Book Review | Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry
Video game development can be an incredibly arduous venture. It can also be very rewarding, both monetarily and artistically. Currently valued over 150 billion dollars, the industry has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In his newly released second book, Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry, author Jason Schreier takes an in-depth look at these various aspects. He also reveals what happens when developers are hit with a sudden studio closure, and where they go from there.
There are numerous examples of the challenges that publishers, developers, and the individual employees face during development. Even more of what they experience post-launch. Featuring stories about games such as Epic Mickey (and its sequel), Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and Battlefield Hardline, the variety is plentiful.
Following up on his incredible debut book Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made, Schreier wanted to shift his focus this time around. Instead of focusing again on how difficult video games are to make, Press Reset focuses on how difficult it is to maintain a job in video games. The result is a book that is much harder to read. Not harder in a literal sense, but an emotional one. Even though the stories are compelling, the somber tone leads to having to take breaks just to recover. With that in mind, readers and/or fans of the first book will feel right at home with the second offering.
The stories range from intriguing, to wild, to just plain sad. Reading about the developers who used studio closures to make games such as The Flame in the Flood and Enter the Gungeon is inspiring. But reading about the turbulent development cycles of Bioshock: Infinite and Dungeon Keeper Mobile that preceded them is disheartening. Weeks of wasted work, months of crunch, and extreme creative clashes are just a few examples of the difficulties that AAA developers commonly encounter. It’s scary to think that whether you have proper publisher funding or not, it can all collapse in an instant. Whether it’s money from Curt Schilling (combined with the state of Rhode Island), EA, Epic Games, or even Disney, it can dry up or get pulled unexpectedly.
As far as the writing goes, it’s very accessible and pleasing. Schreier finds the perfect balance of being understandable yet informative throughout the book. He does a great job of defining key terms, providing a foundation with origin stories, and weaving individuals through the overall scenarios. His chapter introductions and conclusions are equally impressive. They provide great hooks and synthesize the material up to that point, respectively. However, there were a couple of mid-chapter transitions that felt somewhat abrupt.
For anyone thinking about getting into video game development or interested in what some of your favorite games and studios have gone through, this is a must read. For certain industry veterans, probably not as much. This is due to it either hitting too close to home, or it being common knowledge to them. As usual, Schreier’s ability to provide a behind-the-scenes look at game development with honesty and attention to detail is something we should all be grateful for. Good or bad, this information is incredibly valuable to those getting into the industry.
Final Score: 9 out of 10