One thing never ceases to amaze me in the technical world in general, and in the video games industry in particular; it’s the impact individuals can have. I am sure the same principle applies to about every other field, but those are the ones I know best.
Over the years, my job gave me the priviledge of meeting amazing people. People who had a deep impact on my career, on my knowledge, on my personalty, and on what I am as a whole.
That must be why I am so fond of stories about game development that focus on people. The technology keeps changing, but the motivation that drives it remains. The people who shaped one way or another what our industry looks like today are for me an endless source of inspiration and motivation.
So I decided to share with you a few books I recently read, both have the same focus on the people behind the technology rather than on the technology itself.
The history of John Carmack and John Romero, from the early days of Softdisk publishing to the release of Quake 3. Starting from virtually nothing, John and John built an empire while going from one eccentricity to the next. The book is a page turner, and is full of anecdotes that stick in mind, highly recommended.
This book tells the inside story of Nintendo of America through the life of Minoru Arakawa, who got trapped between a rock and a hard place: the feudal Nintendo empire on one side, and the North American video games market at the worse of times on the other (right after the video game crash of 1983). Not an easy book to read (I found the timeline of events sometimes hard to follow), but which admirably conveys the determination of a man who raised video games from their ashes.
David Shippy led the development of the PPU for the Cell processor. Nobody could have told this story better, but I still wonder how that book managed to see the light of day, because it talks at lenghts about the ambiguity of the relations between IBM, Sony and Microsoft, which sounds like a touchy topic to me. With all due respect, I have to say the first half of the book was a little bit boring, because it contains a lot of self-congratulation, but then… Microsoft appears out of nowhere, and the shit hits the fan. And from there the book is impossible to put down.
You should not judge a book by its cover, but I have to admit I had a hard time picking up this one. The title sounds over pretentious, and I was worried to be disappointed… was I wrong! The book really is what its title says, but it stops around the year 2000 and focuses a lot more on the early days. Once again, it’s a book about the people behind the technology, but there is a lot more people in this one, and the story seamlessly goes from one to the other.
And some others…
I have a fascination for the early days of computing (like my Computing in the Middle Ages” explains the visionary LINC computer, the first of the minicomputers.
I am eagerly waiting for the auto-biography of Jean Bartik, but in the meantime I would be delighted if you could help me extend the list above with some more entries. What are your favorite “books about people in game development”?