A Gamer's Guide to Gaming: A review, sort of


A Gamer's Guide to Gaming - a guide to understanding, appreciating, loving and loathing videogames was released in August 2016.

A Gamer's Guide to Gaming - a guide to understanding, appreciating, loving and loathing videogames was released in August 2016.

JOHANNESBURG - Most don't know this, but South Africa has a vibrant and burgeoning gaming scene.

If you don't believe me, look, here's proof. Someone wrote a very big, very good book all about it.

The gaming industry has been quietly growing into the biggest thing you have never heard of and Durban-native Oliver Snyders has over the last two years quietly written the biggest book you have now heard of.

A Gamer's Guide to Gaming: A guide to understanding, appreciating, loving and loathing videogames, is proof that as an almost inevitable spill over from the much larger and more advanced industry overseas, South Africa is no different from the rest of the planet's humans - we are all fascinated by games.

While the book isn't South Africa focussed, the writer and many of the cultural references are local with a flavourful approach that does indeed belong here and that is partly what adds to the attraction of the book. It isn't often a local writer digs into the nuances of such an extensive global industry with local spectacles.

About three years ago I began exploring the local game development scene and while I thought it was non existent in any real terms, instead what I found was a growing, very active, group of creatives from widely disparate fields making creations for multiple platforms in such a way that it was globally competitive.

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And that is the nature of games - they are by default, global. They, by default, need to be internationally competitive. It is a passing mention that a great game happened to have been made in South Africa.

But yet the industry is young, investment is scarce, and many developers are struggling with the same set of obstacles. And I don't blame them. It's hard to wrap up all the necessary skills you need in one person: marketing, strategy, and budget, alongside the basket of skills needed to put a game together, not to mention the time. Comprehensive would be the best way to describe it.

Enter Gamer's Guide to Gaming - an attempt to put everything you need to know between two covers while going some way to minimising the inevitable mistakes to be made creating a video game. One can learn a lot from the mountain of information and experience in this book. Everyone has been where you are now if you are making a game. Make it a little easier on yourself.

Snyders follows through on what he considers the six pillars of game development - hardware manufacturers, publishers, developers, retailers, the press and the audience or what we prefer to call the fans, but given the sheer number of people directing their eyeballs to games, audience may just be a better word.

The tone is very conversational and approachable. It may be a little long to read, especially if reading on a digital device so I guess that gives you all the more reason to buy the lap-top version. That is, read a book on your lap. In true game-dev mentality, the publisher estimates it will take some 16 hours to read.

However, it is a little hard to pin down the firm angle of the book due to its broadness. I also feel that it is written for those who are already into games - the cultural hooks and even nostalgia make it clear Snyders has a firm background in gaming while noobs may feel a little disassociated. But for those who can ignore such things, the references are a valuable tool for getting up to speed.

While the book is probably over-written, it does try and cover the 'eight major life cycles' of a game which he says, kind of, almost, guarantees a successful game. But not really and Snyders knows this, but what is clear is that as a veteran of games writing and reporting he has a real interest in making the industry grow and has the genuine experience alongside the desire to pass on some of that knowledge.

At the very least I applaud the magnitude of the work. He does a grand job of creating a book that is relevant to gamers, non-gamers and game developers alike.

And while eSports doesn't really feature in the book, this sidebar to gaming culture is probably the fastest growing and part of the driving force to making bigger, better, faster games - at least as one manifestation of gaming enthusiasm. 

It isn't my job to say this, but go buy it. If you have but a cursory interest in gaming or simply missed that Christmas present for that cousin you forgot about because they are always in their room playing games - this is it. 

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