‘Video Game of the Year’ Traces the History of Games from ‘Pong’ to the Present

Conner Drop / North by Northwestern

Video games are nearly half a century old and have come a long way since the 1970s. We now have the technology to render individual pores, beads of sweat, and other impossibly tiny objects, all in a relentless pursuit of realism. The games star Hollywood actors and collect Hollywood dollars. Big companies release thunderous blockbusters after decade-long development cycles. Show someone who lived in the 70s a game from today and his head would probably explode.

How did we get here?

Gaming journalist Jordan Minor (Medill ’14) explores that question in Video Game of the Year. His new book chronicles the history of video games going back to 1977, one game at a time, and I had a chance to talk with him about gaming, journalism, and his time at Northwestern.

“I wanted to do something comprehensive,” Minor said on our Zoom call. “And then also do a book that was kind of a game review, but in an accessible way.”

Beginning with StinkMinor traces the ups and downs of gaming, from the rise of arcade games and beloved Nintendo franchises like Mario and Zelda to the infamous Atari collapse heralded by the arrival of Eastern Time and the Gamergate controversy of the 2010s. Minor’s critical essays show a true love of gaming, with all the passion and tragedy that comes with it. He doesn’t shy away from shining a light on some of gaming’s most dire controversies and historically tense business practices. At the same time, she expertly uses individual games to showcase the games’ biggest hits and their potential to reach audiences beyond superficial interactions and into the collective consciousness of pop culture.

“You can write richer, more complete versions of games when you’ve had all this time to see how far they’ve come and what they’ve accomplished rather than just trying to come to an embargo after two weeks of playing a game that isn’t quite there yet. Minor said.

The book also features shorter pieces from many figures inside and outside the industry, including fellow game journalists, developers, and online personalities. These contributions greatly expand the scope and scope of Minor’s book, showcasing the true breadth of experiences gaming has to offer.

“[The contributions] It ended up being a way to counter my opinions. I don’t like the Souls games at all, but I think the rebuttal essays on them are some of the best written essays in the entire book.”

“Souls” or “Soulslikes” games are games renowned and reviled for their extreme difficulty, some calling them masterpieces and others, like Minor, labeling them as frustrating and masochistic experiences.

The book features illustrations by New York-based cartoonist Wren McDonald, showing scenes inside and outside of the games, reminding readers that playing is not just an activity about the games themselves, but also the technology that allows them to play the games. . and maneuver their environment.

Conner Drop / North by Northwestern

While I disagree with many of Minor’s preferences (although we both share a love of exhaustion paradise, I learned), his picks are carefully curated and meticulously discussed. He deftly moves from stories about the industry to those of gaming culture and even to stories of his childhood and beyond. All of his pieces and those of the other contributors intertwine to tell an entertaining and informative story about humanity’s greatest virtual hobby.

“Games have a lot to do with your experience with them. The game doesn’t exist without you playing it… Talking about games and writing about them is promoting that idea,” said Minor.

In addition to the book, I also spoke to Minor about gaming journalism, his time at Northwestern, and his stint as a writer for NBN (confirmed to be “Anti-Daily”). In college, Minor wrote a column called NBNTendo, featuring stories about the launch of Nintendo’s poorly received Wii U console, and the Chicago-based game development company Young Horses, known for eighth, For example. Minor said his time at Medill prepared him for his professional career through relationships with other students and networking opportunities: Minor’s current workplace, PCMag, originally had him intern for its residency at journalism.

It’s a tough time to be a game journalist; the washington post closed its gaming section, Launcher, earlier this year and ViceThe Waypoint section will also be closed this summer. The layoffs are also affecting other publications, inside and outside of the gaming sphere. Minor said he doesn’t know where gaming journalism will go from here, but it’s unlikely it will die completely.

“Video games aren’t going anywhere and so people will want to know about video games one way or another. I think it’s better that we encourage reliable sources to give people the information,” she said.

The current Minor pick for the 2023 Game of the Year is The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which is currently circulating the internet as a platform for building gadgets like automated drones, mechas, and torture devices. Honestly, it’s probably a block at this point.