The newest edition of Phoenix, The Fall and Rise of Video Games was released and I decided it was time to get a copy. I had read part of a friend's copy, but never got around to getting my own copy. One reason is that I am a procrastinator and it was too easy to forget to mail out a check. But this time, Leonard Herman made it too easy for me to order. He offered Paypal and I had some extra money in my account, so I zapped the money to him and waited for the book.
After numerous weeks, the book arrived (note that I preordered it, this has nothing to do with his shipping). The first thing I noticed is the size of the book. It is quite large (388 pages) and offers alot of reading. Do not expect to read this in one sitting. The book is broken into chapters, each one dealing with a different era of video games. It goes from before video games, all the way to the modern era (ending with the year 2000).
The book starts with a wonderful introduction from Ralph Baer, the father of video games. From there, it gets right into the subject. Leonard's writing style is very similar to the USA Today. It is right to the point, without all the filler that many writers fall prey to. He does not prescribe to the Charles Dickens method of writing (for people who do not know, Charles Dickens was known for excessive descriptions, especially in the classic, "A Tale of Two Cities", which was written as a series in a newspaper, where he was paid by the word), which is quite good. Also, he remains very neutral in his writing, with no real bias showing. Too many video game writers, especially game reviewers in magazines, let their personal preferences get in the way of their reviews. Leonard does not fall in this trap, he is very much down the middle of the road. This is refreshing in itself.
The book is essentially a history of video games. It tells what happened and when. There is some information on the companies and some of the people who shaped the industry, but there is nothing real deep. Don't expect to find out the complete history of Nintendo or Atari, rather just the most prominent facts. You must keep in mind that you could easily do a book this size, just for Nintendo or Atari. There is just too much stuff that has happened in the video game industry to get too deep into any one subject. Leonard does a good job of covering all the vital information and even gives some attention to the smallest of systems.
This edition features lots of new pictures. They are black and white, but look very good. They really add to the book and make it more enjoyable. There is also a section in the back with a list of video game links. I was quite surprised and honored to find my site among them.
If you are a fan of video games (and if you are reading this newsletter, the odds are very good that you are), then you owe it to yourself to read this book. The price is very reasonable and there is enough reading to keep you busy for awhile. Plus, you will come away with some knowledge of the industry and make yourself look that much smarter, the next time you are discussing video games with a friend. It would also make a great gift for the video game fan that is tough to shop for.
The book can be ordered from the following website: