Forget your Hollywood blockbusters or triple platinum albums, video games are the most profitable entertainment medium in the world. No longer a pastime for the minority, more people than ever are gaming in the 21st century and video games have had an undeniable impact on our culture, influencing our everyday lives.
Written by the Phaidon Editors, with an introduction by journalist Simon Parkin and an essay by India Block, Game Changers: The Video Game Revolution is the ultimate A-Z guide to nearly 300 of the world’s most iconic games spanning the last 70 years.
With its glossy white embossed cover, this behemoth of a hardback book is designed to look somewhat like a modern games console and would look great gracing any coffee table. But, just like a console, it’s what’s inside that counts…
Game Changers starts with two original essays. The first sets the scene with an overview of gaming history and delves into how iconic games and new technologies have pushed the boundaries of what is possible. The second takes more of a design spin and argues that video games can be considered as art as well as a means of fostering a community spirit.
Games galore – from Animal Crossing to ZORK
Hand-picked by a panel of industry experts, the games in the book are arranged alphabetically. Each game gets a single page or a double spread and the accompanying text informs the reader about the game, its history and its place within wider culture. Over 700 vibrant images, many of which taken from the games, are used to illustrate the book.
A system of symbols helps to inform the reader more about the game: what platform it can be found on (it’s not just console and PC games, we have influential games from arcades and mobile gaming as well) its genre, number of players and technology (2D, 3D or VR). We’re also told the year the game was released plus the country where it was developed.
The book contains a good mix of games in terms of decades, platforms and genres. They’ve been chosen based on their impact on the gaming industry, with particular focus given to new technologies, innovative gameplay and never-before-seen graphics and design.
Games chosen include one of the first ever video games – OXO, created in 1952. This saw players competing against an AI component in a game of noughts and crosses (also known as tic-tac-toe). However, it could only be played on a room-sized computer housed at Cambridge University’s mathematics department. It wouldn’t be until 1972 with the release of Pong in arcades that people other than scientists could enjoy computer games, and a new era was born.
If you’ve been playing games for a while then reading Game Changers will lead you on many nostalgic trips down memory lane as you recall some of the games you’ve loved playing over the years. Some might be games that you had forgotten about but were obsessed with as a child and others will be games you’ve never heard of before but might be inspired to check out, many of which can still be played online or on modern consoles. Such as the ones available on Xbox through Antstream Arcade.
Developers, publishers and creators – from Activision to Zynga
As well as the games, Game Changers: The Video Game Revolution, provides further context with pages on influential developers and publishers, such as Capcom, EA and Nintendo, which tell you about their history and what famous games they’ve worked on.
As well as this, there is a section at the end of the book that features biographies on some of the big names in the gaming industry, both past and present.
The hardware – from Atari to ZX Spectrum
Video games wouldn’t exist without the hardware to play them on, which is why Game Changers contains pages on the hardware from early computers to the first home consoles and modern day next-gen consoles.
Whether your first console was an Atari 2600, launched in 1977, the original Xbox from 2001, or if you were a member of the elite group of Atari Jaguar owners, you can read more about them in Game Changers.
Tons of gaming features
Game Changers also includes some other interesting features, including a Chronology page, which gives you a list of all the items featured in year order from Nintendo in 1889 (it was originally created to produce playing cards) to Norco, a thought-provoking point and click released in 2022.
You’ll also find a useful glossary of gaming terms, in case you don’t know your PvP from your UI, and an index if you want to find every reference to a particular game or developer.
Whether you are an avid gamer, or merely interested in the art and history of video games, Game Changers is a veritable compendium of gaming information packaged into a high-quality, glossy paged book and contains more interesting facts that you could shake a Game Boy at.
Game Changers: The Video Game Revolution is released on 7th September – in fact, you can purchase it right now.
Game Changers: The Video Game Revolution; Phaidon Editors, with an introduction by Simon Parkin and an essay by India Block; Published by Phaidon, £39.95 (Phaidon.com)
Huge thanks to Phaidon for sending us a copy to review.