What We're Reading Now: 'Console Wars' by Blake J. Harris

Are you a gamer? Is that what the kids are calling people who…uh…video-game?

If that opening didn’t give it away, I’m not a member of this club. I don’t know what most of the popular games are. I feel like the controller never does what I ask. Why is Wii Tennis so tiring? Do all these people have to die? Am I trying to destroy this mythically evil world or save it?

Yeah, PS3(4?), Xbox, and the like are not my forte. Rather, I carry a dread akin to something Seth Rogen touches upon in his portion of Console Wars‘ foreword (co-written by Evan Goldberg). In reference to Sega and Ninetendo he writes:

These games have led us to a world where GTA and Call of Duty are the top games and the next step is to have the games incorporate stuff about us and our personal lives, and then sentient technology will inevitably disassociate from mankind and some robot like Skynet will rise up and destroy us all.

It’s likely he’s being ironic.

I, on the other hand, am not. Also, I don’t know what GTA is.

So maybe this book doesn’t seem a natural fit, but Marc Snetiker plopped it on my desk (or…maybe I kept running over to his corner, peppering him about what he was reading, if I should read it, if I could write about it, would he give me a quote? but, um, I can’t really remember…), and anyway, he told me he really enjoyed it and thought I might as well.

I may not have gotten into video games enough to ever kill a single person in Call of Duty before meeting my demise, but I loved my N64 growing up. Countless rainy afternoons were passed playing Mario Kart and GoldenEye with my sisters.

If you share such nostalgia, and especially if you’re into gaming, you’ll enjoy reading this as much as he and I did. We loved learning about the intertwined evolution of Nintendo and Sega, and the chapters that just lay down the historical facts are truly fascinating. As Marc says, “I realized I knew quite a bit about Nintendo’s growth but had little to no idea about Sega, so that was pretty interesting to learn about — and how the two companies rivaled each other in so many ways.”

Nintendo and Sega come across as two distinct personalities, constantly playing off one another, their choices always colored by their perpetual awareness of each other. That tension is my favorite part of the book.

There is, unfortunately, a little bit of bad that has to work its way into all this good: Blake J. Harris, for all his researching and interviewing, is not a storyteller — mainly because this isn’t meant to be a story. These are facts. This is business. It should be written as such. His writing tries turning everyone into a “character,” and his presence as a narrator, trying to dive into the psyche of each of his subjects, reads very cliché. (Marc will back me up here.)

I’m still passing this along to a number of people and highly recommend it. What are you sharing these days?

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