Ten of my favourite books about video games

Seeing as it’s World Book Day, I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite gaming tomes, inspired by Keith Stuart’s excellent list on The Guardian. Let’s go!

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

Tetris has a fascinating history, and the story of how Alexey Pajitnov’s game was chased after by Nintendo, Atari and Sega has been told many different writers. But this graphic novel by Box Brown is one of the most accessible and delightful, distilling the complicated machinations of copyright and corporate deals into a brilliantly fun read.

Replay: The History of Video Games by Tristan Donovan

There have been countless books telling the history of video games over the years, but this is the best one I’ve ever read. Tristan Donovan shines a light on plenty of less-well-known stories from the annals of gaming history, with the chapters on Atari and Doom making for particularly interesting stories. An absoute must read for any gaming fan.

Getting Gamers by Jamie Madigan

Jamie Madigan studies the psychology of video games, and this book is filled with fascinating examples of how game creators strive to make us perform various behaviours and feel certain things. Reading this book will completely change how you regard some games.

Itchy, Tasty: An Unofficial History of Resident Evil by Alex Aniel

The writing in this book is a little uneven in places, but the stories are mind-blowing. Alex Aniel has gained unprecedented access to a huge range of the people behind the Resident Evil games, and there are some amazing insights in here – I particularly enjoyed the story of the actor who played Barry Burton and the infamous Jill sandwich.

Gamish: A Graphic History of Gaming by Edward Ross

Another graphic novel, and a particularly excellent one. Edward Ross not only takes a look at the history of gaming, he delves into the question of why we game and what effects games have on us. The drawings are filled with wonderful little references to games past and present, and half the fun was trying to guess them all. A wonderful read.

Sid Meier’s MEMOIR! by Sid Meier

I love that title. And there’s an excellent level of humour throughout this autobiography – Sid Meier is a pretty damn engaging writer, as it turns out. He tells some brilliant stories about the making of games like Pirates! and Civilization, but my favourite parts were about the very early days, and how Meier went from bedroom coding to massive success.

A History of Videogames in 14 consoles, 5 computers, 2 arcade cabinets …and an Ocarina of Time by Iain Simons & James Newman

Another book on the history of video games – but a really unique one. The authors have plucked out a eclectic selection of objects from the collection of the UK National Videogame Museum, and each double-page spread is dedicated to a particular object, whether it’s the NES Game Genie, a Dizzy III development map or a Myst hint envelope.

Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium by Andy Roberts

Bitmap Books has produced an amazing selection of compendiums down the years, each dedicated to a different machine, but this is my favourite by far. It’s packed with beautiful images from classic Amiga games, as well as some insightful developer interviews.

Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer by Tom Lean

I absolutely love this book. It tells the story of how microcomputers like the Sinclair Spectrum and Acorn Atom rose up in the 1980s, and there are all sorts of fascinating details – like how the Post Office pioneered an early version of the Internet, and how the BBC Micro had an adaptor for Teletext. Essential reading – and readers outside the UK might find it particularly interesting to see how the console and computer landscape was so different over here in the 1980s.

Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World by Matt Alt

This book covers the full gamut of Japanese pop culture, from Hello Kitty to karaoke, but naturally video games play a big part. The story of how anime rose up as a medium and how Japanese games grew to dominance is brilliantly told, and I learned countless new things about Japan’s postwar history and influence. Essential.