For me and many who follow Twin Cities Geek, video games have been a part of life from an early age. I recall how one day—shortly after my dad introduced me to Star Wars—I came downstairs to find him running our new Nintendo Entertainment System. The familiar Star Wars theme was playing on our television, albeit in a synthesized form rendered by the NES cartridge and accompanied by an 8-bit version of the film’s opening crawl. Thus, in a short span of time my dad had ignited two of my life’s greatest passions: Star Wars and video games.
And yet, while I think back on the charmingly quaint graphics and sound of that game, people older than me can remember games so technologically primitive that they would make Star Wars for NES look state of the art by comparison. Games may have come a long way in the last few decades, but their history goes back generations prior.
The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution, written by Jonathan Hennessey and illustrated by Jack McGowan, offers a look at this history. It begins with man’s first attempts to use light to produce images, continuing through the development of the technologies that allowed the viewer to influence those images, and finally ending up in the era of video games as we know them today. It’s a history lesson in comic-book form, with artful depictions of the famous scientists, tinkerers, and entrepreneurs who moved the video game through its developmental stages.
Putting aside the graphic element, as well as my great interest in the subject matter, the one thing I found most successful about the writing itself is how it places titles that every gamer is familiar with—like Sonic the Hedgehog, Pokémon, and Final Fantasy—into the larger context of gaming history, which is not as common knowledge. It’s exciting to discover them after whatever historical preamble lead up to them. In a similar vein, video-game characters ranging from the well-known to the obscure are sprinkled about the panels, and I enjoyed trying my hand at recognizing them (frankly, I embarrassed myself with how many I couldn’t place).
Where once video games (and those who played them) had a stigma attached to them borne out of humanity’s natural fear of the new and the unfamiliar, they have now become so prevalent in society that they are a primary source of entertainment. But while video games continue to advance, and we are fast approaching an age when they will be nearly indistinguishable from reality, at the same time it can be easy to take for granted everything they have managed to achieve already. I recommend The Comic Book Story of Video Games as an opportunity to step back and appreciate the people and inventions that helped to bring these games into our world.
The Comic Book Story of Video Games is available on October 3.