29th June 2008

Game Boys Is Right On Target

Game BoysGame Boys

Game Boys: Professional Videogaming’s Rise From the Basement To The Big Time
Author: Michael Kane
June 2008

Games Boys: Professional Videogaming’s Rise from the Basement to the Big Time by Michael Kane is the best inside look at the competitive videogaming industry I have read to date. He peels back the layers of this very complex subculture and lays it all out there for anyone to read – from the gamers themselves to the parents who try to understand. Game Boys has it all – the celebratory victories, the heartbreaking losses, the passion of its supporters, and he doesn’t leave out the backroom dirty laundry either.

This book is an informative, exciting, unsanitized read; he does not sugarcoat the competitive gaming industry; instead he offers an outsider’s perspective of a largely misunderstood section of today’s society. Author Michael Kane has managed to translate the excitement of competition into his words, and sometimes I found myself reading faster through the competition gameplay to get to the moment of victory – even though I already knew the results of many of the matches he wrote about.

As a participant full of passion for the videogame industry, there were so many times I found myself identifying with CompLexity GM Jason Lake and harbouring feelings of resentment towards Craig Levine. Like Jason Lake, I believe in the grassroots foundation of this wonderful industry, and even though Craig Levine has done much to get competitive videogaming out there into the main stream of today’s world, I often felt that Levine’s tactics were less than honourable, and I am of the generation when honour was at the forefront of how you conducted your life. These are elements which make for a great book – eliciting emotion and appreciation from the reader, making the reader care about the characters in the story.
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28th June 2008

The Daily Miracle: An Introduction to Journalism, Second Edition

Originally Written for KillaNet Community Resource in 2007

The Daily MiracleThe Daily Miracle: An Introduction to Journalism, Second Edition
Written By David Conley
Paperback: 392 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press; Second Edition
March 2002

The Daily Miracle is a very comprehensive textbook, designed primarily for students just beginning their studies about the world of journalism. Anyone considering journalism as a career should first read this book. The author has written a comprehensive history about journalism, and also takes an in-depth look at the changing face of the media industry. The Information Age has forced journalism into a high-speed medium, and Mr. Conley has laid out the pros and cons of becoming a reporting journalist in this rapidly changing world.

This textbook is laid out in such a way that it will continue to be a good reference manual for many years. The index contains a brief description of each chapter, allowing a reader to skip to any part of the book when looking for specific information. The appendices and bibliography contain a wealth of places to look for further information, both in print or online.

The second edition of the textbook was updated from the first to include changes in both broadcast and computer-assisted journalism. He ties this in with the origins of news reporting and the changing face of the industry over time. Mr. Conley’s book concentrates more on applying the techniques of journalism than just telling the reader what journalism is about. Each chapter is designed to focus on a skill area, and for that reason alone the book is a worthy investment even for the seasoned journalist. Mr. Conley also pays attention to the importance of ethics in a journalist, and how they affect not only the reporter’s career, but also the public’s perception and trustlevel in regards to that reporter.

Mr. Conley not only lays out what a new journalist can expect when embarking upon his or her career, he delves into what the industry will expect of the new journalist. Each chapter uses examples of current reporting practices, backs up the information with statistics, and also looks at the careers of prominent journalists world-wide. He also caps each chapter with a list of questions and exercises for the reader, and completing those activities will not only help broaden the student’s understanding of the industry, it will help him or her decide if this is the correct career path to follow.

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28th May 2008

The Book of Games Volume 2

Originally written for KillaNet Community Resources in 2007

Book of Games Volume 2The Book of Games Volume 2
Authors: Bendik Stang, Morten A. Osterholt, Erik Hoftun, Jorgen Kirksaeter, Hans Christian Bjorne
Publisher: gameXplore N.A. Inc.
Paperback: 448 pages
October 2007

I was privileged to be sent an advance PDF copy of The Book of Games Volume 2 by author Bendik Stang, and having now completed my reading of this volume in one evening, I am eagerly looking forward to the print version. The Book of Games Vol. 2 has matured exponentially over its previous incarnation, which I feel is very appropriate as Volume 2 has a very pointed focus on the maturity which the videogame industry as a whole is experiencing. While I am still disappointed in regards to the lack of coverage in regards to the Guild Wars properties, that is largely due to personal bias, as I am a casually hardcore Guild Wars player. Now that I have my only truly negative viewpoint out of the way, let’s move on to the good stuff.

I was extremely impressed with the amount of research which had obviously gone into the production of Volume 2, as well as the new features which had been added for the individual game listings and ratings. These additions show that the authors listened to those who took the time to give them feedback on Volume 1, and as such have made themselves a part of the gaming community in a way which some authors never achieve, no matter how knowledgeable they may be on their topics. Another interesting sidenote was seeing another book which I am in process of reviewing featured in a sidebar in this book. As a journalist with a heavy research addiction, I always consider how useful a publication will be to me on my endless quest for knowledge, and The Book of Games Volume 2 passed that consideration with ease. There are many, many sources for further reading and education.

