Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World (Hardcover)
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An acclaimed critic argues that video games are the most vital art form of our time
Video games have seemingly taken over our lives. Whereas gamers once constituted a small and largely male subculture, today 67 percent of American households play video games. The average gamer is now thirty-four years old and spends eight hours each week playing--and there is a 40 percent chance this person is a woman.
In Bit by Bit, Andrew Ervin sets out to understand the explosive popularity of video games. He travels to government laboratories, junk shops, and arcades. He interviews scientists and game designers, both old and young. In charting the material and technological history of video games, from the 1950s to the present, he suggests that their appeal starts and ends with the sense of creativity they instill in gamers. As Ervin argues, games are art because they are beautiful, moving, and even political--and because they turn players into artists themselves.
About the Author
Andrew Ervin is the author of Extraordinary Renditions and Burning Down George Orwell's House. He has written essays and reviews for the New York Times Book Review, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. He teaches part time at Temple University and lives with his wife in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"Believe it or not, all those hours playing Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog really meant something. Andrew Ervin takes a brilliant look at the effects of those games--which did not, in fact, rot our brains."—Rolling Stone
"A fun and insightful analysis of the cultural, educational, and historical value of video games. Ervin deftly traces the evolution of our most interactive art form from Adventure to Minecraft, while offering riveting first-hand accounts from many of the men and women who made it all happen. Bit by Bit is an essential addition to every video game lover's library."—Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One and Armada
"Not many books about video games allow Denis Johnson to rub shoulders with Monkey Island or Vladimir Nabokov with Peter Molyneux. Ervin's taste in games is excellent, his points are thought-provoking, and his cultural omnivorousness (take note, aspiring game journalists) is thrilling. A terrific book."—Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives and Apostle
"Ervin brings a literary sensibility to his study... [he] makes an affable guide through the history of the medium... For me, the book's key statement is this: 'Today, if there is in fact a distinction between mass entertainment and the fine arts, it gets complicated more effectively by video games than any other medium.' Bit by Bit plumbs these complications with welcomed intelligence."—Washington Post
"Andrew Ervin slaloms through their cultural and technological history, from physicist William Higinbotham's 1958 analog simulation Tennis for Two to Atari classics, arcade stalwart Pac-Man and the Warcraft franchise. Ervin even plays the original games, research that involves the installation of vintage computer drives and an 'obscenely loud' Donkey Kong machine. A vivid foray into alternative worlds."—Nature
"An engrossing and necessary read."—Electric Literature
"Literary and playful... Bit by Bit provides a fascinating exploration of the world of video games, their history and importance to modern culture."—Winnipeg Free Press
"[Bit by Bit] is a contemplative ode to electronic entertainment...It's a personal journey that speaks volumes on how video games have grown, evolved, and multiplied to fill myriad roles over the years."—Publishers Weekly
"An urbane, witty, passionate, and eminently literate history of video games from their infancy in the 1950s to today... Ervin, who gives equally satisfying treatment to game sounds, special effects, and music, is a terrific storyteller, and he provides profiles of dozens of game developers and fanatics."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"A brisk, thoughtful tour of video game history. Ervin is an ideal guide... Bit by Bit might persuade holdouts just how awesome video games are."—Games World of Puzzles
"It's unusual for a history of video games to feature multiple quotes from Rilke, references to philosophy and Zen Buddhism, and comparisons to great works of art. But that's exactly what Ervin serves up to support his compelling argument: video games can be art."—Booklist
"Bit by Bit is the perfect video game book: it's part gamers' history, part history of games, and by a writer inclined to philosophical insight and literary reference. Extra hearts for a history that actually includes the contributions of women, too!"—Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World: And Other Stories and May We Shed These Human Bodies
"Like spaceships or skyscrapers, video games are a collaboration of humans and machines, of art and commerce. One part flesh, one part metal, one part markets, one part truth. Andrew Ervin composes a winsome but measured portrait of games from all these pieces, bit by bit."—Ian Bogost, author of Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games