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Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-playing Games

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  153 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Computer role-playing games (CRPGs) are a special genre of computer games that bring the tabletop role-playing experience of games such as Dungeons & Dragons to the computer screen. This genre includes classics such as Ultima and The Bard’s Tale as well as more modern games such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. Written in an engaging style for both the computer gam ...more
Kindle Edition, 451 pages
Published (first published February 22nd 2008)
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Michael Scott
I bought Dungeons and Desktops: The History of Computer Role-playing Games Kindle Edition by mistake. I wanted to read Dungeons and Dreamers and did not check the title while clicking ok on my Kindle. I was in for a good treat!

Matt Barton's monumental survey of Computer Role-Playing Games (CRPGs) is a significant improvement over the printed edition, covering almost twice as much material (and, thus, games). CRPGs are perhaps less known to the gamer audience, partly because they have been eclip
Jamie Belanger
Apr 13, 2015 Jamie Belanger rated it really liked it
Dungeons and Desktops is a great overview of computer role-playing games from the beginning of the era all the way to when the book was published in 2008. The research required for these summaries must have been staggering, although I'd guess it was fun "research" since the author actually played at least most of the games.

One thing the author does repeatedly that sometimes confused me is referring to games by their subtitles. For instance, he'll make a reference to "The Black Gate" instead of u
William McDuff
Jul 27, 2012 William McDuff rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Computer role-playing games scholars?
What this book comes down to is a list of games. I think the first part of the book is the most useful, as the mainframe games of the 70s and the like are not well known, and it's good of the author to make a record of them before they get completely forgotten.

However, I didn't find the book particularly well written. It has an arrogant tone at times, defining the reader as someone who has most certainly read Lord of the Rings (nope, didn't get through the slow open of that), must be well aware
Sep 15, 2013 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this history of the CRPG genre, especially the coverage of older games. Despite their rudimentary graphics and interfaces, some of the old games featured surprisingly sophisticated mechanics!

Also mentioned are quite a few games which, despite being good and innovative, didn't manage to achieve success in their time. They are waiting to be rediscovered, or at least mined for inspiration.

Here's a quote from the book describing a complex and deliberate game: "This game [...] takes players
Come check out my Book Blog for more fun stuff and reviews!

I grew up in the early 80's. I was born in 82. And I grew up gaming on the PC.

One thing I love now, and I have loved since the day I played Betrayal at Krondor, are Computer RPGs. I cut my teeth on the likes of Baldurs Gate, Lands of Lore, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights. Curious about the games I might have missed growing up, I found this book and picked it up.

The early parts pre 2000 were very well done but after that the book sho
Mar 29, 2012 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 25, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: video-games
Drop this down to 3 *'s if you're not a complete computer/D & D fanatic. What info is here is good but there's nothing BUT information here; the entire book is basically nothing but one long chronological list of computer role playing games listed by release date. For someone like myself who grew up playing each and every one of these games, this book was like a sentimental trip through my childhood and beyond. As Barton ticked off title by title, I could remember exactly where I was in my l ...more
Nov 01, 2008 Jlawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An overview of the origins and development of computer RPGs (with a few sidesteps into the world of Japanese console RPGs), this book was a pretty fun read.

Part of that is due to my interest in and fondness of old computer games in general - I think someone who's never experienced any of the earlier games might wish Barton had been more systematic, since he basically does a capsule review of each game as he moves from past to present, which makes the coverage somewhat rambling (though he does a
Sep 29, 2010 Mjhancock rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: video-game
Barton provides an incredibly detailed list of the many games fitting in the CRPG genre. It's an impressively exhaustive list, though a little tedious at times if you're not coming into the book with a reasonable acquaintance with the games at hand. The history he crafts is interesting enough, beginning with the proto-adventure games, leading into the mainframe Rogue-era, and the early pangs of the genre before seguing into long-lasting series such as Ultima and Wizardry, and finally concluding ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
an exhaustive overview of computer role-playing games from their advent on mainframes to their (perceived by the author) demise in recent years in favor of console rpgs and MMORPGs.

a large portion of the book is summarizing the plot and gameplay of games and calling out any advancements made to the art. this quickly gets monotonous though, especially if you haven't played the game in question.

