The 2006 Gamer's Tome

Should you choose to darken the doorstep of your local bookstore and query the pretty, yet tantalizingly brainy, girl behind the counter wearing the Lisa Loeb glasses as to where you might find the 2006 Gamer's Tome of Ultimate Wisdom, an Almanac of Pimps, Orcs, and Lightsabers, not only will you probably not be going home with said girl's phone number, but, you might also have trouble finding this text among the rows and rows of political punditry and Dean Koontz novels. And, that turns out to be quite the loss on your part, because for as unwieldy and overtly nerdy as the book's title may be, its content, wit, perspective, and insight on the gaming industry is both encyclopedic and pleasantly readable. Though hard to pigeon hole, perhaps we may call it the first video game coffee table book or bathroom reader, the loose structure and meandering topical nature of the Tome's framework actually makes this the kind of book you can pick up, flip to any page, and casually read articles both entertaining and enlightening. It is the appetizer sampler platter of gaming literature, home cookin' buffet of topics, nay a smorgasbord of information, links, trivia, hints, reviews, editorials, biographies, company profiles, resources, and more. Much more. Best of all, it is delivered through the genuine and unmistakable lens of the true gamer with all the vernacular and idioms of one eminently versed in gaming without seeming trite, boorish, or demented.

IMAGE(http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0789734656.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

And, this may very well be the first and last book of its kind.

A revamped follow-up to last year's 2005 Gaming Almanac, the Tome dispatches with much of what didn't work in the previous edition, while bringing a fresh perspective and voice from author Bill Abner. Largely dismissing the almanac format of last year's work, which, though well intentioned as a structure, came off as out-of-date and often inexplicable, and adopting more of a retrospective approach, this year's structure dramatically improves the overall delivery.

The Gamer's Tome works vaguely by splitting sections into months instead of chapters and revisiting the highlights of that month, for example E3 is discussed in the May segment, and the bulk of 360 games in the Holiday segment. However, should you try to scry the why -- that assonance, that's poetry there folks -- behind putting the Home Networking page in July or the 10 worst PS2 games in April, you will likely come to the same conclusion that I suspect the author did: why not?

The Tome is ultimately a collection of short essays on a variety of gaming topics trying as best it can to find a suitable structure, and to get too caught up in the seeming randomness of that structure is to lose sight of the forest through the trees. The articles, essays, and comments themselves are so interesting and informative that if you're worried about why the piece on gaming lingo is in October, then you're missing the point.

The substantive value of this book is directly tied, in fact, to its overwhelming multiplicity. It is not so isolated in tracking only the AAA titles from the biggest publishers of just the last dozen months or so. Certainly the freshly ended year had a lot of new games, new systems, and big titles to discuss, and the Tome does not fall short on that front, but at the same time it's nice to revisit a classic like Archon, Interstate 76, or Master of Magic, uncover a new and intriguing Indie title, or read about a game that I would have never otherwise like Down in Flames a WWII dogfighting game with a card based battle system, all just for the sake of an interest in gaming diversity.

What is particularly refreshing on a deeper content level, is the way in which Abner treats his content and reader with an honesty that is surprising in a book that could have easily become 200 pages of PR bullet points in lesser hands. Abner is honest and unapologetic in his opinions, praising games like Psychonauts that simply didn't get enough press, and levying fair criticism to blockbuster critical darlings like Gran Turismo 4 if he feels the mainstream praise wasn't entirely deserved.

This is, in many ways, a book very much targeted to the same consumer demographic as our own site, specifically a group of people probably offended at being termed a consumer demographic. In all seriousness though there is a maturity and intelligence in the content delivered that could have been easily trivialized. This is a book for people with a passion for gaming, who were around for the classics and have their own stories of where they were the first time they played Doom, or how big their phone bill was from using a BBS, or how excited they were the first time they upgraded from 14.4 to 28.8 modem.

The final word on the Tome is that it is a companion to gaming itself. I'm hard pressed to turn to any page and not find interesting, readable, and clever information. For example, I had no idea that there was a 13 episode Zelda cartoon series in 1989, or that the Resident Evil series is loosely based on the Japanese horror film Suito Homu, or that Hearts of Iron is banned in China for "distorting historical facts", or that there is a Master of Magic clone project to make the game playable on XP, or that the first coin operated video game was actually Computer Space and not Pong, and all those tidbits of info are offered along with much more within the first ten pages. The book serves as a satisfying reminder of the best days I've had playing long forgotten games, the titles worth looking forward to in the coming year, the hidden gems of lesser known titles, and both the good and bad of the gaming culture.

