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The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,088 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Inside the Games You Grew Up with but Never Forgot
With all the whiz, bang, pop, and shimmer of a glowing arcade. The Ultimate History of Video Games reveals everything you ever wanted to know and more about the unforgettable games that changed the world, the visionaries who made them, and the fanatics who played them. From the arcade to television and from the PC to the
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Paperback, 624 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Three Rivers Press (first published October 1st 2001)
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Taylor [SilverFire Books]
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the coolest books I've ever read. Totally nerd-tastic.

The vignettes on how Atari, Nintendo, and computer games all got their start were fascinating. Nolan Bushnell was quite a character - almost like he walked straight out of a work of fiction! I was slightly disappointed that the book didn't cover much on the Pokemon phenomenon, especially since that franchise had such a huge impact on the gaming industry (and on 9-year-old me), but I think the point of it was to focus on the
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Rob
Executive Summary: Ultimate history this is not. It left me rather disappointed in some regards. That said, there is a lot of great stuff here, and I enjoyed it overall. 3.5 Stars.

Audiobook: Dan Woren does a good job narrating. Nothing spectacular, but then this is non-fiction so I don't really want spectacular. He speaks clearly and with good pacing making audio a good option in my opinion.

Full Review
I've been a gamer for almost as long as I can remember. My first gaming platform was an Apple
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Scott
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fantastic book about, big surprise, the history of video games that starts with playing cards and ends with the death of the Sega Dreamcast. Steven Kent succeeds in making a highly accessible and informative story keeping a healthy sense of humor along the way.

It would have been so easy, so very very easy, to write an esoteric history of video games. I'm a fan of games myself, but their seems to be this strange elitism about the gaming community that writers have. Gaming magazines and
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Ian
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An oddly compelling book that really does set out to be the ultimate history of video games, covering their rise from time-wasters on the most basic college computers to the industry we know today. Kent presents the events in the book from a removed perspective, not judging any one company and simply laying out the events as they are known to have happened.

The reason this is important is because this is one of the few books I've read on the industry that isn't afraid to tell some of the darker
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Eric Mesa
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
This is a very comprehensive look at the history of video games going way, way back. I'm familiar with a lot of the main points from having read lots of industry histories. Where this one excels is in going to the smallest of details and talks about a lot of the personalities and more obscure companies involved. So even if you already know a lot about video games history, if you're interested, you'll end up learning things you most likely didn't know. Most importantly it is stuffed with ...more
Rachel
Jul 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I've always been fascinated with video gaming history. Although I was born in the mid 80's, consoles such as the Atari 2600 have always captured my interest even though they were "outdated" by the time I got into video games. The neat thing about gaming history is that you can tell the story from so many different angles - different companies, different time periods, etc. Although I've read many books (and articles) on video games prior to this one, there is still plenty to learn - and there was ...more
Mikko Nieminen
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Good for some interesting quotes and anecdotes from industry veterans, and maybe as a historical reference on the business side of certain early (US) arcade and console game companies. As an "ultimate history of video games", I found this book to be severely lacking.

While the book does painstakingly detail the business practices of certain industry pioneers down to each sales figure, advertising campaign and exact amounts of consoles manufactured per each holiday season, content on games
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David Lawrance
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very linear and fact-based retelling of the history of video games, up until the early 2000s. The writing style is simple and clear and the anecdotes are incredible and often hilarious. Would definitely recommend to anyone with even the most fleeting interest in video games and their creators.
Kevin Furr
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent, thorough history of video games -- primarily console video games. Very readable (if you're into that) and informative. I won't call these criticisms, because the book is pretty thick as it is and you can't expect everything. But two things to know about Kent's book are: it was published in 2001, so obviously is missing the last nearly two decades of history; and its focus is on CONSOLE gaming, with not much coverage of gaming on personal computers. Giving a good narrative ...more
Liza
May 19, 2017 rated it liked it
A lot more detail than I really needed to know... I found myself skipping several uninteresting chapters about tiny details. I only wished that I had paid attention to the copyright date of 2001. It only gets as recent as GameCube. Such a downer! Really needs to be updated. Regarding the info I was interested in, it was thorough and fascinating.
Andrew Delaney
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book wraps up shortly after the launch of the Gamecube and Xbox. There is a lot of time spent on the Atari/Commadore era of games, so many companies I barely remember and products I have mostly only heard of.
Mary
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book intrigued me and I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I know some people must think "corporate history? how exciting can it be?" The answer: Very.

Kent does a great job discussing the personalities associated with the major video game companies throughout history. I felt Nolan Bushnell's ADHD personality which probably contributed to his success and downfall in the industry. I also felt I could understand the "imperial CEO" style of Hiroshi Yamauchi from Nintendo. I
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Cheryl Kuhl-paine
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: video game enthusiasts
This is an excellent book but it's far from an "ultimate history" of video games. It was never intended to be such: the "Ultimate" title is the publisher's choice, while Kent's original title was "The First Quarter: A 25-year History of Video Games". As the original title should indicate, the book focuses very heavily on industry side of things. It also starts its history with the coin-operated businesses of pinball and arcade machines.