the interesting sections in the book are the author's insights on games; for example, the section disc
Apr 20, 2013 Craig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is great when it discusses trends, contrasts games, and looks beyond the superficial. Unfortunately, that only consists of about a third of this book. The rest is largely a listing of games with brief summaries of somewhat dubious value (although it did remind me of some great games I haven’t thought of for years, like The Summoning and Star Trail). These sorts of lists are a dime a dozen on the internet and Barton doesn’t bring any particular insight or wit to push this one above the ...more
David Finch
Dungeons and Desktops is more of a survey of dozens of early CRPGs than a history. It is interesting to follow the development of CRPG game mechanics over the decades, and to read about games that I knew little or nothing about, but it would have been nice to see a little more 'behind the curtains' stuff. Overall, I enjoyed reading Barton's book, despite the occasional editing issue. If you're new to the genre, Dungeons and Desktops serves as an excellent primer, though it only covers up to the ...more
This book reads like a wikipedia entry. Just the facts, a little bit of opinion, and not much else. if you're not interested in the history of CRPGs, pass.

On the other hand, if you're like me and grew up playing these games from the 80s and 90s, its a very nice stroll down memory lane. I have played way more of these games than I'd like to admit, and can now remember lots of fond moments from many of these games (a good number I had forgotten about). If you're a fan, this is definitely a decent
Shannon Appelcline
The book does a very good job of extensively crawling through every major computer roleplaying game ever, with brief stops with MUDs and MMORPGs. It does a little less of a good job of actually being interesting. The dig-through-every-game bit tends to occasionally result in page after page of dross, which might have been useful in an encyclopedia, but not a historical book. The methodology also sometimes manages to obscure the first-movers by talking so much about everything else.
Grant Laird
Aug 23, 2015 Grant Laird rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, published in 20008 which is little older, a lot of happening since 7-8 years later. Very details on many older games, many of them, I did not have an opportunity to play when I was teenage. I got married and started family when I was 18 years old. I did play a few more CRPG over years and catch up a few games by now, but plenty games I may never get to play forever. Who knows.

Updated edition would be nice :)
Aug 30, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not always the greatest-written book, it's hard to argue with as thorough a review of CRPGs as this is. If you just want to hear about almost every CRPG since the dawn of time in some depth, this is the book for you. Just be aware that your enjoyment of the topic will be what carries you through some rougher patches.
John Carter McKnight
Don't buy this book. It's not much of a history, but rather a tedious, exhaustive catalog written in a deeply annoying, self-absorbed fanboyish style. Literally every game ever gets a page, with perhaps a page or so of analysis of trends per chapter.

If you really want a review of some obscure hack&slasher from 1987, look up the original reviews. Don't bother with this dead-tree doorstop.
Ben Turner
part nostalgia, part education, a little dry in places and most of the pictures are lost to the black and white printing, but a good comprehensive coverage of a genre of game I grew up with, and like the author, have some concerns around the future of.
Jun 28, 2009 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2009
The content worked, but many of the screenshots were practically blobs of black (understandable in b/w since the games are often dark to start with), and, less acceptably, the copy editing was atrocious.
The first couple of chapters are the most interesting, aqs they uncovered what was to me a largely unknown era in CRPGs.
Later chapters are mostly dry and list-like, but encountering unknown games and some loooking at industry trends made it wirth reading (in small chunks).
Asher Riley
Nov 25, 2013 Asher Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, engaging and very informative, "Dungeons And Desktops" is one the richest books ever written about the history of videogames. Anyone who has a passion for old-school RPGs will really cherish this book.
Apr 01, 2013 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An astonishingly comprehensive overview of the beginnings of the CRPG in the West, with coverage of many interesting titles already in danger of being lost to time.
Sep 14, 2010 Thom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A good survey of computer RPGs, though a few were missed, including my favorite, Demise. Screen shots are nearly pointless, small and greyscale. Actually 443 pages.
Feb 19, 2009 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I didn't derive some pleasure from reliving the days of my youth, this book would be unforgivably bad. The author badly, very badly, needed an editor.
Timothy Schroeder
Aug 28, 2009 Timothy Schroeder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has more information on the history of CRPGs than I thought possible. For those that played most of these games it is fun to read about their place in the history.
Henry Lowood
Henry Lowood rated it liked it
Apr 26, 2014
P Evans
P Evans rated it liked it
Dec 25, 2015
Etienne rated it it was ok
Oct 03, 2013
John D
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Sep 26, 2016
James Hoyle
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