Frankly, this is the kind of gaming writer and gaming book which deserves more attention than it's likely to receive, and it is tragically a book clearly without the full confidence of its publisher. Where the 2005 Gamer's Almanac enjoyed full color pages and images on a high quality paper, this year's Tome suggests a lack of faith on the part of Que publishing, which has diminished the quality of the final printed product while, as irony would have it, issuing a better conceived and written book. Images appear muddy and indistinct in grainy black and white, a disappointing development in a book that addresses next generation systems. The paper quality is not as good, and the page layout and graphics aren't as polished.

In the end The 2006 Gamer's Tome of Ultimate Wisdom is a surprisingly accurate name. It is nearly bursting with gaming lore. Though lacking somewhat in a universal coherence that ties one article to the next, and more disturbingly in the low quality of the physical product, once you immerse yourself into the variety of articles and their clever, conversational tone, you'll probably forget about those minor troubles. The Gamer's Tome may be described as a niche product, but it is written by someone deeply connected to that niche, and like minded gamers will be missing out by not picking it up. The 2006 Gamer's Tome of Ultimate Wisdom is a book I'm likely to enjoy time and again.

- Elysium

Comments

Elysium wrote:

For example, I had no idea that there was a 13 episode Zelda cartoon series in 1989...

Which my sister was kind enough to buy for me as a belated Christmas gift. Perhaps a review is in order.

Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.

Thanks, this books certainly sounds like a must buy.

Elysium wrote:

Should you choose to darken the doorstep of your local bookstore and query the pretty, yet tantalizingly brainy, girl behind the counter wearing the Lisa Loeb glasses as to where you might find the 2006 Gamer's Tome of Ultimate Wisdom, an Almanac of Pimps, Orcs, and Lightsabers, not only will you probably not be going home with said girl's phone number, but, you might also have trouble finding this text among the rows and rows of political punditry and Dean Koontz novels.

Longest. Sentence. Evar.

This is a book for people with a passion for gaming, who were around for the classics and have their own stories of where they were the first time they played Doom, or how big their phone bill was from using a BBS, or how excited they were the first time they upgraded from 14.4 to 28.8 modem.

ah, the memories

For example, I had no idea that there was a 13 episode Zelda cartoon series in 1989

A travesty! That was my favorite cartoon growing up. That, and the Mario brothers cartoon that actually had a live action intro and ending to each episode.

Thanks again. This book sounds like a wonderful mix between year in review and stroll down memory lane (with a few random hints and tidbits thrown in). If the quality on this one is bad, I hate to see what the publisher is going to do with "The 2006 Ultimate Bathroom Guide to Gaming."

Good ol' Que Publishing.

This sounds great, Ely. Thanks for the tip.

Lobo wrote:
Elysium wrote:

For example, I had no idea that there was a 13 episode Zelda cartoon series in 1989...

Which my sister was kind enough to buy for me as a belated Christmas gift. Perhaps a review is in order.

Thanks for bringing this book to our attention.

Wait, that's out on DVD?

"Hey Princess, nice view. Especially from up here!"

A travesty! That was my favorite cartoon growing up. That, and the Mario brothers cartoon that actually had a live action intro and ending to each episode.

Was that the one that had Captain Lou at the beginning? The Super Show or something like that?

buzzvang wrote:
A travesty! That was my favorite cartoon growing up. That, and the Mario brothers cartoon that actually had a live action intro and ending to each episode.

Was that the one that had Captain Lou at the beginning? The Super Show or something like that?

Yes indeed, although I should say the two shows were the same. Zelda came on Fridays as part of the Super Show. Ah, Friday was such a special day for that reason.

Double post!

More trivia is that there exists a Legend of Zelda board game, which is somehow very very fun.

I hang my head in some minor shame at my lack of knowledge on the Zelda cartoon, but in my defense I was 17 at the time, and not so much with the cartoons anymore.

Bill Abner as been around forever and before the big 'Web' craze, was constantly on internet forums helping folks with this and that game and reviewing everything. He was alway's the pundit with certain sport games too. This book should be really enjoyable knowing Bill's prose and love of the genre. Thanks for the tip!

I have the 2005 edition and I will say that it's the best bathroom reader EVA. The page texture and color in it are fantastic and I am sad to hear that the quality is diminished in the '06 version.

I remember being very excited to watch the Friday episodes of the Super Mario Super Show, since those were the ones (at least on the channel that I watched the show) that featured the Zelda cartoon rather than the Mario one. I also remember that my mother despised the Zelda cartoon because of how overtly misogynistic Link was. In fact, looking back that seems to be one of the most oddly out of character traits that I can imagine Link having.

Lobo, I would be very interested indeed to hear your take on the show watching it as an adult.

Zero wrote:

I remember being very excited to watch the Friday episodes of the Super Mario Super Show, since those were the ones (at least on the channel that I watched the show) that featured the Zelda cartoon rather than the Mario one. I also remember that my mother despised the Zelda cartoon because of how overtly misogynistic Link was. In fact, looking back that seems to be one of the most oddly out of character traits that I can imagine Link having.

