SMARTBOMB by Heather Chaplin


Inside the $25 Billion Videogame Explosion
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A survey of video games, with a look at what happened between Pong and Halo.

Journalists Chaplin and Ruby try to go beyond the wicked graphics and big numbers (annual sales of $10 billion in the U.S. alone) to get at the personalities who have created a new entertainment industry that is celebrated and reviled with almost equal amounts of passion. They have a good crop to choose from, since videogame development is fueled by uniquely brainy misfits just like those who spawned the personal computer revolution—only odder. The driving forces behind id Software, the company that created the ultimate first-person shooter game, Doom, John Romero and John Carmack serve as prototypes for the rest of the field’s personality types. Romero is the swollen-headed egomaniac, Carmack the nearly inhuman programmer, referred to in hushed and worshipful tones by almost everyone as being “like a machine.” Serving as a barometer of the industry’s ups and downs while the authors hit one industry gathering after another is the designer of the smash hit Unreal, CliffyB (Clifford Bleszinski): celebratory, paranoid and uneasy in temperament. Standing out as singularly unique is Shigeru Miyamoto, the Japanese master who created Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Zelda and the rest of the fairytale pantheon that drove the Nintendo revolution. More hopeful, innocent and human than most of the antisocial crew collected here (has any other successful business ever collected so many people who operated with so little connection to the rest of society?), Miyamoto seems to be one of the few who can look beyond the framework of move-shoot-kill. The authors’ approach is haphazard—their text seems to have been written in installments at various conventions and then bandaged together—but the raw material is strong enough to compensate.

An informative thumbnail guide to this flickering phenomenon.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2005
ISBN: 1-56512-346-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2005