BOOK REVIEW – BLOOD, SWEAT AND PIXELS BY JASON SCHREIER

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Blood, Sweat and Pixel is a very enjoyable book, containing the stories behind the creation of various video games. It gives the reader insight into how this process is never straight forward nor easy and is rather a perilous journey undertaken by developers out of sheer love for the medium.

The creation process of various video games are covered, from the successful, such as The Witcher 3 and Uncharted 4, to the ill-fated Star Wars 1313.

The book also conveys the sad stories of how many video games outlive the studios that created them, and the reality that very few video game development studios remains afloat in the challenging video game industry.

The reader is also given great insight into the challenges video game developers face, from tight budgets and technological difficulties to dealing with tyrannical publishers. It gives the reader a much greater sense of appreciation for what the developers endure to make their creative visions a reality.

As someone who loves video games and is interested in the development process behind them, I found this book highly entertaining and informative. I struggled to put this book down and would highly recommend it.   

BOOK REVIEW – BLOOD, SWEAT AND PIXELS BY JASON SCHREIER

BOOK REVIEW – VIRTUAL REALITY FOR BEGINNERS! by MURRAY RAMIREZ

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Virtual Reality for Beginners! is a basic, but comprehensive introduction to Virtual Reality, covering topics such as the history and development of Virtual Reality, current VR hardware and software, 360° cameras and a basic analysis of the VR industry.

The book goes into a fair amount of detail with regards to currently available VR headsets, covering everything from the Google Cardboard to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It provides a detailed breakdown of each product, giving a good amount of detail on the specifications and features of each as well as available software.  This does provide an interesting read, however because so much focus is placed on current hardware this will result in the book becoming outdated very quickly.

All the information in this book can be sourced online, however I found the book to be an interesting, well written quick read which was also inexpensive. Given this I would still recommend this book to anyone interested in VR, who currently has very limited knowledge on the topic.

BOOK REVIEW – VIRTUAL REALITY FOR BEGINNERS! by MURRAY RAMIREZ

BOOK REVIEW – VR UX BY CASEY FICTUM

VR UX by Casey Fictum aims to inform the reader on the topics of Virtual Reality User Experience, focusing on experience design, sound, storytelling, movement and user controls.

The book does not go into great depth on these topics, but rather gives a high-level overview. The book only weighing in at 100 pages, including a lot of diagrams and images.

It does provide some interesting insights regarding how to storyboard a 360° scenario, a unique problem to VR.

A lot of focus is placed on movement, be that either player or objects in the virtual world and the effect this can have on the player, i.e. VR sickness. It gives a good amount of design guidance with reasons supporting the recommendations.

There are however some inaccuracies in the book, it was published in 2016 so it is slightly out of date. In the controls input chapter where various user input options are discussed, it mentions that in VR users cannot see input devices even with the Oculus Touch controls, as they will not be projected into the virtual world. We know this is untrue as projecting the user controllers into the virtual world, as with the HTC Vive, has become common practice in VR.

This book does provide a nice overview on the topics covered, and having everything in a single place and in a very easy readable format is nice, however I do feel that most of the information contained in the book can easily be found online, and as VR is still rapidly evolving the information online will also be more up to date.

BOOK REVIEW – VR UX BY CASEY FICTUM

Book Review – The Maker Movement Manifesto by Mark Hatch

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The Maker Movement Manifesto is an interesting look into the Maker Movement by Mark Hatch, the CEO and cofounder of TechShop a popular maker space.

It starts out by defining the Maker Movement Manifesto which is broken down into 9 points:

  • Make
  • Share
  • Give
  • Learn
  • Tool up
  • Play
  • Participate
  • Support
  • Change

This is interesting and explains everything from the values underlying the movement to how to set up a maker space in your own community, however what was of more interest to myself was the following sections where numerous stories were relaid about success stories of makers developing their passions into successful businesses from within TechShop.

The book covers not only the Maker Movement from an internal perspective, but also the far wider reaching socio-economic impacts of giving anyone access to the tools, knowledge and abilities to make things for themselves, be that anything from a proof of concept to a product to art. It looks at how this wider access to these facilities accelerates innovation, democratizes tools/equipment and information and creates a new breed of person, what is referred to as a pro-am, a professional amateur. And how this mindset change might be better suited to addressing the challenges the world is experiencing today.

I really enjoyed The Maker Movement Manifesto, and found it to be inspiring, it really got my Maker juices flowing. So if you are a Maker or interested in the Movement give this book a try.

Book Review – The Maker Movement Manifesto by Mark Hatch

Book Review – Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton

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Dancing Barefoot is a collection of memoirs by Wil Wheaton in the form of five short stories. The stories are all quick and enjoyable reads covering topics of joy, sadness and self discovery, Wil experienced throughout his life. I really like Wil’s writing style and I am a regular reader of his blog WilWheaton.net. If you’re familiar with Wil’s blog you would pretty much know what to expect from Dancing Barefoot.

The book is a very pleasant, light and quick read and can easily be finished in a single sitting, ideal for a long flight. I really enjoy short stories in general and Dancing Barefoot is no exception, I would highly recommend it if you are looking for some light hearted-feel good entertainment.

If you enjoyed this book also give Wil’s other book Just a Geek, which I covered in another blog post, a try.

 

Book Review – Dancing Barefoot by Wil Wheaton

Book Review – Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton

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I picked up Just A Geek based on the recommendation of various people, and I can say I do not regret doing so.

Just A Geek is the memoirs of Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand by me (and Big Bang Theory) fame. It is an honest and brutal look at his rapid rise to fame as a young teen and his subsequent and dramatic fall thereafter. He goes into a great deal of detail describing his love\hate relationship with Wesley Crusher, the character he portrayed on Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as the doubts and self loathing he experienced as a result of him deciding to leave Star Trek.

In the book he writes of his time as a struggling actor who could hardly find work, to him discovering comedy and being part of a successful sketch comedy group and later starting his blog, WilWheaton.net. Starting his blog resulted in him learning HTML and teaching himself Linux and also helped him rediscover his love for writing. The rediscovery of this love helped Wil redefine himself as an author, helping him find balance and success in his life.

Just A Geek is a really enjoyable journey, starting with a young boy on the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation, more interested in Dungeons & Dragons than Star Trek, to a normal guy dealing with the complexities of everyday life, like paying bills and working on the relationship with his wife and step-sons.

Just A Geek is an inspiring and feel good book that I would really recommend. It shows how life hardly works out how we plan, but even so great things can come from the most unexpected places.

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Book Review – Just A Geek by Wil Wheaton

Book Review – Fun Inc. Why Video Games are the 21st Century’s Most Serious Business

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Fun Inc. Why Video Games are the 21st Century’s Most Serious Business by Tom Chatfield is an interesting look at the ever increasing importance of video games in our culture and society.

This book is not your typical “video game” book, but rather covers topics such as the history, finances and growth of the video game industry  as well as the impact video games have on various other fields such as economics, epidemiology, education and even  the military.

The book draws interesting comparisons to other mediums, such as film and literature, and illustrates  similar growing pains experienced by these mediums and video games throughout history.

This book also addresses and clarifies numerous misconceptions relating to video games, such as that only males play video games and that video games carry no academic benefits.

I found this book extremely interesting not only from a video game perspective, but also from an economic and general societal perspective. I would really recommend this book not only to people interested in video games, but anyone interested in modern society in general. Fun Inc. is a worthwhile read and defends the place of video games in our culture and society. I wish my teachers could have read this book when I was still in school.

Book Review – Fun Inc. Why Video Games are the 21st Century’s Most Serious Business