Despite what non-gamers think, modern gaming is not just mindlessly sitting in front of a screen with a controller in your hands. The worlds and lore involved in the games we play, as well as the making of them, provide a form of entertainment in their own right.
While documentaries can give us additional insight into the industry and the games we play, another way to indulge a passion for gaming is to read gaming-related books. There’s plenty to choose from too.
Non-fiction gaming books give fascinating, in-depth look at everything gaming-related, while gaming novels let us continue enjoying the world we love. And reading isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are tonnes of gaming art books and compendiums that scratch that right hemisphered itch.
To get the ball rolling, you’ll find a list of our top gaming books below.
Some of our favourite gaming books
Taking a rather bleak but interesting view of game development, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is an essential read for any gamer.
Each chapter of the book takes a look at the various ways game development can go disastrously wrong. Everything is covered with real examples, from the 100-hour work week crunch of Uncharted 4, the buggy game engine of Dragon Age making life hell for everyone, to the internal squabbles between Microsoft and Bungie.
While this isn’t exactly the most uplifting book, it pulls back the curtain enough to let those who are used to finished products understand what it took to make.
While the Halo games might cover some of the story, a lot of the lore and intricacies get lost in translation. Fortunately, the Halo novels serve as a great way to expand the universe and flesh things out for fans. With over 30 novels now released, there’s plenty of Halo story to sink your teeth into.
You’ll want to start with Halo: The Fall of Reach which acts as a re-introduction to characters and a good entry point for further reading. As you move through the books you’ll see for yourself how Halo isn’t just a bro-shooter but is instead a fully realized universe.
Written by psychologist Pete Etchells, Lost in a Good Game seeks to explain why we play games and what they can do for us.
While the answer to this might seem obvious (fun and entertainment) the book details the various reasons we actually do play games from immersion, socializing, coping, and even learning. It’s a fascinating look from a professional’s point of view that celebrates gaming without ignoring its problems.
Etchells shows a masterful understanding of gaming and the different experiences that can be had. He systematically dismantles the stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media and can perhaps help you understand exactly why you pick up the controller.
Covering the first four Metal Gear Solid games, this visual art compendium covers twenty years of artistry from the mind of Yoji Shinkawa. The Art of Metal Gear Solid includes exclusive ink sketches, as well as full-page color illustrations of characters, weapons, and vehicles.
Everything is presented beautifully and displays the unique art style of the Metal Gear Solid in high-res, glossy print. As well as a visual treat, there are also insights into design decisions and concept art that shows characters in a new light. For fans of the series or gaming art in general, this is a celebration of the genre.
Author David Kushner tells the truly incredible story of John Carmack and John Romero, creators of Doom and Quake, and ID Software. Within the book is a story of broken homes, childhood dreams, egos, friendship, betrayal, and incredible drive all set against the backdrop of game development.
While you don’t need to have been around for the Shareware days of Doom to get something out of this book, the book sheds new light on the controversy that surrounded the game at the time. This is one of the most-read non-fiction books on gaming and for good reason. While overly sympathetic to Carmack for some, the book does a great job explaining how one of gaming’s biggest gaming series came to be.
Whether you know your Ganon from your Goron or not, The Legend of Zelda: Art and Artifiacts is a celebration of one of gaming’s biggest franchises. With Zelda games filled with unique characters, places, objects, and monsters, there’s plenty of room for creativity. This gaming book takes that idea and runs with it using full-page illustrations showcasing over thirty years of gaming history.
As well as the illustrations, concept art, and sketches, you’ll also find some interviews with the artists behind the series that can’t be found anywhere else. This is a beautiful showcase of the franchise and one that deserves a place on any gamer’s bookshelf.
Console Wars tells the tale of the 16-bit console wars between Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Genesis. The story details how the SNES was Nintendo’s hail mary attempt to stay relevant and the efforts the company went to to try and stay ahead of Sega.
The meat of the story involves Tom Kalinske, a marketing expert for Matchbox and Mattel who became the President of Sega. He, along with his team brought the fight to Nintendo like never before, forcing a fierce console war that spurred creativity and some of gaming’s most iconic advertising campaigns.
The book is a fascinating look at gaming monopolies and is a must-read for any gamer, especially those who experienced the console wars firsthand.
The perfect coffee table book for gamers, The Game Console 2.0 shows off the hardware we use to play games in gorgeous detail. Within these pages, you’ll literally be able to see inside the consoles and controllers we grew up with as well as the ones we use now.
Photographed by Evan Amos, each page features a blown-apart look at iconic pieces of gaming gadgetry. While the big players are here, including the PS2, NES, and Dual Con, you’ll also find Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, Game & Watch, and more.
The book began as a Kickstarter and shows a genuine love for gaming paraphernalia. The second edition of the book includes blow-ups and information on the Nintendo Switch, the PS5, and the Xbox Series S|X.
The benefits of reading gaming books
While avid readers will need no excuse to combine a love of books with gaming, those who are more likely to pick up a controller will need a little more encouragement. Here are some of the best reasons to get a gaming book or two off this list and begin reading.
Learn more about your favorite games
While you might think you know everything there is to know about your favorite games, there’s often a lot more to discover. Books about our favorite games give us insight into the people and processes that went into making them.
Tetris, for example, might seem like a humble puzzle game, but its creation is surrounded by controversy, subterfuge, and backroom deals. Interested players can learn more by reading Tetris: The Games People Play, with other books like Masters of Doom and Postal revealing far more than you’ll learn simply by playing.
Indulge in graphics and art
While gamers are constantly told it’s not all about the graphics, visuals hold a special place for many of us. It’s easy to blow through games without really stopping and appreciating its art and design.
Gaming art and photography books let us sit back and appreciate the design and creativity involved in characters, level design, as well as hardware itself.
Everything from 8-bit sprites, procedurally generated vistas, detailed character models, and more are all printed and showcased in glossy glory.
Experience more of a game’s world
While not for everyone, gaming fiction is a thriving genre with some of the world’s top writers roped in to flesh out the lore of some top games. With the names and locations already familiar to you, these can also be a lot easier to get into.
Game series include the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, The Witcher, Metro, Warcraft, and Halo all allow you to reimmerse yourself into the people and places you’ve come to love. These novels are usually written with particular care, making sure they remain consistent with the game narratives.
It’s hard for non-developers to fully understand the toll that making games can have on the mental and physical health of people. While development “crunch” is something most studios are trying to phase out, books allow us to appreciate the time and energy that goes into games that we both love and hate.
Reading about the work involved, the challenges devs faced, and the internal struggles is as interesting as playing the games themselves. If you’re a little bit bored of games, books about the industry allow you to still explore your interest.
When games have become a little bit samey or you’re no longer enjoying them, books allow you to appreciate them from a different angle. Even if you’re not a reader and your bookshelf has become a dusty graveyard for DVDs and BluRays, try some visual books. With thousands of gaming books ready to be read, this is a content treasure trove for gamers.
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