Are you interested in the history of video games? The Read-Only Memory store is full of amazing books on the subject as well as Japansoft: an oral history. If you want to invest some money, this is the place to do it
Japansoft: an oral history is the book about who invented video games. And trust me, they are the real punks.
There are not many books that talk about video games, but Japansoft: an oral history it is one of the best on the square.
The book is in English, published by Read-Only Memory, a publishing house that deals with video game books with a constantly evolving valuable catalog. Japansoft is based on the interviews made by John Szczepaniak for his project The untold history of japanese game developers.
Also this time we find ourselves facing the theme, too often taken lightly, of the history of the videogame medium, but in this case the focus is not video games but who he practically invented video games.
Japansoft collects statements, background and interviews of Japanese developers who saw the medium born and expanded in the late 70s and early 80s. Of course, there is no shortage of big names, but the privileged point of view is that of those semi-unknown heroes who contributed to the creation of the first video games in the land of the rising sun in a historical moment in which the industry practically did not exist. These tireless nerds started coding when the concept of a console didn't even exist.
Their testimony, collected in Japansoft: an oral history, is of great importance: not only their point of view is essentially unpublished, but it gives us the opportunity to analyze the evolution of an industry that has "only" fifty years but that in all this time, perhaps, it has not evolved as much as we believe.
The real punks are video game developers.
I can't say it enough: we really care too little about the history of the medium. Taken as we are by the fever of the hype, we tend not to give value to the work of hundreds of thousands of people who have scarified everything in life just to entertain and excite us.
The book published by Read-Only Memory fills a culpable void huge, and tells from inside a world that is still almost completely unknown to us.
Japansoft chronicles the testimonies of a generation of rebels who challenged society to pursue a career as a game developer.
It's almost comical, but who developed video games in the 70s and 80s was a real punk. There were those who did not wash for months to finish their game, there were those who slept on the floor in the office because they did not have a home, there were even teams that, since they had a microscopic office, held meetings on the subway.
All this in a world that was initially hostile to him because video games were seen as a waste of time for runaways, and he didn't look favorably on young people who did anything other than prepare for college. Or for high school, as some of the respondents at the time had 15 years.
Too often video game books don't talk about the developers
To learn more:
Bitmap Books: the value of the memory
The Read-Only Memory book offers all the elements to better understand the late 70s and early 80s.
From the first computers of NEC and Apple to the arrival of the first Nintendo home console, programming in Japan was a world in turmoil but also lost in total anarchy. Japansoft tells the dawn of the first software houses in a historical period in which even the car dealers they were trying to jump on the video game wagon. I admit, certain stories gave me goosebumps: reading about the birth of Akihabara and the first trade magazines made me feel nostalgia for a period I have never lived. From the words of those who were there it is possible to understand how much love those people felt for the games.
Did crunch or video games come first?
To learn more:
Does the arcade still make sense? The future of Taito
All, or almost all, the developers interviewed were avid gamers, proof of the fact that this is a medium that comes from below and from enthusiasts. Similarly, however, Japansoft also tells the more atrocious side of being a video game developer in that era.
Today there is a lot of talk about the crunch and the work rhythms that those who do this job are forced to endure. The truth, however, is that this it is a practice that was born together with the medium himself. And somehow it must be eradicated.
In any case, to read that there were companies that had a room that could only be opened from the outside in which they locked the programmers until the work was completed honestly fear. Japan's work culture is certainly nothing new, but certain practices are inhumane from every point of view. This should teach us not to throw tantrums when they delay the release of a video game. At least hopefully.
Of course, on the one hand, one cannot but appreciate the love that exudes from the words of those who already in those years put their passion in front of their needs and spent whole months in the office just to finish programming their video game. Yet some stories are scary, and make it clear how the first software houses were already interested only in their own advantage, putting the well-being of their workers in the background.
We still have a lot to learn from the past
I sincerely believe that Japansoft: an oral history is a very important book. Both for the tremendous charm that certain stories exude and for the commitment put in place to recover a very important piece of the past. Similarly, however, video game books tend to avoid talking about the dark sides of the industry. Read-Only Memory, thankfully, gives us as complete a look at the subject as possible. Without leaving room for any kind of censorship or justification.
Let me tell you: we seriously need books that talk about video games like Japansoft does.
We must listen to the words of those who create video games.
Because it is useless to reach out to argue that they are an art form, if we then ignore the authors.
Do yourself a favor, and support the work of publishers like Read-Only Memory and Bitmap Books.
We all need it.