Gift Guide 2015: The Best New Books About Video Games

By Keza MacDonald on at

Chances are you've read some recommendations on books about video games before somewhere on the internet, and you'll have seen some of the same suggestions over and over: Extra Lives by Tom Bissell, Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal, the old faithful Trigger Happy by Steven Poole.

Those are all great, but 2015 has seen loads of new books about video games, and some of them have broken new ground in what I think will only be a growing genre. All the suggestions below are from the past few years.

If you're looking for something to buy the thinking gamer, one or two of these are sure to appeal. Disclosure: I know the authors of several of these books. Despite that dubious privilege, I still think their work's great.

A Brief History of Video Games by Richard Stanton

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Quite probably the best comprehensive video game history book out there, A Brief History of Video Games takes what can be a pretty dry subject and turns it into a great story that covers a vast amount in its 350-odd pages. Stanton's writing is excellent throughout. Any lover of video games will find something to enjoy in this book.

Death By Video Game by Simon Parkin

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You'll probably have read one of British journalist Simon Parkin's amazing stories somewhere on the internet by now, whether you know it or not. In his book, Death By Video Game, he ties many of them together in an exploration of why virtual worlds are so compelling. From cyber cafes in East Asia, where young people have been found dead at their gaming keyboards to the guy who's trying to walk across all of Minecraft, it weaves a wide, challenging variety of stories about games and how they affect people into its overarching narrative.

Embed With Games by Cara Ellison

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Scottish writer Cara Ellison spent a year going around the world living on the couches of game developers. The resultant writing about games, life, and how they intersect is enlightening, raw, and very human. This is unconventional, original and emotionally affecting games writing.

Gamelife by Michael W Klune

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Gamelife is a 'gaming memoir', one of the first, from an author whose prose is enlivening and unusual. It is a book about childhood, told through video games. We're guessing this is the first in what will become a new genre.

Ready Player One by Ernest Kline

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The only fiction book on this list, Ready Player One is a pretty self-indulgent and self-referential book by an '80s nerd, for '80s nerds – but it's difficult not like, because it's so earnest and fun and brimming with passion for this form of geekdom. Much better, for our money, than the follow-up, Armada, which came out this year.

Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: The Collected Works edited by Keith Stuart

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Mostly an art book, but with never-before-seen interviews from Sega's golden age and a great foreword from The Guardian's games editor Keith Stuart, this book is a treasure trove for Sega fanatics.

Britsoft: An Oral History edited by Alex Wiltshire

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A history of the early British games industry comprised of interviews with all of its main players. Mainly one for those who were actually around for the late '70s and '80s, though anyone with an interest in the British games industry at that time would appreciate this.