertainment.
What we like: Vogel brings a wider economic viewpoint to analyzing the video game industry. With this perspective, readers can better understand what trends to expect for video gaming in the future.
Masters of Doom is a close-and-personal study of one of the earliest and most successful game franchises in history. It offers an extensive, historical, and fascinating insight into one of the earliest video game studios and its creations. This book is sure to become a favorite read of fans of the franchise.
Award-winning journalist and author David Kushner draws on his years of reporting to present a vivid look into the people and environment at id Software, showcasing the studio’s triumphs and tribulations.
What we like: Kushner goes into the varied dynamics that come with running a video game studio like id Software—down to each notable team member’s quirks, difficulties, and contributions.
Few people understand the sometimes unbelievable background that brought Tetris to the wider gaming audience. Tetris: The Games People Play is a brilliantly illustrated graphic novel about the history of Tetris. It shows its development in one of the most politically charged periods in history as well as the bidding war over its future.
Brian “Box” Brown uses his talent for both illustration and storytelling to draw the reader inside the world of video gaming, bringing its history and culture to life within the pages of his work.
What we like: Brown’s beautiful illustrations pair well with the real-life story of how Tetris came to be. Tetris reads more like a spy thriller—an unusual backdrop for a truly mesmerizing story.
Video games produce massive amounts of data—and proper analysis is the key to making the most out of the information you can get. Game Analytics offers developers and researchers methods on how to use player behavior to make better games. It covers setting up analytics systems that provide actionable data, enabling monetization tactics, and other practical applications of game analytics.
Anders Drachen, Alessandro Canossa, and Magy Seif El-Nasr draw on their respective fields of game development, design, and computational media to give readers a comprehensive introduction to how game analytics works. More importantly, they write a compelling narrative/guide to why it’s so necessary for game developers moving forward.
What we like: Game Analytics dives deep into its topic, supporting it with interviews and other contributions by leading game development professionals across the industry. Readers will find a wealth of information that can guide them toward making a better game.
The Secret Science of Games is a fascinating look into the many stories that come out of what happens when video gamers play video games. It’s written with an emphasis on understanding player behavior. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to understand the philosophy behind game user research.
John Hopson’s experience as a seasoned Microsoft Games researcher helps him create a compelling book that examines the lessons we can learn from how people play.
What we like: Hopson casts a wide net for all the case studies he explores: toxic player behavior, user feedback, and playtesting are all given useful insights in this book.
Game Over is a glimpse into the bubble that was Nintendo from 1980 to 1990. This book is an informational time capsule about what made Nintendo what it was. It also shows a fascinating glimpse of what people thought it would be like today.
David Sheff brings readers a personal look into the lives of many of the key staff in Nintendo around 1980, providing a look into their thoughts and actions that would come to shape Nintendo today.
What we like: The book is a perfectly frozen moment of both historical record and speculation behind what made Nintendo the gaming empire it is today. Sheff’s interviews work as snapshots of the steps Nintendo took.
Console Wars gives a highly personal account of the long-standing rivalry between Sega and Nintendo from 1989 to 1995. This book is centered around the story of Tom Kalinske. It details the thrilling account of how one man drove innovation, passion, and talent at Sega to challenge one of the biggest influences in the video game industry.
Blake Harris draws on his experiences in media and entertainment to craft a compelling narrative about how Sega took on Nintendo, and the various shockwaves it sent across the gaming industry and beyond. Looking at this rivalry as a story to tell rather than a tale to analyze, readers will be drawn in by the story of how determination can often be the one thing that makes a difference.
What we like: Harris writes Console Wars more like a featurette rather than a report, with rich accounts of the real-life stories of the people behind Sega and Nintendo. This focus on narrative storytelling is undoubtedly one of the best reasons to read this book.