The Ultimate History of Video Games, by Steven L. Kent – This book provides a good overview of the video game industry from its beginnings (well, actually BEFORE its beginnings, as it says a bit about pinball and other precursors to electronic games) up to its publication in 2001, when the Xbox and GameCube were new. The focus often seems to be on the business end, explaining how various companies got into the industry and their inner politics and competition with each other. Legal battles are addressed, as are the hearings before Congress about violence in games. There are also profiles of some of the most important personages in the video game world. Specific games are highlighted when they showcased a new technology, or if they really caught on with the public. Personally, I found the chapters about the early industry, describing Atari and other early adapters of video games, to be the most interesting. I’m sure I’ll be referencing this book in future video game posts. In fact, I already did in my recent post on pinball.
One minor aspect of the book that I found interesting was its explanations of what the names of companies involved in the industry mean. You might already know these, but I’m going to share them anyway:
Atari – As I explained in this post, it’s a term from the game Go roughly meaning “check.” The original proposed name was “Syzygy,” but that was already taken, either by a candle or roofing company.
Bally – Named after founder Ray Moloney’s first pinball game, Ballyhoo.
Capcom – Short for “Capsule Computer.” Their mascot, Captain Commando, was essentially a re-lengthening of the name. (I’m actually not sure this one was included in the book, but I’m putting it here anyway.)
Coleco – Short for “Connecticut Leather Company,” because that’s what they originally made.
Nintendo – Japanese for “leave luck to heaven,” possibly reflecting its origin as a maker of playing cards.
Sega – Short for “Service Games.”
Sente – When Nolan Bushnell bought this now-defunct company that manufactured arcade machines, he gave it this name that was also from Go, and roughly meant “having the initiative.”