High Score: The Illustrated History Of Electronic GamesOrder this bookStory: The authors guide us through a well-illustrated survey of the history of electronic gaming, from Spacewar through the Xbox, with a particular focus on the histories of specific game series, and the companies and personalities behind them. Abundant examples of rare packaging, prototypes and hard-to-find goodies are on display throughout.

Review: If you liked “Supercade”, you’re gonna love this one. “High Score!” is the closest I’ve seen to the “definitive text meets incredible variety of photos and visuals” mix that I’ve been hoping for someone to hit in the rarified genre of video game history tomes. And some of the stuff seen in here, I’ve never seen before – such as the cartridge-based Atari Video Brain that was scrapped to make way for the Atari VCS (a.k.a. the 2600), or the unused Centipede publicity poster and the rejected artwork for Atari’s Vortex, later reamed Tempest. Ample advertising material and box art are also reproduced here, a collector’s dream.

But “High Score!” also distinguishes itself with a thorough text, much of it focusing on the personalities, companies, rises, falls, and games of the early home computer era, an all-important period that many gaming books skip altogether. But represented here are games for the TRS-80, Commodore 64, Apple II, and early IBM PCs – along with the stories of the people who designed and programmed those games.

Some readers were a bit rankled that “High Score!” attempts to be up-to-date, covering the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and Game Boy Advance toward the end of the book, rather than keeping things “classic” with a cutoff date (as was the case with “Supercade”, “Arcade Fever” and others). But given that “High Score!” spends a lot of time talking about authors and companies, many of which are still creating new games for the latest consoles, I don’t think the book strays from its mandate. And truth be told, there’s still a lot of coverage of the pre-NES era.

All-around kudos to the authors – “High Score!” tells some fascinating stories accurately, and avoids such pitfalls (no pun intended) as an overly dry text, or the use of JPEGs of dubious quality blown up to fill a page.

Year: 2002
Authors: Rusel DeMaria, Johnny L. Wilson
Publisher: McGraw-Hill / Osborne
Pages: 328 pages

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Earl Green ()

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