This is a reprint of the Books essay from Issue #66 of Exploits, our collaborative cultural diary in magazine form. If you like what you see, buy it now for $2, or subscribe to never miss an issue (note: Exploits is always free for subscribers of Unwinnable Monthly).
I won’t lie – I love a good videogame book. I can get down on some theory, some design and some phenomenology when the mood strikes. But I also enjoy a good history, and Jordan Minor’s new book, Video Game of the Year (VGotY) offers an inviting look into the history of the genre since Pong popped into people’s homes all the way back in 1977.
In what can only be described as a lavish presentation with hand-drawn illustrations by Wren McDonald and a custom book design by Heesang Lee, VGotY earns your attention on every page. Whether Minor is talking about the first JRPG (Dragon Quest from 1986) or the rise of the GTA franchise or the takeover of Minecraft in 2012, he brings thoughtful analysis and perspectives to a wide swathe of genres and playstyles. Although I don’t always agree with his choices (I’m currently squinting my eyes at the VGotY for 2010), his justification is always reasonable and well considered.
Plus, in his effort to bolster more than just 25 games, Minor also enlisted some of the best game writers in the business to offer a few words in each chapter about other prominent releases related to his VGotY. From Austin Walker’s brief essay on Umurangi Generation to Nick Capozzoli on Disco Elysium, these little add-ons wrap the whole ecology of videogames together, tying up threads and influences. If you look just right, you’ll also be able to see a few of your favorite Unwinnable writers making appearances too!
All together then, the combination of these elements makes for a wonderful book! Whether you haven’t picked up a joystick in decades or you just put one down for the first time in ten hours, Video Game of the Year will make you want to pick it up again and dive back into one of the classics. Personally, I’m contemplating where to buy a guitar and drum kit so I can kick out some sweet Rock Band jams ASAP, but I just have to get up the momentum to put this book down first.