By David Sudnow,

Book cover of Breakout: Pilgrim in the Microworld

Book description

Just as the video game console market was about to crash into the New Mexico desert in 1983, musician and sociologist David Sudnow was unearthing the secrets of “eye, mind, and the essence of video skill” through an exploration of Atari's Breakout, one of the earliest hits of the arcade…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Breakout as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

David Sudnow’s Breakout: Pilgrim in the Microworld is perhaps the earliest account of a person’s obsession with a video game.

Sudnow’s diary-like approach to his relationship with the 1976 arcade game Breakout is captivating. It reads like improv jazz (which isn’t surprising considering Sudnow himself was an accomplished jazz pianist).

For example, here’s Sudnow describing the moments before starting the final phase of his longest game so far: “I feel the attempted seduction of the long lobbing interim, a calm before the storm, the action so laid back that I’m consciously elaborating a rhythm to be ready, set, go for…

Sudnow’s book isn’t so much a memoir as it is a very specific, detailed snapshot of what happened when he discovered and became obsessed with the game, Breakout. It’s almost like reading someone’s descent into madness. Sudnow dives deeper into the mechanics and psychology of Breakout than I think anybody thought possible, including the developers themselves. Amusingly enough, Sudnow even tracked down the original Breakout developers for help on how to master the game. I can’t say I’ve ever become quite this obsessed with any one game myself, but I can still relate to that innate desire to “beat”…

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