Classic Home Video Games: A Complete Reference Guide
By James Grahame
Former comic book store owner Brett Weiss has compiled a 316-page hardcover guide to nearly every official US game release for programmable home consoles prior to the Nintendo NES -- no small feat. The book covers titles for the Adventure Vision, APF MP1000, Arcadia 2001, Astrocade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, Fairchild Channel F, Intellivision, Microvision, Odyssey, Odyssey2, RCA Studio II, Telstar Arcade, and Vectrex.
Each chapter offers an overview and history of a system, followed by encyclopedia-style entries for each game. There's even an appendix that lists homebrew titles that have been released by amateur programmers. This intriguing reference volume will hit stores in Fall 2007, but it's available now for pre-order.
Update from Bohus:
Having Retro Thing offices in two countries sometimes means that messages don't always get through. We got an advance copy of "Classic Home Video Games" in Chicago, but our carrier pigeon was still getting his skates on while James was merrily posting about the title from Retro Thing in Canada. Here then are a few of my thoughts after cracking the spine of the book.
The first thing that jumped out at me is the book's school textbook vibe. No surprise since McFarland is a noted academic publisher (though their title "Super Bitches and Action Babes" leave me wondering...) which also seems to have influenced the price. Retailing at $55 makes this one of the highest priced video game books I've seen that isn't a coffee table book with a lot of color photography. Fortunately, the writing style isn't dry and clinical like a textbook might be. Weiss offers up accessible reviews of every game released for both popular and obscure game systems.
The problem facing a book like this is how to differentiate from similar sources of the same information. There are countless websites that offer reviews of all of these games, but don't have the quality writing that this title offers - a point in the book's favor. This reference guide also collects all of this content - including some pretty obscure games - in one place. That's another good point.
On the other hand, you could get much the same info from the Digital Press Collector's Guide. It's $25 shipped, has rarity & pricing guides, and also has a healthy online component. Classic Home Video Games also features very little in the way of photography to justify the cost. This book is priced like a serious research work, when most readers are likely to be hobbyists and collectors. All in all, I think that author Brett Weiss delivers on the content & critiques, but the publisher needs to examine the market for the book and adjust the price by about $20. Maybe we can reconvene when the softcover comes out. - Bohus
Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984: A Complete Reference Guide