Flash of Steel header image 2

Print Screen Number 6 and other books

June 23rd, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Crispy Gamer, Print Screen

So I went ahead and reviewed Dungeons & Desktops anyway. And I didn’t like it very much. The more I read, the clearer it became that Matt Barton wanted to write two different books – an encyclopedia of CRPGs and a business/design history. It is certainly possible to meld the two, but Dr. Barton never really integrates the two modes very well.

And the encyclopedia is maddeningly incomplete. He makes no reference to the independent developer Spiderweb Software, a company that kept a lot of people happy while the AAA role playing game market was struggling, and he almost never mentions a critic by name, even when a direct quotation is used. The index is a travesty; Gas Powered Games’ Chris Taylor is extensively quoted at two points in the book but only the first one is indexed. Why do Baldur’s Gate characters get index mentions but most other characters do not?

The thing is, Dungeons & Desktops is close to being a good and essential work. It needed much better editorial attention than it got. Maybe even a wife to tell him to stop being so damned repetitive.

Once I finished the book, I went back to re-read James Dunnigan’s classic Complete Wargames Handbook. I have the second edition, which is very dated, but still does an excellent job of outlining the challenges that wargame players and designers face. He analyzes the changes in the gaming audience, talks about the rise of simulations and general strategy games on the computer, and addresses some of the fundamental conflicts in designing a game that purports to be about history.

Dunnigan’s definition of “wargame” is hopelessly broad; an appendix list of computer wargames includes F-15 Strike Eagle and Sid Meier’s Civilization. But he’s smart enough to not bother trying to discuss most of these titles. His book focuses on those games that matter, using them to illustrate points, not to illustrate pages.

The next book on my reading list is Jim Rossignol‘s This Gaming Life, and it won’t be as much a review as it will be a discussion. Since he raises a lot of points that directly contradict the expectations of Michael Kane (Game Boys), it might be interesting to facilitate a debate there. But we’ll see.


No Comments so far ↓

Like gas stations in rural Texas after 10 pm, comments are closed.