THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES by Jonathan Hennessy and Jack McGowan
Information
Organization
Art
Summary
What THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES lacks in organization, it makes up for in insight and information. Hennessy has done a masterful job retelling the rise of the video game industry, and fans of the medium should invest in this book.
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The video game industry has become the foremost leader of the pop culture movement. Whether high paced war simulators, or intricate, open world fantasies, there really is a game for every player. According to an Entertainment Software Association study done in 2015, nearly 80% of American homes had some form of video game console. Gamers of nearly every age, background and creed have fallen in love with the stories and entertainment video games provide. And with the advent of Virtual Reality gaming, the innovations simply don’t seem to slow down.

In THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES, writer Jonathan Hennessy and artist Jack McGowan explore the industry’s deep history. Hennessy’s intricate research and McGowan’s stunning art highlight the greatest names, innovations, and failures of Video Game producers. But with over 70 years of history to cover, do some of the details get lost in the translation?

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Binary Breakdown

Video Games
Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES is a 181-page breakdown of the video game industry’s biggest moments. Starting in World War II, Hennessy explores the earliest video game systems, adapted from radar technology. We journey alongside Hennessy to see the birth of Arcade machines and console video games. On the way, we witness the rise of Nintendo, Atari, and the biggest names in the business.

As we take this journey, McGowan’s art illustrates each and every scene with energy and realism. McGowan beautifully renders THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES. Primarily a history book, THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES had the potential to be a bit slow. However, McGowan’s frenetic line work and textured visuals make the many inventors and characters come to life. The redesigned cameos of popular video game characters represent this books’ greatest touches. Though costumes look no different, McGowan renders each in his style, giving these giants a modern flair.

The Key is in the Coding

Video Games
Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

I solely expected, going into THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES, to find a brief collection of factoids dating back to the first popular home console, the Atari 2600. I expected a breakdown of the rise of Nintendo and Sony or the switch to sleek Discs from bulky plastic cartridges. And while Hennessy devotes large portions of the final chapters to these occurrences, they only become relevant near the story’s end.

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What I found in THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES was a deep and intricate history of worldwide technological development. Hennessy begins the story by detailing the earliest prototypes of Cathode Ray Tubes (found in early televisions) and military radar. While neither are directly relevant to the rise of video games, each acted as a springboard for the technological advances necessary. These early, covert connections between World War II, the atomic bomb, and the video game superstructure led to an immediate investment into this book’s material. Did you know that members of the Manhattan Project developed some of the earliest video-game-like devices? I certainly didn’t, and I’ve had a controller in my hand since I was born.

Hennessy’s strong writing backs up all of this potent information. He draws you in with his knowledge and love for the medium. Lives of technological wunderkinds like Alan Turing, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Sam Houser are detailed with stark descriptions. Hennessy’s words make these devices more than just bundles of code. They become worlds of potential that dictate the importance of the medium to pop culture.

Yet Another Castle

the comic book story of Video Games
Courtesy of Ten Speed Press

The organization and editing represent the greatest failings in THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES. While Hennessy’s writing feels solid, the sharing of info sometimes grows a bit convoluted. This happens in the first chapter when Hennessy breaks away from the discussion of WWII for a one-page spotlight of Alan Turing. While we needed to learn about Turing, it had no context. It was also easily forgotten when we return to the war and its technological advances. This felt even more baffling when Turing appears later in that chapter.

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THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES is a very wordy comic book. Hennessy crammed in a lot of info.  I wouldn’t have any problem with this either if the editing seemed solid throughout. However, this text has a number of misspellings, missing letters, and repeat text boxes.

I read an advanced review copy. By its release, these mistakes may go out in editing. And I seriously hope they do. One of the most grievous errors in the editing occurs during the discussion of DOOM’s creation when creator John Carmack’s name is misspelled. While this seems small, these mistakes can wholly undermine the legitimacy of the facts presented.

Final Thoughts: THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES

Video games have been a massive part of popular culture for many years. As I learned in THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES, that history is intricately tied into the world altering events of the last century. Through wars, depressions, and political upheavals, this medium has become a part of the public consciousness.

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Hennessy’s retelling of this history is mired in organizational and editorial issues, but that never took away from the intrigue and relevance of the information. With McGowan’s beautifully detailed art,  every video game fan must read THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES. Get ready to pick up your controllers when this book blips onto shelves on October 3.

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