Review by Library Journal Review
Schreier (Blood, Sweat, and Pixels) exposes how the $150-billion-a-year video game industry is plagued by terrible work conditions, frequent layoffs, and burnout. The current industry model is unsustainable, the author explains. If a game sells poorly or a trend is no longer popular, then a studio might close and lay off their staff; the successful studio 2K Marin shut down after a failed XCOM shooter game. Even with a successful game, there's no guarantee that a company will not be restructured; Irrational Studios was closed after the success of Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite. In order to meet deadlines, employees are expected to work long hours and through the weekend. Schreier explains in this engaging, fast-paced book that this has led to the exodus of employees to more stable industries. Many developers of AAA games have left to create indie games, like Dodge Roll's Enter the Gungeon. Schreier offers several possible solutions to the industry's labor issues, such as unionization, outsourcing to specialized companies, and remote work. VERDICT This standout book will appeal to readers of Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN, as well as viewers of NoClip's YouTube documentaries. Beyond gamers, this well-researched account will also interest labor advocates.--Chris Wilkes, Tazewell Cty. P.L., VA
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
The inside scoop on the cutthroat competitiveness that saturates the world of video game creation and production. After examining the integration of art and science in video games in his debut, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels (2017), Schreier directs his focus toward the volatility of the businesses through which they are created and sold. The author recognizes that such an industry doesn't generate $150 billion in global revenue without its share of defeats and melodrama (as evidenced in the elaborate, rocky-road profile of lifelong gaming designer Warren Spector), but it's often at the expense of the industry's underappreciated designers. Schreier questions why such a lucrative business model fails to provide more stable employment for its content creators, as abruptly terminated employees scramble for replacement opportunities or drop out of the industry altogether. Through firsthand interviews with veteran game designers, Schreier presents varying perspectives on how the industry's instability consistently leaves developers and designers stranded. The author scrutinizes the consistent challenges caused by studio shutdowns, which directly affect how and where designers live. He also charts the tempestuous histories of early platform games like Disney's heroic adventure series "Epic Mickey" as well as more interactive, online role-playing games such as the dystopian "feast of sights and sounds" BioShock series, from now-defunct Boston-based Irrational Games. Schreier fair-mindedly counters his industry criticism with success stories of game designers who turned their initial misfortune into opportunities for collaborative endeavors and independent entrepreneurialism. Both seasoned gamers and neophytes will learn a great amount of history, insight, and insider detail about an ever evolving business that, to Schreier, continues to put out sophisticated products "created in the shadow of corporate ruthlessness." The author offers further perspective via the epilogue. "As I wrote this book between 2018 and 2021," he writes, "more than a dozen video game studios shut down." An informed, well-balanced report on the video game industry's passions and pitfalls. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.