National Video Games Day

An analog approach to National Video Games Day

Books may not be top of mind for most when thinking of National Video Games Day, but they’re certainly first place for the Press

Video games bring to mind bits and bites, VR goggles and joysticks—but in our opinion, video games and books go hand-in-hand. An extraordinary amount of work goes into creating the popular games on the market today, from concept to design to development. This National Video Games Day, explore books on game studies and game design to learn a little bit more about a favorite pastime.

Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons by Jon Peterson

"Game Wizards"

When Dungeons & Dragons was first released to a small hobby community, it hardly seemed destined for mainstream success—and yet this arcane tabletop role-playing game became an unlikely pop culture phenomenon. In Game Wizards, Jon Peterson chronicles the rise of Dungeons & Dragons from hobbyist pastime to mass market sensation, from the initial collaboration to the later feud of its creators, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. As the game’s fiftieth anniversary approaches, Peterson—a noted authority on role-playing games—explains how D&D and its creators navigated their successes, setbacks, and controversies. With Game Wizards, Peterson restores historical particulars long obscured by competing narratives spun by the one-time partners.

“Jon is the great gaming librarian, the dramaturg of D&D. He is always my first call when I’m researching anything related to the history of tabletop gaming. If he doesn’t know, most likely no one else does, and this book is no exception.” —Joe Manganiello, actor, producer, Dungeons & Dragons ambassador, and writer/game designer for Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro

Against Flow: Video Games and the Flowing Subject by Braxton Soderman

"Against Flow"

Flow—as conceptualized by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi—describes an experience of “being in the zone,” of intense absorption in an activity. It is a central concept in the study of video games, although often applied uncritically. In Against Flow, Braxton Soderman takes a step back and offers a critical assessment of flow’s historical, theoretical, political, and ideological contexts in relation to video games. With close readings of games that implement and represent flow, Soderman not only evaluates the concept of flow in terms of video games but also presents a general critique of flow and its sibling, play.

“Soderman’s scholarly, historically informed, and provocative account of flow in video games is required reading for those in game studies or interested in consumer-driven media culture.” —Jay David Bolter, Wesley Chair of New Media, Georgia Institute of Technology

Play Like a Feminist. by Shira Chess

"Play Like a Feminist."

“You play like a girl”: it’s meant to be an insult, accusing a player of subpar, un-fun playing. If you’re a girl, and you grow up, do you “play like a woman”—whatever that means? In this provocative and enlightening book, Shira Chess urges us to play like feminists. Furthermore, she urges us to play video games like feminists. Playing like a feminist is empowering and disruptive; it exceeds the boundaries of gender yet still advocates for gender equality. Playing like a feminist offers a new way to think about how humans play —and also a new way to think about how feminists do their feministing. Chess argues that feminism needs video games as much as video games need feminism.

“One hopes that this accessible and empowering book will inspire more gamers to play like feminists and feminists to play more.” —Choice

Homebrew Gaming and the Beginnings of Vernacular Digitality by Melanie Swalwell

"Homebrew Gaming and the Beginnings of Vernacular Digitality"

From the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, low-end microcomputers offered many users their first taste of computing. A major use of these inexpensive 8-bit machines—including the TRS System 80s and the Sinclair, Atari, Microbee, and Commodore ranges—was the development of homebrew games. Users with often self-taught programming skills devised the graphics, sound, and coding for their self-created games. In this book, Melanie Swalwell offers a history of this era of homebrew game development, arguing that it constitutes a significant instance of the early appropriation of digital computing technology.

“Melanie Swalwell counters the myth of ‘bedroom coders’ by looking at homebrew game developers through the lens of ‘DIY Brews.’ With interviews, notes, and family albums, she helps us understand why the 8-bit scene thrives to this day.”  Mirosław Filiciak, Associate Professor and Director, Institute of Humanities, SWPS University

Making Games for Impact by Kurt Squire

"Making Games for Impact"

Digital games for learning are now commonplace, used in settings that range from K–12 education to advanced medical training. In this book, Kurt Squire examines the ways that games make an impact on learning, investigating how designers and developers incorporate authentic social impact goals, build a team, and work with experts in order to make games that are effective and marketable. Because there is no one design process for making games for impact—specific processes arise in response to local needs and conditions—Squire presents a series of case studies that range from a small, playable game created by a few programmers and an artist to a multimillion-dollar project with funders, outside experts, and external constraints.

“Squire’s experience developing games with diverse teams and unique theoretical foundations offers compelling tales from the field that will be of interest to researchers, designers, and practitioners interested in games for impact.” —Eric Klopfer, Professor/Director of the Scheller Teacher Education Program and the Education Arcade, MIT; coauthor of Resonant Games

The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity by Jon Peterson

"The Elusive Shift"

When Dungeons & Dragons made its debut in the mid-1970s, followed shortly thereafter by other, similar tabletop games, it sparked a renaissance in game design and critical thinking about games. D&D is now popularly considered to be the first role-playing game. But in the original rules, the term “role-playing” is nowhere to be found; D&D was marketed as a wargame. In The Elusive Shift, Jon Peterson describes how players and scholars in the D&D community began to apply the term to D&D and similar games—and by doing so, established a new genre of games.

“A terrific gem that articulates the richness and influence of early theorizing on our current understanding of RPGs. It’s a contribution to role-playing game studies that neither scholars nor RPG fans should miss.” —José P. Zagal, Professor of Entertainment Arts Engineering, University of Utah

A Playful Production Process: For Game Designers (and Everyone) by Richard Lemarchand

"A Playful Production Process"

This book teaches game designers, aspiring game developers, and game design students how to take a digital game project from start to finish—from conceptualizing and designing to building, playtesting, and iterating—while avoiding the uncontrolled overwork known among developers as “crunch.” Written by a legendary game designer, A Playful Production Process outlines a process that connects the creative aspects of game design with proven techniques for effective project management. The book outlines four project phases—ideation, preproduction, full production, and post-production—that give designers and developers the milestones they need to advance from the first glimmerings of an idea to a finished game.

“Lemarchand brilliantly lays out an alternative to the crunch and chaos so common in game development today. A must-read!” —Mark Cerny, Lead Architect of PlayStation 4 and 5

Explore more of the MIT Press’s books on game studies