Compton, Shanna. Gamers: Writers, Artists, and Programmers on the Pleasures of Pixels. Soft Skull Press, 2004. ISBN 978-1932360578 280 pp. $14.95
Was it watching the Donkey Kong screen at the local Papa Gino’s, hungrier for quarters that pizza? Or Pac-Man, at my friend Jill’s house? I can’t pinpoint my first video game experience, but Gamers made me want to revisit and reflect upon it. I was in junior high by the time my parents broke down and bought a Nintendo for my brother, and my fingers still remember the cheat for Contra (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select start – I always played with a friend!) and the first time I won the game and got the Princess. Gamers is filled with delightful moments such as these: the first game, the best game, the highest scorer of a particular game, the most addictive game. A diverse group of writers, game testers, programmers and others wax poetic on such topics as finding redeeming social value in Grand Theft Auto Vice City; the allure of third person action-adventure games like Prince of Persia, Spelunker and Tomb Raider; a temporary obsession over Golden Tee, and what video games the Sims might choose to play, if they could play games (art imitating life?).
The essays cover a wide spectrum of topics academic and arcane, entertaining and universal, and do so in several formats, including experimental and interviews. Headings such as “Walkthrough” (introduction) and “High Scorers” (contributor biographies) cleverly convey playfulness while extending the theme. Video games have long been the white elephant in the room, but now that the industry is rapidly approaching the $10 billion a year mark, they are too big to ignore. As these twenty-three contributors step forward to affirm in their thoughtful essays that they are gamers, millions of fans will nod their heads in agreement, while those new to realm of joysticks and the evolution from 8 bit graphics to 64 and beyond will enjoy the tour through a foreign landscape, guided by enthusiasm.
There are other titles out there that offer a history of video games or reminisce about classic titles, but the diversity of content, quality of the writing, and broad scope set Gamers apart. This is a perfect primer for non-gamers, a great gift for current gamers, and has limited appeal to some reluctant readers. Recommended for high school, academic and public libraries.