While The Book of Games Volume 1 was a handy reference for the parents and relatives of gamers, Volume 2 fully opens up the changing videogame industry, from development to tournaments and beyond. The authors have successfully put the industry into a nutshell – one which gamers, teachers, parents and even grandparents will appreciate. This volume has every component of the videogame world between its covers, and takes a look at every aspect in a well-worded, well-researched, and well-presented manner. Every chapter contains evidence of how videogames have become an integral part of our lives in the 21st century – from those who pick up a quick game of solitaire to those who travel the pro-gamer circuits. One photo I could immediately relate to was that of Norway’s Olav Undheim, winner of the 2007 World Cyber Games Grand Final Warcraft III Tournament. I saw that match, along with all of the other events held on that final game day in Seattle this past October. I was there when Olav hoisted that $ 20 000.00 cheque over his head at the medals presentation – and that’s what this industry called videogaming has at its core – a vibrant, global community – one which we experience at our own annual LAN tournament, and one which The Book of Games Volume 2 has opened to the world.
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15th May 2008

Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual

Originally Written for the KillaNet Community Resource in 2007

Videogame Style GuideAuthors: David Thomas, Kyle Orland, Scott Steinberg
Paperback: 108 pages
Publisher: Lulu.com
October 2007

The Videogame Style Guide is essential reading for anyone who wants to get into any type of serious videogame journalism. As pointed out by Dan Hsu, the Editor in Chief for Electronic Gaming Monthly, if the world of videogame journalism has any hope of maturing, it must find the uniformity of style that is so essential to engaging and maintaining an intelligent readership. The authors, while stating that the Style Guide is a work in progress – meaning that it will be updated as styles change or new terminology is entered, have given journalists an excellent reference guide which can be used in conjunction with any other publication’s in-house style guide.

Not only is the Videogame Style Guide full of alphabetical listings in regards to industry-specific terminology, the appendices also offer many other points of reference on the industry from websites to other published books. The listings of important systems, games, people and companies in the videogame industry past and present offer not only a pertinent “who’s who” directory, but also starting points for a variety of articles and studies.

Overall, I found this publication to be very useful and it will continue to be so as I write future articles about the gaming industry. If you visit the website linked in the title of this review, you will see that the Videogame Style Guide is available in two formats – free for download as a pdf file, or purchasable as a published book. If you write any articles at all, you should at the very least download the pdf and give yourself a starting point in learning the correct forms and terminology to use when composing articles, as they will greatly increase your chances of having your articles published by the myriad of news journals available to the gaming community.

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7th May 2008

Videogame Marketing and PR – Volume 1 Playing to Win

Review Written By: Tami Quiring

Videogame Marketing and PR – Volume 1: Playing to Win
Author – Scott Steinberg
June 2007

I bought this book quite some time ago, and I’m regretting not getting to it sooner. Having read a previous title by Scott Steinberg, I should have known better. Videogame Marketing and PR is packed with literally decades of knowledge and experience. Mr. Steinberg not only imparts freely with chapter after chapter of methods and ideas which he has practiced in his own career, he has presented a collection of brief articles from many of the key people in the videogame industry. From these men and women come gems of wisdom, because they have literally been there and done that. While there are many books sitting on shelves in many stores which can tell you all about how to market, none of them carry the unique situations which sets the videogame industry apart from other retail markets.

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7th May 2008

Fantasy Clip Art – Everything You Need to Create Your Own Professional-Looking Fantasy Artwork

Review By: Tami Quiring

Fantasy Clip Art: Everything You Need to Create Your Own Professional-Looking Fantasy Artwork
Author: Kevin Crossley
June 2007

I found this book quite by accident while browsing away an afternoon in Chapters Book Store, and as I have a latent desire to learn how to draw creatures, I bought it. The volume is accompanied by a CD containing hundreds of fantasy clip art pieces. All images are simple outlines in PSD layered format and compatible with Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe PhotoShop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro.

The author spends the first part of the book giving a brief look back at human imagination and the need to express ourselves, going back through time to the advent of cave paintings. He follows this with a quick introduction to the file contents of the compact disc and plants the seeds in the reader’s mind as to how the image files he has provided can let your imagination roam free in the world of fantasy art.

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3rd May 2008

Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling

Originally Written for KillaNet Community Resource in 2005

Chris Crawford on Interactive StorytellingChris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling
Author: Chris Crawford
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: New Riders Games
October 2005

This book opened up a whole new pattern of thinking for me. The information Mr. Crawford conveys in this publication is invaluable to any writer seeking to break into new areas-particularly gaming and other applications utilizing interactive storytelling. Writing for this genre requires a whole different mindset from traditional genres and Mr. Crawford succeeds at moving the reader towards that mindset.

Time and again I see in game reviews how a particular game has “awesome graphics and great gameplay but the story and dialogue” were severely lacking. With Mr. Crawford’s extensive experience in the gaming industry, he very capable gives aspiring writers every tool he or she will need to get a very good start in the industry. Throughtout the book, he stresses how important it is for the “artsie” thinkers (the writers & artists) to work together with the “techie” thinkers (the programmers) and I think this is a valuable lesson that many current game producers have yet to learn. Mr. Crawford reminds the entire programming industry that one sector of development cannot succeed without the other. He more than adequately investigates and chronicles how the different development teams can work together and bridge the “communication” gap between the “artsies” and the “techies.”

