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|Title:||Phoenix The Fall & Rise of Video Games|
|Rating:||4.5 out of 5|
Revered as one of the best books on the history of video games, Leonard Herman's Phoenix The Fall & Rise of Video Games (Rolenta Press) is equally a history book as much as it is a gaming book. If you were to comb through the intricate details laid out in gaming magazines over the last few decades, you'd begin to get a sense of the significance of Phoenix. A vast amount of information, antidotes, and images has been collated into one 324 page volume.
The level of detail is immense and well organized. As with any history book, both the who, when & where come together to form a historical retrospective. Laid out by Year, Phoenix The Fall & Rise of Video Games by dedicating a chapter to each year of video gaming's history. The book begins with some computer history, then taking us through 1970 - 1976 over two chapters at which point each year of gaming had a dedicated chapter.
Not long after the first publishing of Phoenix The Fall & Rise of Video Games, a friend of mine who knew Herman recommended the book to me (my friend was quoted on the back cover). After flipping through his copy I knew I had to read it cover-to-cover.
My buddy invited me to a gamer meeting at an indy shop in NJ where Leonard Herman was going to talk. At the time I didn't know much about gaming or Leonard Herman. Having read Phoenix, I was stoked to meet the man behind it. The get-together was pretty cool, but listening to Herman was amazing. He was like one of those rabid sports fans who can rattle off stats - except I hate team-sports and Herman was dishing out game facts like Jeopardy on crack (in a good way). It was an awesome evening and Herman seemed genuinely surprised when I asked him to sign my copy of Phoenix.
He signed my first edition that I brought along and he gave everyone a homebrew copy of the next chapter which covered 1994. Years later I stumbled across his site and discovered there was a 3rd edition that updated the text of the original, contained pictures and additional chapters bringing video game history up to the year 2000. He signed the 3rd edition copy I ordered. I have to say he has knowledge and class.
Some have said they found the writing style too dry, but I found the writing clear, organized and objective. Being a game fanatic who loves every shred of detail, I tend to get excited by the content more so than the writing. Naturally, there's nothing worse than a great topic ruined by bad writing, but Herman's style keeps the pace moving and ties together the various events of each year (chapter) demonstrating the overall significance and weight.
Having images was a nice addition, but they are fairly small and all black & white. I'd like to have seen the images take a somewhat more prominent role, but that would have made the book insanely long. Considering the huge amount of information provided in the text, the images take a secondary role.
In conclusion I consider Phoenix The Fall & Rise of Video Games a must-have book for anyone who loves video games and is interested in how this crazy industry started, progressed and became what it is today. Buy this book!
This review was based on my original reading of the first edition and my later experience with the 5th printing of the 3rd edition in 2009.