Not Kramer­ica In­dus­tries books about cof­fee ta­bles

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01 Ev­ery Day Is Play

Matthew Kenyon

Rec­om­mend­ing a book that kicks off with cov­ers from this very mag­a­zine feels oddly self-serv­ing, but this is a won­der through­out: a 300-page kalei­do­scope of game art in ev­ery medium and genre imag­in­able. There’s no dis­cernible or­der to most of it, but that en­cour­ages pauses to take in each art­work on its own terms, and makes turn­ing the page to find a hand-painted plate, poem or dig­i­tal wa­ter sculp­ture all the more sur­pris­ing. The gaming com­mu­nity’s love for its hobby pours from the pages, and is most sweetly evoked in wonky crayon Mario draw­ings from the au­thor’s own chil­dren.

02 The Eyes Of Bay­o­netta

Sega

Suit­ably re­veal­ing, barely a sketch or boxart pose is al­lowed to pass here with­out a frank, funny anec­dote from Plat­inum Games, as the team bat­tles with “ab­surd higher-ups” to keep Bay­o­netta’s glasses, Shi­mazaki be­moans the painstak­ing en­emy de­tail that isn’t vis­i­ble in the fi­nal game, and Kamiya reg­u­larly pops in with de­mands like “I want a galac­tic clock!” and “I want pointy hats!” The im­pres­sion is of supremely tal­ented artists, who – de­spite some de­ci­sions in ques­tion­able taste – have a gen­uine in­vest­ment in the character of their char­ac­ters. (Book and DVD.)

03 The Ho­hokum Al­manac

Richard Hogg and Nick Hur­witch

This kid-friendly travel guide to the tech­ni­colour ‘Ho­hokos­mos’ of Sony’s be­fud­dling won­der doesn’t make things any eas­ier to com­pre­hend – if any­thing it just makes things worse, as you strug­gle to work out why ver­mil­lion would cause peo­ple to “see the fu­ture”. But the art is ir­re­sistible, and writer Hur­witch brings whim­si­cal hu­mour to the many lit­tle sto­ries, songs, ac­tiv­i­ties and fold­out treats. The in­no­cent but wry charm calls to mind Ad­ven­ture Time and Yo Gabba Gabba, and the lit­tle rainbow cloth book­mark is lovely, too.

04 Mag­i­cal Game Time Vol 1

Zac Gor­man

If your Twit­ter stream or Face­book feed has ever tugged at your heart with a wist­ful an­i­mated comic about Zelda or Earth­bound, chances are it was Gor­man’s work. Th­ese en­chant­ing comics and sketches lose a lit­tle in the GIF-to-pa­per freez­ing process, but the di­a­logue is still very much alive. With a few care­ful speech bub­bles, Gor­man brings emo­tion and weight to the most in­no­cently sim­plis­tic ’80s game plots, and will trans­port you right back to kneel­ing on the liv­ing-room car­pet, con­troller or joy­stick in hand. And no one yet has bet­ter en­cap­su­lated the short, hor­rific life of a Bat­tle­toad on a jet­bike.

05 Push Start: The Art Of Video Games

Stephan Guen­zel

What you get here is 350 gi­ant pages of pure in-game images. Pixel purists won’t be pleased that care­less emu­la­tor screen­shot­ting has dis­torted some vin­tage sprites and scenery, and things get a bit jpeggy from 1996. Oth­er­wise, it’s a gor­geous gallery of both sen­si­ble and un­con­ven­tional choices, all the way from 1952’s OXO up to Halo 5. But why is this book so tall and wide and square? Be­cause of the bonus at the back: a ten-inch vinyl record (and an MP3 down­load code for the rest of us). A nice touch, even if the pedes­trian 8bit remixes mean it won’t stay on many turnta­bles for long.

