As he has done in Alexander Hamilton, the last book I reviewed, Hennessey has created another meticulously researched, historically-based graphic novel sure to delight tech buffs. In his new graphic novel, author Jonathan Hennessey teams up with illustrator Jack McGowan to create a visual history of a favorite American pastime. The Comic Book Story of Video Games features ten chapters that covers everything from the technological environment that birthed video games to their most recent development.
The book starts out with the Industrial Revolution and explains how the technological climate of this event in history laid the foundation for video games. Hennessey and McGowan then walk readers through the technological developments of the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s up to the most recent developments in gaming technology. The book flows from one development to the next instead of “chunking” the discussion of video games by era. This liquid discussion of technology is also facilitated by contextualizing each development in light of the historical period that influenced it. For example, in discussing computer technology of the 1950s, the authors provide a bit of context by discussing the Cold War.
Throughout the book, there are spotlights for important gaming pioneers and video games. For example, Hennessey and McGowan include brief biographies of individuals like Alan Turing, Shigeru Miyamoto, and John Carmack. They also include spotlights on groundbreaking games like Pong, Asteroids, and Angry Birds, providing information on the maker, country of origin, and console with which the game is associated.
- Intensively Researched – Hennessey has done a masterful job researching the history of video games. The content is so information dense – straight-forward and to the point.
- Spotlight Features – I liked the author’s decision to showcase important gaming pioneers and video games. It allowed me to better comprehend the “important stuff” in an otherwise slightly overwhelming ocean of technological information.
- Highly Technical – I am not a computer or gaming buff. Computer jargon may as well be Chinese as far as my comprehension is concerned. So, I had a bit of difficulty grasping the importance of the histories detailed in this book. Hennessey writes assuming his audience is already familiar with gaming and computer technological jargon. So, if you’re a tech buff, this book should be no problem.
- A Few Content Issues – Although this book is largely on the PG level, there were some instances in which I was a little surprised by the content. A few cases of mild profanity are sprinkled throughout the book. At least two instances of strong profanity are included. Although some of the letters are *** out, the reader will still get the word in his or her mind. Also, there were a few images that may be an issue for some readers (i.e. scantily dressed women and an illustration for a peep show advertisement). These instances coupled with the highly-technical nature of the book would probably make it more conducive to high-school+ readers, not middle schoolers.
Overall, I did not enjoy reading this book very much – not because it was poorly written, on the contrary! This book was so meticulously written and I was so outside of its target audience that I simply did not have the background knowledge necessary to enjoy the reading experience. I ordered this book for my classroom library. I feel this book would be enticing for older, middle grades students – especially those with a knack for technology and/or gaming. However, I probably would not use this book with students in 6th or 7th grades.
Disclaimer: I received this book as a review copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion, as represented in this review.