Review: Continue? The Boss Fight Books Anthology

Continue? The Boss Fight Books Anthology by Gabe Durham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This whole collection of essays makes me think a lot about the semi-gonzo video game reviews that Tim Rogers is known for. The shorter format allows the authors to be much more creative than they can be in the full-size Boss Fight Books. It’s a very fun read overall. Here are my thoughts per entry:

Ken Sent Me – A fun piece about playing Leisure Suit Larry back in the 1990s and more recently. I was also a big fan of the Sierra games of the period, although I never played LSL. The essay is written with just the right amount of humor for talking about an early Sierra game.

Barbarians at the Door – A great exploration of Tower Defense games. I was also introduced to the genre via Plants vs Zombies and felt a lot of the same things the author did. They also explore a couple other topics like the free-to-play model that seemed like it was going to take over the whole industry back when the essay was written or the social implications behind tower defense.

Navigators – a somewhat depressing story about a father and son working together to beat a videogame.

JILLOJUN – An essay about a subversive computer game. When I was young my parents didn’t have a lot of discretionary money, so my experience of the early days of videogames was somewhat uneven. However, when I read essays like this one and think back to playing Sim City 1 and Civilization 1, it’s very interesting to me that computers didn’t win out over video game systems in America. (They did for a while in England and perhaps other parts of Europe) It is only most recently that we’ve had a renaissance in developers and publishers taking the PC seriously as a platform with only Nintendo as a complete holdout. It’s just another one of those times that the better system did not win (see BeOS vs early versions of Windows).

How Megaman got his pistol back – Using Megaman as the main object of study, the author takes us on a journey of how box art was so radically different in Japan and North America in the 1980s and 1990s. They then bring us up to the present, highlighting changes in styles on both sides of the Pacific and how digital games and globalization have affected things. If the essay has one weakness, it’s a lack of images. It would have been awesome for BFB to allow for images in this section of the book so that readers don’t need to take to the internet to look for all the box art examples the author mentions.

The John Lennin Xperience – a short story that covered a few topics like game addiction and para-social relationships. The best part was when it showed that if you’re not addicted to a game, you may just have not yet found the one that’s addictive for you.

The big metal stomach – According to the opening copyright page, this isn’t one of the fictional stories. So it’s an autobiographical tale from early in video game history when arcades were incredibly important to the culture. It was about finding a public space to show off how great you were at video games before Steam profiles and achievements. It also starts off incredibly crazily for a true story.

Three videogames that feel horribly like life – a look at 3 games that push the boundaries of what games can do and, perhaps, showcase their emotional levels – like books, movies, and TV shows do.

No quarters given – about life and death of arcades and reliving the past. I wonder what the current generation will search for when they remember their young gamer days.

The Glitch – A short story only tangentially related to games. Very interesting how the short stories in here all seem to be on the sad side.

Leave Luck to Heaven – Too chaotic for me to read. Uncharacteristically for me, I gave up halfway through.

The Fall of the House of Ghostly – An era of video games I was slightly too young for. Although I remember a family friend or cousin having a Teddy Ruxpin. It’s interesting to see this early FMV-style game that didn’t quite have the tech to pan out.

John Starks – a bizarre fiction story about NBA Jam and some real basketball players.

FUCK VIDEO GAMES – A screed against trying to jam all forms of expression into video games.

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