06 The Un­of­fi­cial Game & Watch Col­lec­tor’s Guide Dave Gschmei­dler and Ger­hard Meyer

This is the de­fin­i­tive cat­a­logue of Gun­pei Yokoi’s “lat­eral think­ing with with­ered tech­nol­ogy”, which saw cheap LCD cal­cu­la­tor screens reimag­ined into pocket games that sold 43 mil­lion (and gave birth to the D-pad). The las­civ­i­ous pho­tos and de­tail on al­ter­nate ver­sions and for­eign quirks re­flect the fevered pas­sion of col­lec­tors who swarm on sur­viv­ing Game & Watches – the book’s price charts show that 1981’s

Egg is now verg­ing on Fabergé Egg, fetch­ing up to £1,000 in mint con­di­tion. It’s also a fine com­pan­ion to Be­fore Mario, Erik Voskuil’s new book col­lect­ing to­gether pre-NES Nin­tendo toys.

07 Angry Birds: Hatch­ing a Uni­verse

Danny Gray­don

Love or hate Rovio’s feath­ered band, this is a de­light. Ig­nore the text, which of­ten feels like it’s been bor­rowed from some in­sipid Power-Point pre­sen­ta­tion for share­hold­ers. Fo­cus on how the size of the Angry Birds uni­verse means this can race ex­hil­a­rat­ingly through con­cept art, sketches and mer­chan­dise, and the care that’s gone into the pull­out stick­ers, post­cards, posters and other tchotchkes tucked away in en­velopes.

08 The Art Of Alien: Iso­la­tion

Andy McVit­tie

The “used fu­ture” aes­thetic of Iso­la­tion’s re­mark­able en­vi­ron­ments rightly squeezes out the per­haps over­fa­mil­iar xenomorph it­self. Glimpses of aban­doned char­ac­ters, weapons and sce­nar­ios almost out­num­ber ac­tual game art, and sto­ry­boards and con­cept sketches are drenched in at­mos­phere. Fit­tingly, there’s an alien hid­ing un­der the dust­cover, too. (Or a sketch of one, at least.)

09 Com­modore 64: A Visual Comm­pendium

Sam Dye

The C64 li­brary is still grow­ing; you’ll find re­cent re­makes of Can­a­balt and

Su­per Hexagon among the 200-plus pages of screens and art­work here. The swathes of gi­ant pix­els are gloss­ily hyp­notic, mak­ing it eas­ier to for­give the odd mo­ment of sloppy edit­ing and the strange ob­ses­sion with the mak­ing of load­ing screens. An Amiga-based follow-up has al­ready met its Kick­s­tarter goal.

10 Dark Souls: De­sign Works

M Kirie Hayashi (trans­la­tor)

Pub­lisher Udon has a vast se­lec­tion of art books, of­ten trans­lated from Ja­panese. This has a slighter page­count than most and, suit­ably, of­fers few hints about the prove­nance of each im­age. But the ra­tio of art­work to text is re­ward­ing, and the mon­ster lineup should prove a stir­ring re­minder of bat­tles fought, won and lost (but mostly lost).

11 Gamescenes Mat­teo Bit­tanti and Domenico Quar­anta

A cu­rated pa­per mu­seum of art in­flu­enced by or cre­ated through videogames. The images are tiny, and much is less than con­vinc­ing – Brody Con­don’s Fake Screen­shot Contest is sim­ply a litany of ter­ri­ble Pho­to­shop ef­forts – but there are gems, such as Ali­son Mealey’s Un­real Tour­na­ment bot trails, and Aram Bartholl’s play­ful glasses that su­per­im­pose an FPS gun onto your vi­sion.

12 Su­per iam8bit

Jon M Gib­son and oth­ers

A sec­ond vol­ume of nos­tal­gic game art from an oc­ca­sional LA gallery ex­hi­bi­tion. This is de­ter­minedly nondig­i­tal: almost all of th­ese per­sonal takes on ’80s games are real paint­ings, sculp­tures or – in one case – felt mous­taches. There’s lots of work in­spired by peren­ni­als such as Mario and Pac-Man, but, mys­ti­fy­ingly, it’s Joust that seems to trig­ger artists’ most fre­quent and har­row­ing flash­backs.

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