You – A Book About Game Development
I was doing my lengthy round of the book store when the cover of You caught my attention for its game like appearance. The book is set during a time when games were still relatively young (1998) and follows the journey of Russell as he takes on the new role of game designer in the struggling studio Black Arts (founded by his childhood friends.) A serious bug starts to crop up with growing frequency, and it’s Russell’s job to solve it. As he attempts to find the solution my intrigue grew about what secrets might have been left behind by the original (now deceased) developer Simon. The book aims to provide a realistic portrayal of the games industry while also revealing the inner desires of the people who make games. While the title You seems a little odd, the reason behind the name becomes apparent during the last few paragraphs of the book; while we may want to lose ourselves within the virtual world it is still us that are in control. The way we play is a large part of who we are.
You feels slightly autobiographical in nature as the author Austin Grossman used a lot of his own experience to help him to write it. As well as being a writer Austin Grossman is also a game developer having worked in studios such as Looking glass, Dreamworks Interactive, IonStorm and Crystal Dynamics. He has worked on the titles Dishonored, System Shock, Tomb Raider:Legend, Deus Ex and more. While a lot of people love games, little is often shown about the work that goes into making them, and I think it was his aim to write a book that would offer an insight into this world. Directors become known for their films, authors for their books and singers for their music but many game designers on the other hand go unheard of. I would like to see a stronger representation of the people who make games and would love to learn more about the personalities behind them.
You was a little bit hit and miss for me. Some parts of the book were really interesting and I enjoyed reading about the characters (Simon especially peaked my interest,) but overall I think the story could have been stronger. At times it felt like the book was just dumping information on me about the history of games rather than trying to grab me through its plot. While the book has been written to appeal to gamers and non-gamers I do feel that the references and nostalgia could be off-putting for some readers. I also wasn’t too keen on the writing style which at times got a bit confusing; The narration seems to jump between past and current events and into and out of virtual worlds.
You is worth a read if you are interested in the games industry. The book also gave me a strong urge to want to play many of the games mentioned as well as to get cracking on my own game designs :P. I would like to see more books tackling the subject gaming culture as it is now a large part of our world.