|Review by Elizabeth Robbins|
I jumped at the opportunity to read and review Dungeons & Dreamers: A Story of How Computer Games Created a Global Community.
I’m a geek. I’m a gamer. I played D&D back in the day. I’ve been playing games on computers since my Mac Classic.
This book was written for me!
Well, yes and no.
Authors Brad King & John Borland have delivered exactly what they promised in their forward.
Dungeons & Dreamers is not an all-encompassing history of computer games and their online communities.
Rather, it gives homage to the pen and paper game, Dungeons & Dragons, as the progenitor of the online gaming movement and it’s influence on specific innovators in the industry.
Garriott, like many in the video and computer game industries, drew much of his inspiration from the D&D games of his high school and college years. The book chronicles Garriott’s rise from a teen that became a raising star to a critical and financial success in an unpredictable industry that continues to grow, morph and explode.
In addition to Garriott, the authors follow the success of Quake creators John Romero and John Carmack. With Romero and Carmack, we see a set of game developers also draw on D&D for inspiration, but express it in a different way. Where as Garriott concentrated on making worlds that a player had to make ethical/moral choices, Romero and Carmack concentrate on action, producing a more hack and slash type of game.
Although coming from different perspectives, both sets of developers strived to create games where people from all over the world could connect via their online games and play together. In essence, creation of a community is no longer restricted by geography.
Dungeons & Dreamers is well researched and thoughtful in it’s presentation. However, at times, it was dry and laborious reading. Much of the book is spent on the detailing the development of the games, and each of the developer’s trial and tribulations. Less time was spent on the impact the games had on the growing online community itself. It felt as the authors got lost in their admiration for the technical side of the developer’s achievements and hurried through the impact on actual people in their digital communities.
Much of the measure of the success of these games is documented through the cold calculation of sales of the games and their subscription fees, and less by the interview of gamers who made these games a success. These rare insights from the actual gamers were the opportunity for the reader to see lives being effected and changed.
Gaming has been a part of my life, and I really wanted to like this book.
Maybe if I was more of a techie, I would have been better entertained.
However, for a book that wants to show how passion, storytelling, and creativity can transform industry and community, it needed to demonstrate it by having some itself.