This book, while not exactly a tutorial piece, offers many examples and exercises to move the writer along in thinking like an interactive storyteller. The only real drawback may be the detail Mr. Crawford goes into. While I personally don’t have a problem with this, I work with several young people who, while they are very keen on gaming development, probably wouldn’t spend an adequate amount of time studying the information contained in the book unless it were required reading in a course.

Personally I feel that any writer who wants to pursue and develop stories for interactive programming should study this book. It’s not enough to read it through once, twice or even three times. This is a book which needs to be worked through section by section, until writing for this relatively new genre becomes second nature. This book will have a permanent home in my library; it is very rich in information-hats off to Mr. Crawford for producing a very timely manual.

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2nd May 2008

The Book of Games Volume 1

Originally Written for KillaNet Community Resource in 2006

Book of Games Volume 1The Book of Games, Volume 1
by Bendik Stang
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: gameXplore N.A. Inc.
November 2006

The Book of Games is a comprehensive look at hundreds of the current top video games on the market. It is obvious that alot of time and research has gone into this volume, with attention paid to detail. From first page to last, this book is full of information relative to the video game end market. Its pages are filled with vibrant full-colour screenshots from the games covered, and in the individual game listings, the screenshots offer a very accurate view of what to expect during gameplay. This includes not only the high quality graphics for the games themselves, but also shots of what to expect in regards to violence in the game.

The title page for each game genre has thumbnail shots of retro games, showing the progression of game development. As a longtime gamer, I would have liked to have seen more material on the history of video gaming and the advances which have been made in the industry. Naturally, such a focus could easily fill a volume all on its own, and was not the purpose of this publication. The chapter on the future of gaming carries some interesting predictions. First and foremost is the prediction that those parents who purchase a Wii will themselves get involved in video gaming (if they aren’t already). I find this an interesting prediction, because that is exactly what Nintendo hopes will happen, and the reason for its basic yet futuristic control system. This very prediction was discussed at a recent panel night hosted by the Vancouver chapter of the International Game Developers’ Association. I was pleased to see the interactive future of video games given more than just a passing glance, along with the practical side of video game usage in scenario training. As someone involved in the video game industry, this is important to me primarily because of the general public’s opinion of video gaming. They often are not aware of the benefits of this industry, and The Book of Games does a good job of passing along this important information.

Each game genre is indexed into alphabetical sections with colour-coded page edges and a brief description of the genre. There are accompanying appendices at the end of the book which further break down the game genres according to age ratings for ESRB and PEGI, so it is practical for those whose countries follow these rating systems. The games list is also cross-referenced alphabetically and by platform. Also included is a glossary, which will be especially useful for the non-gaming geek parents of the world. There is also a calendar of notable dates in the game industry for 2006; unfortunately I noted one small error in the calendar: the release date for Guild Wars: Factions was April 28, not March 28 as stated in the book.

Going back to the genre sections, I noted that some sections were a bit on the thin side while others held abundant game listings. A section which I would’ve expected to see more listings for was RPG. Two of the biggest selling Multi-Player Online roleplaying games for this genre were not listed at all. In May of 2006, Guild Wars: Factions became the top-selling PC game in North America and Europe, surpassing World of Warcraft, yet Guild Wars warranted nothing other than a thumbnail screenshot in the feature chapter about the MMORPG genre. Neither Guild Wars nor World of Warcraft were listed in the indexed RPG chapter, where only five games of a huge genre were given coverage. While Warcraft was given more coverage in the MMORPG feature chapter, I feel that the chapter could’ve gone more indepth on a genre which is so hugely popular on a global scale. The feature chapter about the making of Age of Conan was a somewhat interesting read, particularly as the game is so highly anticipated, largely due to its being one of the first large-scale games written for Vista.

The short feature chapter about the cross-over of games to movies, while giving an honest opinion about the growing trend, again could have gone further indepth. The fastest growing industry is New Media, and the lines are blurring between the traditional industries, largely due to the technological advances. Two of my screen-writing friends are currently working on a Uwe Boll movie, so this chapter held some special interest for me. I felt there could’ve been more mention of the cross-overs and mass-marketing benefits the video game industry is seeing from the inclusion of cartoons, comic books, movies, and of course television.

The feature chapter on gaming consoles again could’ve gone a little more indepth, comparing those early consoles (Pong, anyone?) with how far the industry has come. There was no mention of the early consoles which really opened up the home video game industry such as Atari and Sega. I know that I said earlier in this review that the history of gaming really wasn’t the scope of this publication, but this is one area I felt should’ve been further expanded. I understand that the Book of Games is expected to become an annual publication, so perhaps many areas will be expanded in the future.

Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable book to read, and one that will prove useful in the future. I think it would make a nice gift for most gamers, and at the very least will get them away from their consoles for awhile. There are a few online references given where readers can watch a video battle between Sonic and Mario as well as check out some other game research sites. The volume is full of good information and well laid out; I am giving it a thumbs-up recommendation and feel it worth the purchase price.

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