JOYSTICK NATION

HOW VIDEOGAMES ATE OUR QUARTERS, WON OUR HEARTS, AND REWIRED OUR MINDS

Here is a look at an essential part of American youth that goes beyond a mere chronicle to engage all of the political, social, and cultural implications of video games. Herz (Surfing the Internet, 1995) eschews a historical point of view for a free-associating meditation on the video game culture that, by her calculations, has engulfed one-fifth of our population. Of course, not being able to dispense with the historical aspects of her subject entirely, Herz offers up ``A Natural History of Videogames'' timeline: The first video game was actually created in 1962 by some MIT graduate students; thus, Herz notes, ``If the history of videogames were a twenty-four-hour day, Pong would arise at 6:37 a.m.'' And in tracing the trajectory from Pong to Doom, she evokes such ``classics'' as Q*Bert, Space Invaders, and Pole Position. Equally clever is her sardonic suggestion to right-wing critics of video game violence that they turn it to their advantage with an ``Operation Rescue level of Doom, where you gun down abortion doctors'' or even a video game version of an all-out military operation. ``But, then,'' she remarks, ``been there, played that. Gulf War.'' (Anyway, she observes that in most video games, the violence is perpetrated by teenage boys and girls playing, not criminals, but law-enforcement officers.) Herz adroitly examines the gender gap in video game development, citing political feminists' scholarly critiques of Ms. Pac Man and Frogger, and her research shines in her strong study of characterization in video games, as she traces the connections between Japanese comic-book anime and the popularity of a certain Italian-American plumber named Mario. This otherwise smart and entertaining read ends a bit too abruptly during a discussion of how computer simulation approximates reality. Nevertheless, Joystick Nation will please its citizenry.

Pub Date: June 11, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-36007-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

more