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Book Review: All Your Base Are Belong To Us

Posted 04-18-2011 at 01:13 PM by LoTECH
Updated 07-01-2011 at 10:55 AM by LoTECH

Book Review: All Your Base Are Belong To Us

By: Harold Goldberg
Published: April, 2011

As a big fan of gaming-history, I always look forward to new books that try and tell some behind-the-scenes stories about the sordid history of the game industry. Often times, these books are written by people with a lot of interest in games, but no practical experience or insights. They start becoming drawn-out Wikipedia pages, with no heart.

Harold Goldberg loves games. He's reviewed games for magazines like Wired, Entertainment Weekly, and The Village Voice for fifteen years. He was editorin chief of Sony Online Entertainment during the launch of the original EverQuest. In short, he's paid his dues.

All Your Base Are Belong To Us is a love letter to gaming. It's meme title is the worst thing I can say about it. Instead of documenting every game (or even every "important" game), Mr. Goldberg takes a look at some interesting aspects of a select few, and the impact they had at the time, and how they influenced the games we have today.

He writes with an all-knowing voice, pointing out the mistakes and bad-calls as they happen in the narrative. He also emphasizes the wise moves of the industry leaders and even some horrible missteps by the same people.

"Crash Sucks"

My personal favorite insight was a quote captured by Mr. Ken Kutaragi, the father of the Playstation about what would become one of the (North American) Playstation's flagship titles:

"This Crash (Bandicoot) is never going to sell. It has no heart at all. The only thing to make it passable is if every plant would dance to the beat of the hearts of the animals in the game. But it does not. So this game is crap. This game is crap!"

Weird, right?

The man behind the 3DO

The book takes some sides with certain events, siding firmly with Trip Hawkins in his 3d0 and EA downfall: Illuminating him as a genius with bold ideas and hubris misunderstood by modern gamers. Hearing about how Hawkins fathered the Madden series, and took huge personal risks to do so (the original game was nicknamed 'Trip's Folley' indide EA at the time) is exceedingly interesting.

All in all, I highly recommend the book to anyone who has a more-than-passing interest in gaming and it's humble beginnings. While not as verbous as some of the encylopedic volumes out there, and not as colorful as some of the pretenders, it's a fun read that moves at a fast-pace and brings you up to modern-day gaming quickly.

  • Fast-Paced
  • Includes little-known insights
  • Somewhat Dry
  • A little too "all knowing"
  • No pictures
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