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Review RPG Codex Book Review: Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Crooked Bee, May 27, 2012.

  1. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    Tags: Book; Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play; Morgan Ramsay

    As you may recall, in our recent retrospective interview with Leonard Boyarsky, there was a question mentioning a book called Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play (Apress, 2012). Today, we present you the official Codex review of that book. In Gamers at Work, Morgan Ramsay interviews 17 (co-)founders of video game companies about their career and the history of the industry. To quote the book's description, "if you want to successfully develop and publish video games, or if you want to learn about those who do, this book is for you."

    The review is written by grotsnik, who also submitted the question for the Boyarsky interview. Have a snippet:

    What Gamers At Work does do, though, is provide an unusually diverse series of self-portraits, as the industry figures provide highly subjective retrospectives on their careers and business practices and, in doing so, reveal a great deal about how they'd like to paint themselves, their careers, and the industry itself. ‘Wild’ Bill Stealey’s interview, amusingly, cuts back and forth between an obvious sweaty man-crush on Sid Meier and a deranged obsession with his own past in the Air Force; in one characteristic sequence, he recalls reacting with upright military horror at the sight of Sid pirating competitors’ games in order to ‘review’ them; “As an Air Force Academy graduate, I can’t review games without paying for them. That’s what we called quibbling at the Air Force Academy.” Elsewhere, Trip Hawkins throws a bit of a hissy fit when Ramsay asks him, perfectly innocently, if there were any co-founders at EA. (Apparently there weren't, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.) Tony Goodman, having previously insisted that he's in the business to "make the world a better place", rhapsodises about the freakishly decadent Roman-style orgy laid on for him by Microsoft. which apparently climaxed with a 400-pound lion escaping from its cage. A few of the characters emerge as honest and genuinely given to self-criticism; others, inevitably, are rather more prone to self-delusion (an otherwise candid Ken Williams at one point refers to Phantasmagoria I and II as “one of the greatest series ever made”. Oh, Ken); and at least one or two, despite their own best efforts, come across as unsurprisingly unpleasant, cut-throat and self-concerned. Nearly all of them, however, do have interesting - or at the very least, telling - stories about their careers.

    And, of course, many of these stories result in good old-fashioned insider bitching; astonishingly enough, the big mistakes almost always turn out to have been the fault of someone else. Rubin talks about the “spite and contractual misbehavior” at Universal. Hawkins and Bushnell excoriate, for very different reasons, Atari, while the Chuck E. Cheese magnate also snipes at the “dim” executives at Warner. ‘Wild’ Bill Stealey claims that Hawkins tried to push towards merging EA and Microprose in the late ‘80s, a fact which Hawkins certainly leaves out of his recollections in his own interview (it’s a pity Ramsay doesn’t appear to have conducted a follow-up chat to pursue this particular line of enquiry). And Tim Cain chastises Atari for rushing the development of TOEE, and Activision, all too gently, in my opinion, for their mishandling of Bloodlines.

    The specificity of Gamers At Work’s intent ends up being one of the book’s real strengths; it helps prevent sprawl in interviews about careers sometimes spanning several decades, but more importantly, it encourages the interviewees towards straightforward, nuts-and-bolts answers about how their companies grew and functioned, without giving them much opportunity to stray into self-aggrandising PR blather (though one or two still manage to do so; Tony Goodman memorably justifies selling Ensemble Studios off to Microsoft with the phrase, “I wanted to enrich myself by enriching my employees”, and boasts of asking all job applicants “esoteric questions” such as “What are your hopes and dreams in life?”). But the pure focus on entrepreneurialism can also be limiting and frustrating; it’s hard, for example, not to come away aggrieved by a retrospective interview with Warren Spector that skips past the entire first twenty years of his career in order to discuss in depth his project with startup studio Junction Point, Epic Mickey for the Nintendo Wii.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Book Review: Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play.

    You can buy the book at Amazon.com as well as at other retailers listed on the official website.
     
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  2. CappenVarra phantasmist Patron

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    Good work. grotsnik! :salute:

    Peter Molyneux in a nutshell :P

    :lol: A solid hit, sir.

    <insert Cleve ranting about enrichment>

    Not really surprising for what seems a spin-off from the Founders at Work book. I guess they want interviews with people who succeeded at something considered cool (with founding your own startup and game companies sharing similar levels of appeal to the Silicon Kool-Aid Valley audiences, I suppose).

    Hm, doesn't seem to be available in the preview for me; regional differences perhaps? Ah, nevermind.

    :sigh:

    Before the Wasteland 2 kickstarter, I would have said that nothing much inspired much hope for the industry as a whole in codexers, but fortunately that is no longer the case. But let's not get distracted from lamenting the decline ;)
     
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  3. VentilatorOfDoom RPG Codex Staff

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    Some pages are marked as not previewable. Scroll down a bit, then the interview with Tim comes.
     
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  4. CappenVarra phantasmist Patron

    CappenVarra
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    Thanks!
     
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  5. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    :salute: grotsnik

    One of the Codex's more underappreciated wise men :obviously:
     
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  6. Excidium P. banal

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    Nice job grotsnik! Does this mean you're already settled and the next update on your LP is coming up any moment now? :M
     
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  7. Jaesun Fabulous Moderator Patron

    Jaesun
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    That was an excellent review grotsnik! :salute:
     
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  8. RK47 collides like two planets pulled by gravity Patron

    RK47
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    Nice. Very Nice.
     
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  9. likaq Arcane

    likaq
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    24 hours passed and no butthurt from skyway about this quote:

    Something strange is going on here ...
     
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  10. Ulminati Kamelåså! Patron

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    Probably because noone actually tagged MetalCraze to notify him of this.
     
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  11. felipepepe Prestigious Gentleman Codex's Heretic Patron

    felipepepe
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    Nice review, I was thinking about importing this book since the Boyarsky interview...

    Since we're on the topic, did anyone ever read/reviewed Matt Bartom's books? I would like to read a book like those, but they are so expensive, and I'm afraid it might be a shallower read than a good Codex thread...
     
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  12. grotsnik Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    grotsnik
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    If you're interested, I'm sure there wouldn't be any harm in contacting JC Matt and asking if he'd be willing to let a review copy of Dungeons and Desktops or similar go...

    I also cannot believe Ulminati ratted on me. :(
     
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  13. Excommunicator Arcane

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    Very good review. Looking forward to seeing broader game- and RPG-related content on the Codex in the future. Sounds like the kind of book that will do nothing for me than raise my blood pressure
     
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  14. Ringhausen Scholar

    Ringhausen
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    Some classy writing you got there, hoss, it's like reading one of dem fancy big city magazines.
     
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  15. TalesfromtheCrypt Arcane

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    Excellent writing indeed, love your style grotsnik. Hope we will some more (game)reviews from you in the future!
     
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  16. Major_Blackhart Codexia Lord Sodom Patron

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    Oh, this is quite interesting.
     
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  17. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    I can recommend this book for some quick reading, I think I read it on a tablet waiting in an airport and finished before all the security procedures. Not all the stories are interesting but those that are are quite unique in the material they provide.
     
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