The book roughly goes through a chronological account of
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Lisa
Dec 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: old video game fans
Shelves: nonfiction
Maybe a 3.5.
This book contains a chronological history of video games starting with the Atari. The book was published in 2001, so it ends with the original X Box. The history is filled with easily identified quotes and interesting/funny stories from the big players--the best part of the book to me. I also enjoyed reading about the games that I remembered.
As a young adult I owned the first Atari, and bought several of the games. Later I owned a Commodore 64, an Apple IIe, and then a series of
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Jay
Apr 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jay by: GoodReads recommendation
Shelves: media, business
Pretty good history of video games through 2000. The book is organized partly chronologically and partly topically. There are also sections of direct quotes, often followed by text saying roughly the same thing. This organization lends itself to repetitiveness - the book could have been a bit shorter. I enjoyed the combination of business history and product history. The major games along the way were described, so if you happened to have forgotten one, the description jogged the memory. The ...more
Matthew Ciarvella
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, favorites
Although it's close to fifteen years old, I consider this book to be an absolute must-read for anyone who fancies him or herself a student of gamer culture and history. It simply provides the sort of big picture look at the history of gaming that other books like "Masters of Doom" scratch at but cannot capture due to their more intimate focus.

Furthermore, although it's a little amusing to read about the upcoming excitement promised by the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox (original), the fact that this
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Tina Lopez
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read for video game enthusiasts.

Chock full of information and history about a very fluid industry. At times, the information can be overwhelming but it is always engaging. Avid gamers who grew up during the early years of the home console market and the golden age of video arcades will find themselves smiling and laughing as they reminiscence.

Readers expecting an in depth review or history regarding Pokemon may be slightly disappointed. Despite Pokemon in the title the author dedicated
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Logan
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, excellent book. Kent interviewed lots of people and played games himself so he really captured the joy and feel of the industry. I appreciated that he covered lots of information from the game designers themselves, rather than focusing on company figureheads and CEOs. Interspersed throughout the book are quotations from game designers or key individuals that really made the history seem interesting and accurate.

The history starts with arcade machines, jukeboxes, and moves into the
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Jeffrey
Feb 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: technology, business
The first part of this book is nerd heaven - it presents a well-researched and fascinating story of the technological challenges and oversized personalities that drove the wild early years of video games. But once it gets into the 1980s, it starts to lose steam as it becomes more about the business side of the video game industry than about the games themselves. It does this well, but it gets uneven - certain companies and individuals get a lot more attention in the book than others, clearly ...more
Carolyn
Jan 21, 2011 rated it liked it
I loved the personal stories of the creators and games. I most certainly remembered most of these games and that pleased me quite a bit. It is fun to reminisce about games your kids never knew existed. My kids find it fascinating when I tell them of taking my allowance in quarters and hanging out all day in the arcade. (sigh...wonderful, misspent youth.)
Yet...I wasn't all that interested in the many, well-researched details. Guess I'm not that much of a computer nerd, but if you are, this is the
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Paul
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is like a more in-depth version of Console wars, but without the annoying literary device of narrative non-fiction. It's exactly what I was looking for, highly recommended.

The only problem with this book is even addressed by the author in the last chapter - it's not finished, because the history of video games is still happening. Here's hoping for a volume 2!
rtxlib
Jun 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An interesting look at the development of the video game industry. The book is well documented with direct quotes from insiders throughout. I preferred the first half of the book mainly because I stopped playing video games in the early 90's. Beyond that I just think the founding of nascent industries more interesting than the story of how established industries grow larger and larger. Anyway it was a good book. . .
Jason Howell
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was engrossed completely when I read this behemoth of a book. I could not put it down and looked forward to every chance I had to re-discover the awesomeness and wonder of old school gaming. I plan on re-reading it again someday cause it's been quite a while since I read it and I think of it often. Totally enjoyable and fun.
Eric Flapjack
Jun 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gaming
Pretty thorough and fascinating book about the early days of video games. The book covers the rise and fall of Atari, the great industry collapse, and eventual resurrection thanks to Nintendo.

The book is just over ten years old, so it ends with Sega and the last days of the Dreamcast. But make no mistake, there is a lot of information up until then. Highly recommended.
David
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ends right before the launch of the Xbox and GameCube, but the early years are so detailed. I started reading to recap the earlier years. I've seen numerous documentaries, but I was still able to take away some new gems from this read. Highly recommended for all fans.

Rating: 5/5
Killerkobra
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Basically the bible of video games book. Turned me onto many other books which I felt was the greatest part. Also with the quotes from the actual people from the industry it made for a great read
Dorian Jackson
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Steven Kent is my hero!
Christøpher Es
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read every page of this book for my eighth grade research paper. It gives some very good information regarding the early and mid days of video games.

Used to also be titled "The First Quarter"
Kevin
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An enlightening look into the history of video games, especially the early development of companies like Atari and Nintendo.
Benjamin Stein
May 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Great read, especially for kids who were nerds in the 80s
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Steven L. Kent is the author of the Rogue Clone series of Military Science Fiction novels as well as The Ultimate History of Video Games.

Born in California and raised in Hawaii, Kent served as a missionary for the LDS Church between the years of 1979 and 1981. During that time, he worked as a Spanish-speaking missionary serving migrant farm workers in southern Idaho.

While Kent has a Bachelor’s
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“Nintendo, a term meaning “leave luck to heaven.”!” 4 likes
“The flipper bat was quite a breakthrough because it gave the player a true means of exercising and developing skill. You could aim at targets now, rather than in the old days when you popped the ball up and just shook the shit out of the table and hoped that it went in the right hole or hit the right thing. The use of the flipper bat is probably the greatest breakthrough ever in pinball. —Eddie” 1 likes
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