Non-Fiction


The First Quarter
A 25-Year History of Video Games

Written by Steven L. Kent

Reviewed by Jon Minners
 

The First Quarter: A 25-Year History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent is basically the most comprehensive history book of the video game industry ever written.

Topping in at a whopping 466 pages, a reader may find it a daunting task, but any true lover of video games will be able to finish this exciting and interesting read in less than a week.

Readers will get an in-depth look into the world that has captivated us all for a great number of years. The First Quarter is the result of over 500 interviews, years of research, and a love of video games.

From the very first video game in the late 1950s to the announcement of the Playstation 2, The First Quarter is the bible of video games. 

Everything from home consoles like Colecovision, Intellivision, Atari 2600, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Neo Geo, Turbo Graphix 16, Dreamcast, Playstation to arcade machines, pinball machines and computer games make its way into these pages.

Kent left no system unturned, from the collapse of Atari Games, Commodore and 3DO to the court cases that helped shape the industry and the recent rumblings over violence in games. This book is very extensive, indeed.

    * Did you know that Pong was not the first video game?

    * Nolan Bushnell, the creator of Atari, was the founder of the fast food chain of restaurants known as Chuckie Cheese.

    * There was also a court case between Nintendo and the producers of the King Kong films over the name Donkey Kong.

    * Atari almost scored a major coup but messed up an opportunity to be the American distributors of the NES.

    * The Playstation was supposed to be an add-on to the Nintendo.

    * Can you believe that Sega tried this slogan: "Sega Does What Ninten-don't."

In addition to this, readers get the obligatory stories of how Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Donkey Kong, Sonic, Mario and Crash Bandicoot were all created, as well as how games like Galaxian, Space Invaders and Defenders helped change the way we look at video games. There is even a huge description of events like the hearings against video game violence where Sega and Nintendo went at each other's throats.

All of it is spiced up with quotes from such video game stalwarts as Bushnell, Shigeru Miyamato (creator of Donkey Kong), Toru Iwatani (designer of Pac-Man), and of course the higher-ups at Nintendo, Sega, 3D0, and Playstation.

There are some negatives. Some of the content just goes on and on and is unnecessary. More room could have been made for games that did not make it in this book rather than a story about Nintendo's decision to buy the Seattle Mariners.

In addition, there was not enough focus on computer video games and when they were talking about how Mario was once named Jumpman it may have been nice to discuss the fact that there was a popular series of games named Jumpman.  

The end is also rushed, as the beginning of the book went on and on, talking about pinball machines before finally getting into the video games, but quickly talks about the Super Nintendo, N64 and Dreamcast. Kent could have ended the book after Super Nintendo and wrote a sequel about the creations of Dreamcast, the fall of Sega in the console market, the battle between X Box and PS2, Sony’s venture into the handheld market and the most recent war between X Box 360, PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. That would have made a little more sense.

Still, this book has so much more going for it that a small list of complaints should not keep anyone from purchasing this book.  A serious gamer isn't one without it.  Everyone and anyone who has played video games should buy and read The First Quarter in order to appreciate the systems they have in front of them today. 

 

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