I love video games as much as I love books, so this book was a natural selection. I was excited to get my hands on this book, especially to read about the creation of Stardew Valley, one of my all-time favorite games. This book was shocking but fun, and an easy recommendation for any gamer. Jason Schreier has made a name for himself in the last few years for bringing attention to the poor practices in the gaming industry, particularly about crunch culture. This book feels like a stepping stone to the articles he writes today and provides a broad survey of video game development. AAA and indie titles are covered in this book, both the ones that became huge hits and others that never made it into the hands of gamers.
It is interesting to read this book after the recent controversies surrounding many of the major publishers, like Naughty Dog’s brutal crunch and Blizzard’s toxic frat-boy culture. With the recent backlash, all the boasting from the developers that were interviewed becomes disgusting instead of inspiring. I shook my head at how many of the absolute worst teams referred to themselves as some flavor of rebellious. While the short deadlines set by major publishers set by greedy publishers are as awful as to be expected, they aren’t the only bad guys in the gaming industry. I shuddered reading how quick developers were to set up a multi-million dollar fundraising project without a concrete idea on what kind of game they’d make, or how often solid leadership was lacking.
Schreier has done good work with this book, it provides a realistic portrait not only of the trials and triumphs of game design. It’s a wake-up call to gamers that aspire to get into development “to play games all day.” It’s a grueling industry that revels in its unhealthy work environments in the name of art.