The best video game narrative histories and a couple of others

Who am I?

Author/journalist Harold Goldberg has written about video games since the 1990s. He is the author of All Your Base Are Belong to Us (How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture) and The League of Legends Experience. He is the founder of the non-profit New York Videogame Critics Circle and The New York Game Awards, both of which raise funds for essential classes and scholarships in New York City's underserved communities. As editor in chief of Sony Online Entertainment, he worked on Star Wars Galaxies and EverQuest. He has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Wired, and elsewhere. Goldberg also co-wrote My Life Among The Serial Killers with Dr. Helen Morrison. 


I wrote...

All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture

By Harold Goldberg,

Book cover of All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture

What is my book about?

Through the stories of gaming's greatest innovations and most beloved creations, journalist Harold Goldberg captures the creativity, controversy--and passion--behind the videogame's meteoric rise to the top of the pop-culture pantheon. Over the last fifty years, video games have grown from curiosities to fads to trends to one of the world's most popular forms of mass entertainment. But as the gaming industry grows in numerous directions and everyone talks about the advance of the moment, few explore and seek to understand the forces behind this profound evolution. How did we get from Space Invaders to Grand Theft Auto? How exactly did gaming become a $50 billion industry and a dominant pop culture form? What are the stories, the people, the innovations, and the fascinations behind this incredible growth?

Through 200 extensive interviews with gaming's greatest innovators, both its icons and those unfairly forgotten by history, All Your Base Are Belong To Us sets out to answer these questions, exposing the creativity, odd theories--and passion--behind the twenty-first century's fastest-growing medium. Two chapters that feature rare interviews Rockstar Games' Houser Brothers make the book a must-read.

The books I picked & why

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Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World

By David Sheff,

Book cover of Game Over: How Nintendo Conquered The World

Why this book?

Sheff's 1994 story is still the most incisive narrative history of Nintendo. It's full of all the ups and downs you expect in a process-oriented tome. But it also has soul, delivered by the wonder-filled mind of Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Mario and the Legend Of Zelda series. Today, no journalist could ever get inside Nintendo, which is as closed off to its inner workings as Apple is. But Sheff got inside, way inside, and every reader is the better for it.


The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon and Beyond . . . the Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World

By Steven L. Kent,

Book cover of The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon and Beyond . . . the Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World

Why this book?

Steve's sprawlingly wonderful book is not only an essential (and the first) oral history of video games' early years. The author takes you inside the minds of the (mainly) white men who pioneered a form of entertainment media that's now bigger than all forms of popular art combined. Just as it makes you think of the brilliance of these slick hucksters and brainy engineers who created a new form of culture, it makes you think that games would have benefitted greatly from more diversity back then - and now.


Fun, Taste, & Games: An Aesthetics of the Idle, Unproductive, and Otherwise Playful

By John Sharp, David Thomas,

Book cover of Fun, Taste, & Games: An Aesthetics of the Idle, Unproductive, and Otherwise Playful

Why this book?

This under-appreciated book by two professors revolves around theories of play, why we play games, how we play them, and what it all means to the world. As they look at everything from Meow Wolf's exhibitions to Monopoly to Myst to Portal, they see that as beauty was to art, fun is to play and games. The work begins as they quote Gombrich, who says "The idea of fun is even more unpopular among us than the notion of beauty." Each of these chapters, as they roll together as one, magically juggle the varied theories of games as art and games as purely play.


The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter

By Greg Toppo,

Book cover of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter

Why this book?

Of the small subgenre books that deal with the way games aid education, Toppo's shows how games can make a difference in the way students learn by looking at first at a Washington, D.C. school's success with improving math scores through game playing. From there, he visits professors and visionaries, all of whom have helped kids learn through games. One thing becomes clear: if there were a games class in every school, especially in underserved communities, student grades would go up.


Playstation Anthology

By Mathieu Manent,

Book cover of Playstation Anthology

Why this book?

No one's written the perfect history of the PlayStation. But this illustration-rife, Kickstarted book for fans details the secrets of Sony's history with consoles, including rare photos of collectibles and decent interviews of 26 of the key developers, like PaRappa The Rapper co-creator Rodney Alan Greenblatt and Crash Bandicoot co-creator Jason Rubin. Yes, they could have included interviews with key U.S execs like Andrew House and Mark Cerny. Still, it works. Dimension-wise, the book's not large enough to be a coffee table book. But that's what it feels like, and an indispensable one at that.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in video games, the video game industry, and virtual reality?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about video games, the video game industry, and virtual reality.

Video Games Explore 44 books about video games
The Video Game Industry Explore 6 books about the video game industry
Virtual Reality Explore 19 books about virtual reality

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Official Nintendo Player's Guide NES 1987, Space Invaders, and Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made if you like this list.