This review was first published by Booklist on April 15, 2017.
It’s unusual for a history of video games to feature multiple quotes from Rilke, references to philosophy and Zen Buddhism, and comparisons to great works of art. But that’s exactly what Ervin serves up to support his compelling argument: video games can be art. They can achieve the same heights of storytelling and social commentary, inspire genuine self-reflection, and promote personal and social progress, like any other creative medium. He examines what he considers the most seminal games, designers, and developments in the short history of video games. This isn’t a comprehensive history and doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a personal list—Ervin focuses on what he considers most important and his own experiences as a lifelong gamer. He’s clear about his personal preferences but does his best to understand the appeal of important games he doesn’t like. Ultimately, this is less about how video games have transformed our world and more about how they can. Ervin’s hopefulness sometimes feels naive, but that doesn’t render his faith in games any less compelling.