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(gameXplore, 3 stars)

Given how popular videogames are, there’s a strange lack of books on the subject. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a bookshop with a gaming section. Beyond the walkthroughs and gaming guides that proliferate at electronic retailers, gaming literature remains a fairly untapped market. Now two compendiums have hit the shelves mere months apart: The Book of Games (volume 1) and the BFI’s 100 Videogames. Both take seemingly contradictory approaches to the medium.

At first glance, lovingly presented hardback The Book of Games is the answer. Page upon glossy page of screenshots and listings of some of the biggest games around, with profiles of the current and next-gen machines and a selection of essays on various subjects in the gaming world such as MMORPGs and ‘From Games to Movies’. The hardware profiles in particular are excellent, if that’s your bag. But when it comes to the games singled out for consideration you have to wonder at their often bizarre choices, only profiling the latest addition in a series makes sense but the inclusion of such clunkers as Deer Hunter 2005 doesn’t. And there’s an over reliance on licensed film and TV titles, even when dealing with such limited space and the sheer volume of games released year in year out (though this is perhaps a reflection on sales figures, licensed tosh still sells by the bucket-load despite their complete lack of quality control). While entries for each game are short and bereft of any real information, the essays are interesting but cursory and you long for more than the seven offered here. That said it’s hard to deny The Books of Games looks great on the coffee table despite its flimsy content.



(BFI, 4 stars)

100 Videogames is woefully short on screen shots. In fact most entries don’t come with one and the rest are in black and white. But when you delve into the text you realise what an exhaustive labour of love this is. The choice of games that have had an impact culturally and technically is second to none (from Snake on the mobile phone to ancient home computing favourite Jet Set Willy through to the more obvious Tekken and Tomb Raider). Intelligently written by James Newman and Iain Simons and placing gaming’s position in wider society at its core, this is a fascinating history of the medium, told via the most important games, with the added bonus of also being a thoroughly entertaining read. (Henry Northmore)

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