Seriously. Link seems like an awfully androgenous character in the games. That he would be noticeably mysogynistic in the cartoon show is highly offensive! Well... as offensive as a short-lived cartoon based on an 8-bit video can be, anyhow.

JimmDogg wrote:

I have the 2005 edition and I will say that it's the best bathroom reader EVA. The page texture and color in it are fantastic and I am sad to hear that the quality is diminished in the '06 version.

Hey, guys. Since I was Bill's editor at Que I just wanted to pop in and say thanks for all the good words you've had for the book. Bill really has done a fabulous job with this thing. I do share the lament about the lack of color and the cheaper paper in this edition, but to be fair, at the end of the day it was 100% necessary. Full color books are ungodly expensive. Between that, the abysmal sales of the 2005 edition and the fact that we (Que) were unanimous about the need for a lower cover price the notion of continuing with full color was impossible. Besides, this is really a content driven book and the lack of color doesn't change the writing.

Anyway, my thanks again to all of you who decide to pick up the book. Those who are on the fence, seriously, Elysium and six five-star Amazon reviews can't be wrong! In fact, buy two! In all seriousness, and I hope the GwJ crew doesn't mind me begging here just one time, if you like the book enough that you want to see another edition next year I do implore you to write your own Amazon reviews and email us at Que ([email protected]). This isn't a title non-gamers understand and we're a building full of non-gamers. It'll take the vocal support of gamers to keep it going and the more voices we hear from the better the chances are we can do this thing again.

Thanks again!
---Todd

ubrakto wrote:

An eloquent plea for support of the book in question.

As soon as I have disposable cash floating around again, I'll be glad to help out. And while I can't speak for anyone else, I for one forgive your transgression of the CoC, given that your spam was so tastefully presented. (You opened the can and spiced it up and everything!)

zeroKFE wrote:
ubrakto wrote:

An eloquent plea for support of the book in question.

As soon as I have disposable cash floating around again, I'll be glad to help out. And while I can't speak for anyone else, I for one forgive your transgression of the CoC, given that your spam was so tastefully presented. (You opened the can and spiced it up and everything!)

I think it's a travesty and I'm giving Todd negative feedback on Xbox Live as we speak. Or at least someone similarly named. Actually just some random dolt, to be honest. I roll like that. I'll toss some at Swampy too, for good measure.

Were I to ever create something that gets published, I'd hope to have a review as wonderfully worded and complimentary as this one. Best of luck in sales to Bill and Todd.

Maybe we can work a trade ...

Hmm... I need to round out an order at Amazon anyway.

Sold.
Great review, Elysium. It shall be on your head if it sucks and I don't like it!

Also, thanks for dropping in Ubrakto/Todd, and giving rhyme and reason to the accusation of diminished faith in the product. Economics are a bitch!

For the next book, drop the sword and having a sexy lady on the front cover. OR a sexy lady wielding a sword. You'll find that sales go up.

1Dgaf wrote:

For the next book, drop the sword and having a sexy lady on the front cover. OR a sexy lady wielding a sword. You'll find that sales go up.

Do we always have to have sex in everything!.....Ok your right we do.Make sure she has really big tits too.

Sounds like a solid book, I'll pick it up when i'm done wrapping my head around Michio Kaku's many books (this may take a while.) The price is pretty damn cheap too, even cheaper than a DS game, which is almost disappointing, on both fronts. I would have gladly picked up the book with full color/better quality for $35-45ish though I suppose it was a good move to keep the price low to attract non-gamers. In all honesty though, I really, really, really doubt thats who will be buying the book.

About the cover, I concur with 1Dgaf and Braehole. Sexy, holding a sword, big tits, and wearing a bikini, or perhaps skimpy loin cloth. For sales reasons, of course.

Duttybrew wrote:
Zero wrote:

I remember being very excited to watch the Friday episodes of the Super Mario Super Show, since those were the ones (at least on the channel that I watched the show) that featured the Zelda cartoon rather than the Mario one. I also remember that my mother despised the Zelda cartoon because of how overtly misogynistic Link was. In fact, looking back that seems to be one of the most oddly out of character traits that I can imagine Link having.

Seriously. Link seems like an awfully androgenous character in the games. That he would be noticeably mysogynistic in the cartoon show is highly offensive! Well... as offensive as a short-lived cartoon based on an 8-bit video can be, anyhow.

I think it had something to do with the fact that Zelda may have been THE first confident, non "Princess Peach" type of female cartoon character EVER. The writers of the show, in their 80's stupor, created a wonderful female character and thought, "hmm, now that she's not ambigiously feminine, we'll just have to make Link an ass to prove his manliness."

Oh yes, and to Bill and Todd: Kudos! I wish you many beautiful loincloth-clad sword wielding women in your future. As long as you keep making fabulous gaming literature, of course.

