Books about computer people

I have always been an avid reader. I have mostly been into a science fiction, such as Heinlein, Dick, Asimov and Clarke. I recently got rid of all my books, which was a very nice collection of the above writers, including others of the classic science fiction-writers. The purge of the books came after I previously purged all my comics books and LaserDisc-collection.
Recently I started reading again, but this time I am changing my ways; now I read about old computers and old games. I find it amazing to feel the zeitgeist of the pioneers in this field. In this section of the the site, I plan to review those books – not to impose the value of my personal taste upon others – but to have a list present for those books, which might fly under the radar for many people.

Sid Meier’s Memoir! : a life in computer games

Sid Meier’s Memoir! : a life in computer games
Sid Meier and Jennifer Lee Noonan, 2020.
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

I just finished reading Sid Meier’s book on Sid Meier. I ordered this book the second I found out that it existed, and read it within two nights. I find it to be an engaging read – well written, fast-paced and entertaining. I have always known of Sid Meier, but I have never played many of his games; I am a great fan of Pirates!, but mostly I am a fan of his contribution to computer games. I never cared for Civilization – or turn-based strategy for that matter – before playing Civilization V. I was always an RTS-guy, and I probably always will be. I understand Sid Meier’s argument that turn-based strategy increases the ability of the player to make sound descisions without being pressed by the computer or another player to make a descision quickly. However, I like the idea of games where the universe does not care if you can keep up or not. This may be from a life of playing arcade games, in which the player has to keep up with the game.
Regarding “military realism”, I find it much more in tune with “real” warfare: Rommel does not wait for Patton. He does not wait his turn.

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Book cover

The book is a chronological list of chapters covering all Sid Meier’s games. This structure works extremely well, making for a very cohesive and well laid-out narrative. Every once in a while back story from Sid Meier’s childhood is interspersed into the chapters. This is done very well, as it does not slow down the pacing of the book – but sets up who the man is, and why he chooses as he does, and why he creates the games he does.
I must recommend this book to everyone who is interested in computer games or just computers or games for that matter.

It is one of the best “computer people books” I have read to date!

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Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings

Not All Fairy Tales Have Happy Endings
Ken Williams, 2020
Ken Williams (self-published)

Some of my fondest memories involve the Sierra Online games, especially Space Quest II and III. Space Quest II is probably one of my favorite games of all time. I absolutely love that genre, but the text parser interface is a requirement for me. As soon as the series went to a point-and-click interface – I just moved on, and never looked back. But the games always stuck with me. When I learned that Ken Williams were writing a book about the life of Sierra, I was stoked right away. I absolutely love the title (I have always been a sucker for titles)

My first impression upon reading the first bunch of pages was that the book comes off as being poorly written, or written in a hurry. Finishing the book became somewhat of a chore for me; I wish that it was better written and better paced. Compared to the other game designer book from 2020, Sid Meier’s Memoir!, the Ken Williams-outing needed editing – or something else – to produce a tighter and more precise narrative.

I did not really want to finish the book. I had to force myself to come back to it. In comparison, I had to pry myself away from Sid Meier’s Memoir! – a game designer whose most famous game I don’t even care that much for. I should note that Ken Williams does introduce some nice ideas and he does produce some fine quotes. But for the price of the book (and the horrible cover) I would recommend going elsewhere for the Sierra story.