History of Games 101
May 18, 2012 10:05 AM   Subscribe

History of Games 101. I need to learn more about the history of gaming. Ideally getting a solid overview of the continuum of ancient games such as dice, chess and Go, all the way up through present day video games. Please recommend some books for me.

Assume that I am a 30-something white male with degree in Anthropology that has also played lots of video games in my life. I'm primarily interested in a historical overview, although social/cultural implications are also fascinating. Bonus point for books that are available on Kindle.
posted by gnutron to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures is a 700-page tome chronicling the history of adventure games via (heavily tangential) capsule reviews of individual games.
posted by griphus at 10:13 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The references at the bottom of this Wikipedia page (and related pages) might be a good place to start.
posted by Petrot at 10:14 AM on May 18, 2012

I found Birth of the Chess Queen to be a good read. The transformation of vizier to queen with expanded mobility is one of the defining distinctions between Western and Eastern chess, and Yalom does a fair bit of footwork tracking the adoption of chess in Europe from early sermons against the game for promoting gambling and violence, to the development of the modern game, possibly in the court of Isabela of Castile.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:39 AM on May 18, 2012

This book about dice by Ricky Jay might be helpful, and it's definitely enjoyable.
posted by bq at 12:35 PM on May 18, 2012

This might be a bit tangential to your interests, but Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal might be an interesting read (and is available on Kindle). She explores a few older games toward the beginning of the book, but the overarching premise of the book is why humans play, why games are important for culture, etc... and how to apply these to solving real-world problems.

Her TED talk(s?) is worth a watch at the very least.
posted by jorlyfish at 12:58 PM on May 18, 2012

Thanks for all the responses so far. Here are some books on my current list:

Replay by Tristan Donovan

Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations

The Book of Games: Strategy, Tactics & History
posted by gnutron at 1:28 PM on May 18, 2012

I own (but have not finished) The Ultimate History of Video Games and it's surprisingly in-depth for what it is. Also, you may be interested in this question I asked.
posted by griphus at 1:58 PM on May 18, 2012

With an anthropology background, you should like Homo Ludens. It's more scholarly than your typical history of games books, and has more theory about the concept of play and what it means in the context of history and society.

It doesn't have many reviews, but it's considered a standard textbook on the topic of anthropology and games.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:08 PM on May 18, 2012

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