Hi guys,

I just wanted to drop by and give a public thanks to Elysium for his review of the book.

My greatest fear with a book like this (even more than low sales) was that it wouldn't pass the "gamer" test. With the essays being one-page quick hitters, I was a bit concerned that serious gamers would see it as being a bit too "lite", but so far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I cannot thank Elysium enough for the review--and not because it was a glowing critique (although that helps but that he obviously took the time to read around 300 essays. I really appreciate that.

-bill

If only I was still working on my thesis on Half-Life 2, maybe I could have convinced my parents to pay for it. Now it is nowhere near study-related, dammit!

Jolly Bill wrote:

I think it had something to do with the fact that Zelda may have been THE first confident, non "Princess Peach" type of female cartoon character EVER. The writers of the show, in their 80's stupor, created a wonderful female character and thought, "hmm, now that she's not ambigiously feminine, we'll just have to make Link an ass to prove his manliness."

A good point, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to play the Scooby Card on this discussion: what about Velma? She was pretty self confident, wouldn't you say?

zeroKFE wrote:
Jolly Bill wrote:

I think it had something to do with the fact that Zelda may have been THE first confident, non "Princess Peach" type of female cartoon character EVER. The writers of the show, in their 80's stupor, created a wonderful female character and thought, "hmm, now that she's not ambigiously feminine, we'll just have to make Link an ass to prove his manliness."

A good point, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to play the Scooby Card on this discussion: what about Velma? She was pretty self confident, wouldn't you say?

She was also kind of "dyke-ish" too. Self-assured, strong women who were not also portrayed as lesbians were relatively unheard of, is what I think Bill was saying. If so, I agree.

Que Dude wrote:

I do share the lament about the lack of color and the cheaper paper in this edition, but to be fair, at the end of the day it was 100% necessary. Full color books are ungodly expensive. Between that, the abysmal sales of the 2005 edition and the fact that we (Que) were unanimous about the need for a lower cover price the notion of continuing with full color was impossible.

Fair enough. One should also point out that this year's edition is considerably cheaper than last year's. Last year's was $29.99, which I thought was a little expensive. This year's is $19.99 and can be had on Amazon for the LOW, LOW PRICE OF $13.59. So it's not like they cheaped on the color and kept the price the same. They just produced a lower costed item.

Also, I think you will agree that the cover art and title (and certainly the author :)) are certainly a big step up from the 2005 Edition. Dude, that wizard is GAYZOR.

That said, I am sure this book is a steal at $13.59. Buy it, I heard it cures cancer.

Fletcher wrote:
zeroKFE wrote:
Jolly Bill wrote:

I think it had something to do with the fact that Zelda may have been THE first confident, non "Princess Peach" type of female cartoon character EVER. The writers of the show, in their 80's stupor, created a wonderful female character and thought, "hmm, now that she's not ambigiously feminine, we'll just have to make Link an ass to prove his manliness."

A good point, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to play the Scooby Card on this discussion: what about Velma? She was pretty self confident, wouldn't you say?

She was also kind of "dyke-ish" too. Self-assured, strong women who were not also portrayed as lesbians were relatively unheard of, is what I think Bill was saying. If so, I agree.

That, and I never really saw Velma as being all that self confident. She was very smart and sure of her facts, but was extremely shy otherwise and quite happy to stay out of everyone's way. Perhaps I should clarify and say Zelda was the first to be both confident and not some sort of unattractive/"dyke-ish" social outlier. Oh yeah, and not evil. I know there were some female villains back before then who would have been great role models except for the killing and all.

Jolly Bill wrote:
Fletcher wrote:

She was also kind of "dyke-ish" too. Self-assured, strong women who were not also portrayed as lesbians were relatively unheard of, is what I think Bill was saying. If so, I agree.

That, and I never really saw Velma as being all that self confident. She was very smart and sure of her facts, but was extremely shy otherwise and quite happy to stay out of everyone's way. Perhaps I should clarify and say Zelda was the first to be both confident and not some sort of unattractive/"dyke-ish" social outlier. Oh yeah, and not evil. I know there were some female villains back before then who would have been great role models except for the killing and all.

Damn you, finding the flaw in my logic that I so carefully omitted!

Yes, you are right. I cannot think of any other examples of confident female charaters in cartoons who were not villans, implied lesbians, or otherwise portrayed as somehow unfit to be a role model (at least, by the social norms of the time). But there must have been SOMEONE, right? It couldn't have been all the way until the late 80's before such a character appeared?

Can anyone think of an example here?

zeroKFE wrote:

But there must have been SOMEONE, right? It couldn't have been all the way until the late 80's before such a character appeared?
Can anyone think of an example here?

I'm sure there may have been one...somewhere. Maybe. Ever wonder why people complain about female characters?

Since we've moved WAY off topic.