Popular Culture

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch - Book Review

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Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780735210936
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - July 23rd, 2019

McCulloch is the researcher I aspire to be. Her enthusiasm and fascination with the subject combined with her humor to make an already engrossing subject an equally captivating read. No matter how much or how little you think you know about the internet, there's something in here to learn about how it grew, and how it affects the way we communicate. ~ Reviewed by Katelynne Shimkus


Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier - Book Review

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Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062651235
Availability: Click Title for IN STOCK Location
Published: Harper Paperbacks - September 5th, 2017

Videogame development has often been described as a hellscape of dark rooms, tight deadlines, low pay, and lost social lives. The men and women (mostly men, sadly) in the trenches however, often say there's nothing else they'd rather be doing. Creating a game is an art form for the 21st century, turning 0s and 1s into sweeping epics that can rival the emotional impact of any Hollywood blockbuster. 

In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels:The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made Jason Schreier , editor of games journalism site Kotaku dives deep into the development cycles of several major games of the past decade, bringing to light the very human stories behind these ground-breaking games.

Hardships are endured during nearly every game's development, often including mind-crushing periods of "crunch" often involving 100+ hour work weeks. One developer tells Schreier early on that "it's a miracle that ANY game gets made" and after following the ups and downs, often over a period of years of development, that becomes abundantly clear here. Egos are bruised, employees are fired, and things go "back the drawing board" so often that it is likely to give you whiplash.

During the development of "Destiny", a science fiction shooter from the makers of the best-selling "Halo" series, one executive tells media that it's lore and cultural impact will rival that of the Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars. Only weeks later though, the entire story is rebooted and patched together by the team after internal testing find its plot line confusing and, even worse, boring.

Another chapter follows the years long creation of farming simulator "Stardew Valley" which started as a one-man developed love letter to classic Nintendo series Harvest Moon, but quickly grew into nearly a decade of seclusion and financial strain for its programmer. All is rewarded in the end though, as Stardew Valley achieves mega success and near-overnight millions for the developer.

Not all stories end well here, as is often the case in videogames. LucasArts, the now-defunct game development arm of Lucasfilm, was hard at work on a game titled Star Wars 1313, which was revealed to the public in a massively successful demo at industry trade show E3 2012. Sadly, the game was ultimately cut, as was the entirety of LucasArts after Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2013.

Hundreds of talented artists and programmers were suddenly without jobs or insurance. This was not an isolated incident. Recently, several movements to unionize this industry have gained traction, as major development houses and publishers cut jobs across the board. Schreier's warts-and-all look at the industry is a welcome look behind the curtain, and ultimately, and crucial document into the necessity of protecting the often young and hungry people in the games industry. A must-read for anyone interested in gaming, digital production, or behind the scenes looks at an often secretive industry. ~ Reviewed by Chris Linendoll


The Stars in Our Eyes: The Famous, the Infamous, and Why We Care Way Too Much about Them by Julie Klam - Book Review

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The Stars in Our Eyes: The Famous, the Infamous, and Why We Care Way Too Much About Them Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781594631368
Availability: Hard to Find - May no longer be available
Published: Riverhead Books - July 18th, 2017

Society's often shameless obsession with celebrity, according to Klam, is not always shallow. Inescapable social media has created a constantly shifting virtual landscape with celebrities offering, at best, a fleeting chance of authentic human connection. ~ Reviewed by Mike Hare


Geek-Art

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Geek-Art: An Anthology: Art, Design, Illustration & Pop Culture Cover Image
$40.00
ISBN: 9781452140483
Availability: Hard to Find - May no longer be available
Published: Chronicle Books - November 4th, 2014

OMG. This book is perfect for fans of 80s/90s pop culture. The artwork in here is so amazing, this book is sure to be a hit when you keep it on your coffee table. ~ Reviewed by Chris Linendoll


How Star Wars Conquered the Universe

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How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780465049899
Availability: Special Order
Published: Basic Books - October 6th, 2015

I've read a lot of Star Wars books in my life, both fiction and non-fiction. How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is by far one of the better ones.

I initially balked at the "unofficialness" of the title, as well as the god-awful cover art the book was saddled with upon initial release. I'm glad I ended up taking the plunge into the softcover though, as I ended up loving it.

The author uses the non-sanctioned nature of this work to dig deep into the dramas surrounding the creation and expansion of George Lucas' sci-fi empire. The film was almost doomed from the start, with several studios passing on the project, and constant struggles to keep the young director on budget.

Personal dramas also threatened to derail the series, as principal actors felt the series was "rubbish" and, behind the scenes, Lucas and his wife were headed into a messy divorce.

The book tends to bog down a bit with a bit too much hatred directed at the prequels in its concluding chapters, presenting arguments and platitudes that have been better explored in other scholarly looks at the Star Wars saga.

As a whole though, this is a major contribution to the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars books, and one that most fans will enjoy their time with. While there may not be much in the way of new or relevatory findings, this is a welcome, all-in-one volume. ~ Reviewed by Chris Linendoll


Luke Skywalker Can't Read

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Luke Skywalker Can't Read: And Other Geeky Truths Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780147517579
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Plume - November 24th, 2015

A collection of essays from the former editor of Tor.com. Includes lots of geeky topics like Star Wars, horror movies, old sci-fi movies and more. This book is a lot of fun. ~ Reviewed by Chris Linendoll


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