Each month the Columbia Public Library presents selections from its collection relating to a current bestseller or a hot topic. Public Services Librarian Stellan Harris compiled this month’s picks.
There is nothing better for a quiet gathering of friends than to relax and enjoy the game – be it cards, board, or any other kind.
In recent history, the ways we play games have changed in wonderful and wonderful ways. While some classic games continue to enjoy increasing popularity, contemporary options such as video games and role-playing games are increasing in popularity. The history of this amusement and what it means to us is an untold story. Many great books try to change that, illustrating the path that got us into today’s games.
“A History of Video Games in 64 Objects” by World Video Game Hall of Fame (Dey St., 2018) is one of a pair of books that seek to give a bit of a visual history to the world of video games. This book is incredibly easy to read and great to look at. With high-resolution visuals of things ranging from foundational pinball machines to arcade games, massive online multiplayer game servers to a version of the Oregon Trail, this title attempts to chart a path from the origins of what would become video games to the present day (as of 2018).
“Game Console” By Evan Amos (No Starch Press, 2018) is another great visual resource for the history of video games, with a focus on the development of home consoles. With detailed descriptions and history of each console, along with beautiful visual breakdowns of consoles and their accessories, this title is a great resource for those interested in how video games have looked at home over the years.
For a title that focuses on the history of a particular game, you can’t go wrong “Masters of Death” by David Kushner (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004), which tells the story of one of the most influential games in history and the two men who created it. It can be said that Doom has been the foundational game in the first-person shooter genre and a source of controversy for its entire existence. So, unsurprisingly, the history of both the game and the industry giants behind it make for a great story from start to finish.
With gears changing a bit, I wanted to show you some books that tell some of the history of the tabletop role-playing game, dungeons and dragons. D&D is currently somewhat mainstream, but many people may be surprised to learn that the history of the company behind the game has had many twists and turns. “kill the dragon” Written by Ben Riggs (St. Martin’s Press, 2022) explores those vicissitudes in an engaging way to paint portraits of the many complex characters involved. This book delves into the nitty-gritty of the decisions that ultimately led to the modern incarnation of D&D, and will be an engaging read for those interested in how the hobby evolved.
For another point of view, look no further than Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana Written by Michael Witwer (Ten Speed Press, 2018), a beautiful book chronicling the many changes D&D has gone through in its artwork. By charting the way the game’s aesthetics have changed since its inception, this book tells the story of how the game’s imagination has evolved and changed, while highlighting some strange quirks you may have missed.
For my last two titles, I want to turn to the realm of fiction to show how contemporary games have influenced the kinds of stories we write. First, I would recommend the graphic novel “Die, Volume 1” by Kieron Gillen (Image Comics, 2019), which includes a group of people who become stuck in their own tabletop fantasy world. They escape, but after many years they must return to discover the fate of their missing friend. The novel is exquisitely illustrated, conveying the wonderful sense of the otherworldly and fantasy that the best D&D sessions can have, with an undercurrent of horror from the real danger to the characters.
finally, “slaughter” By Britney Morris (Simon Pulse, 2019) is a young adult novel that follows the efforts of a teenage video game developer as she battles forces beyond her control that seek to seal off the space she has built in her game. Focusing on the potential of games to be a place for community and camaraderie, especially in the face of hardship, “Slay” is a great read that I can highly recommend.
Stop by the library for more books on all things gaming – and have a great September!