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A Selective History of 'Bad' Video Games (Hardback)

Unfulfilled Potential, Interesting Mistakes and Downright Clunkers

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Gaming

By Michael Greenhut
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 120 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781399016179
Published: 2nd February 2023


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Did you grow up playing video games when you had to wait online to get them? Do you remember the bad, weird, or otherwise underrated video games of your youth? Did you like a few of them more than your friends did? A Selective History of ‘Bad’ Video Games will walk you down memory lane and perform unholy excavations of games you remember, games you’ve forgotten, and games you never knew you wanted to read about during your lunch break. From a seemingly nude Atari 2600 karate referee to a basketball star doing martial arts to a tiger that speaks broken English and walks through walls, the book will try to uncover what the developers were thinking — and occasionally succeed. While there’s been some recent coverage of the most famously “bad” video game — E.T. — this book starts there and continues on to 40 other curiously (or unsurprisingly) unsuccessful video games during the first few decades of the industry’s lifespan. Written by a modern day video game developer, the book explores why these games failed, whether or not they truly deserved it, and what could have made them better. The covered games include screen shots that capture awkward moments, irreverent captions, and pages of tongue-in-cheek psychoanalysis.

A delightful and informative history of "bad" video games. This books is a joyful read that also teaches creators of all kinds useful lessons.

NetGalley, Andrew Breza

As a reader of almost anything retro video games and a sucker for almost any book about the category, I find myself watching Youtube videos and correcting mistakes in them, at least to myself. Some of the games covered in this book appear everywhere someone discusses bad games, like ET and Pac-Man for the Atari 2600, but most of the entries are ones that I hadn’t viewed from the critical eye that Michael has done in this book. There is a good balance of the 8-bit and 16-bit generations of games up through the 1990s with the newer games of the late 1990s through today. Many of the games are games that I enjoyed back in the day like Empire Strikes Back for Intellivision. Of course, I was 10 when I was playing this game, and actually enjoyed the repetitiveness of the game and remember it fondly.

Old School Gamer Magazine, Issue #35

This was a great book to look at the worst video games that don't get enough attention.

NetGalley, Joey Haverford

Honestly, this book is a joy to read. Written by someone who clearly adores the medium and all its idiosyncrasies, I had a great time reading this. Informative, engaging, and written with love; what more could you ask for?

NetGalley, Phillipe Bosher

As featured on Codex: History of Video Games podcast.

Listen to the interview here!

Codex: History of Video Games, Episode 241

'A Selective History of 'Bad' Video Games is another brilliant White Owl publication and one that should appear on many gamer's shelves just to add a bit of balance to the field. Michael Greenhut is to be commended for writing an excellent, and slightly different, tome on the subject, and I look forward to his future work.'

Read the full review here!

Tantobie Internet Tattler

As featured in 'Clunkers and Lost Gems: Interview w/ Michael Greenhut: "A Selective History of 'Bad' Video Games"'.

Read the full interview with the author here!

Daily Kos

A fantastic book for the Gamer in your life, or some nostalgia even if you’re not a big gamer but grew up with these video games. This book is full of history, nostalgia, it’s a fantastic trip down memory lane.

NetGalley, Tara Keating

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I'm so lucky to be playing some great Video Games because the games in this book are so bad, they would make Dominic Diamond blush.

NetGalley, Sophie Crane

About Michael Greenhut

Michael Greenhut was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1978. He is a professional game programmer and an occasional writer of fiction and nonfiction. Currently, he lives in Fort Lee, NJ with his wife and son, and works for Playmatics. Michael has worked on casual games, educational games, and just plain weird games. His favorite video games are Final Fantasy IV, Suikoden 2, Chrono Trigger, and Life is Strange.

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