Should you read Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation? A Review [VIDEO]
Hi future Caleb…
You are probably watching this video because you’re old and have forgotten if, back in 2016 when you first read this book, it was good or not and you’re considering giving it another read. Maybe you’re retired, sitting on a beach–but you’re still in Kansas, because climate change has turned your Kansas City suburban split-level home into an island paradise. So you’ve got nothing left to do but read books and die. That’s okay. With great books like Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation sitting dusty on your bookshelf, dieing doesn’t have to be simply the poorer choice from a selection of two poor choices. No, it’s strikingly worse than reading.
Future Caleb, you’re thinking “What? But I thought this channel was about video games!” Don’t worry. Dementia hasn’t destroyed your brain to the point that you’ve forgotten your entire 30-something youth. But I will remind you that before video games, book reviews were a big part of this channel. I’m not going back to a book review style, but if a book I read deals with video games, why the hell not offer some thoughts.
So what’s my approach to this video? Rather than talk about where the book succeeds, where it fails, and what it’s context is within the rest of the genre like every other review in the world does, I’m going to be selfish and use this platform as a way to remind future-me what may warrant a return to the book, should future-me need such prodding.
So, future Caleb, is this book worth re-reading: Yes.
The dusty paper book you’re holding in your hand right now (yeah, we used to use trees for books; it was a weird time back then) that book is basically a narrative history of the video-game industry after the video game crash in the early 1980s. It explores how video games rose from those crash-ashes to become a dominant form of entertainment, much bigger than even pre-crash days. The focus is on Nintendo and Sega, despite other companies existing, sure, but in America in the 80s and 90s, Nintendo and Sega dominated.
This book could have been about any two rival companies, Pepsi and Coke, perhaps (which are actually referenced in the book). It would still be a fantastic narrative history. Though the story works in part because it’s about the unique, and rocky history of video games as a cultural entity, it works more-so because of the personalities of the people that worked for Sega and Nintendo in the 80s and 90s. You can’t have a narrative without characters, and this book definitely delivers the characters.
These characters have names you’ve probably heard of if you’re still the video game nerd your past-self was. In the established crowd-favorite Coke-a-Cola corner, you’ve got Peter Main, Minoru Arakawa, and Howard Phillips, among others, of Nintendo. In the underdog, choice of a new generation Pepsi corner, you’ve got Hayao Nakayama, Shinobu Toyoda, Al Nilsen, and Tom Kalinske among others, of Sega. And, at the last minute, even a few mysterious characters from Sony make appearances, notably Steve Race, who I want to do an entire video about. Talk about personality. What this book does is assign a story to these individuals.
A couple additional notes before I go:
Though the subtitle of the book implies equal weight would be given to Sega and Nintendo, it’s more of a Sega underdog story. And because history is a real thing, we know that Sega is basically a non-entity today in 2016, so we kinda know how this story ends. But maybe you, future Caleb, are laughing right now because after an unexpected Sega resurgence in the 2050’s involving a Nights into Dreams mind-controlling experiment gone right, Sonic the Hedgehog’s face is now on our currency and Tom Kalinske’s head is cryogenically frozen and dishing out war commands from an underground fallout vault. It seems weird you’d know about such a plan. That seems like the kinda thing that the government would try to keep under wraps, but you’ve made it this far in life future-Caleb, so no more questions from me. All Hail Nights into Dreams.
Also, from a management, and business curation perspective–as a reminder, my day-job involves managing people at a young, 5 year-old company–this book actually offers some motivating insight into the importance of establishing business relationships and keeping smart people happy. That’s just a side note that may be worth considering, future Caleb, since you’re surely looking out over your empire in 2067 and wondering how video games may have played a role in all the business deals you’ve dealt. Well, this book may be that tenuous connection.
Well, I’ll leave you to your re-reading, future-me, and if you haven’t already, please force all of your kids and grand-kids to subscribe to this channel. You’d be making an young(ish) and definitely overweight version of yourself very happy.
- Console Wars: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris: https://www.amazon.com/Console-Wars-Nintendo-Defined-Generation/dp/0062276700