Book Club: Hit Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry

Journalist Jason Schreier’s latest book is an essential look at the pitfalls of corporate interference, incompetence and outright greed within the video game industry.

Book Club is where we review books about the video game industry and its creators, offering our impressions and ideas regarding the writing inside. Both critical and thoughtful, the Book Club is a great way to find something new to read about all of our favorite hobbies.

Order a copy of Tap Reset here.

  • Written by Jason Schreier
  • Editor: Grand Central Editions (May 11, 2021)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 1538735490

I want to avoid hyperbole when I type this, but I don’t think I’m being too dramatic in saying that Jason Schreier’s latest work, Hit reset: ruin and recovery in the video game industry, is one of the most important books on the video game industry published in recent years. Tap Reset is a look at the closures of several notable video game development studios in recent times. From Dead Space dev Visceral to the brains of BioShock Irrational, there have been plenty of notable formwork from development houses that fans will no doubt have been curious about. As Schreier delves into the “why” behind what prompted them to close, he uncovers not only the logistics of their stories, but also the brutal system of inefficiency and greed that is to blame.

The system in question shocks as much by its ineptitude as by its rapacity. As Schreier reveals, an entire studio can be wiped out in the blink of an eye if a single “celebrity” developer decides to leave, as was the case with Ken Levine and Irrational. Studios can also scrupulously follow the design mandates of business leaders, mandates that sometimes don’t make sense and remain closed. That was the situation for Mythic when its mobile Dungeon Keeper rejuvenation encountered animosity and low sales – the design choices even castigated by the masses were the ones EA insisted on being in the game. Equally devastating are the cases. where a management without supervisors, like 38 Studios, becomes a victim of inexperience and recklessness. Stories in Tap Reset are fascinating to read but also frustrating at the same time. As Schreir demonstrates, an overwhelming number of jobs in the industry exist in a perpetual state of flux and instability. It would be more understandable if the industry itself existed in a similar state, but with billions in profits and corporate executives raking in lucrative salaries and bonuses, it doesn’t.

Journalist Jason Schreier

Tap Reset shamelessly communicates how the endless series of layoffs and studio closings is more a construct of overzealous accountants appeasing shareholders than anything else. Mix up just enough developer bodies and suddenly the company’s quarterly growth seems more exponential – these bodies and their livelihoods are in hell. In addition, studios operating under the tutelage of companies like EA or 2K are at the mercy of administrative surveillance. A feature or mechanism will frequently be thrown out the window or changed if it is felt that it will not generate enough profit (as is particularly the case with mobile game development).

As an investigative writing, Tap Reset is something fans and consumers alike should really take the time to read if they aren’t familiar with the inner workings of game development. The studios represented in Tap Reset are not necessarily a holistic representation of the industry as a whole, but they nevertheless illustrate fairly common situations. Problems like the crunch, which is also highlighted in Tap Reset, go hand in hand with some of the other systemic issues that the book highlights that also need to be addressed by the industry as a whole. In fairness, companies that own IPs and studios certainly have the right to manage as they see fit, but the situation for so many developers and studios is so clearly unfair and volatile that books like Tap Reset are integral to making these entities (hopefully) more accountable for questionable management decisions.

Tap Reset is an airy reading; it only took a few days for me to get through it thanks to Schreier’s fluid prose and affable wit. I sometimes felt the book could be a bit redundant, repeating points sometimes more than necessary. Even though the goal was to refresh the reader’s memory, some passages (no matter how small) have become unnecessary retreads. I also felt that the handful of references to Donald Trump were shocking and did not seem to serve any purpose in the context of the narrative. At one point, a developer would have spent time worrying about what Trump was tweeting and I was lost trying to determine the relevance of reporting it. If it was a moment of relativity or just being funny, it fell completely flat.

Screenshot of dead space extraction

I was equally confused by Schreier’s writings on Curt Schilling. The former MLB pitcher was the founder of the now defunct 38 Studios. As Schreier began to wrap up the section of the book that dealt with the fate of 38 Studios, he wandered off into comments about Schilling’s political leanings, a topic that had no discernible connection to the story conveyed in Tap on Reset. Public information about the closure of this development house is also devoid of any connection to Schilling’s policy, so their inclusion here seemed out of place. Perhaps this was another time when Schreier expected some sort of uplift or conscious reaction from the reader, but I was once again stumped. Politics has certainly occupied a preponderant place in the national discourse, but their intervention, however modest, in Tap Reset did not work.

As Schreier wraps Tap Reset, one subject he tackles admirably is unionization. There have been a growing number of voices from experts and members of the development community calling for unionization as an attempt to secure fair wages and tackle the violent cycle of studio closures. Schreier admits he doesn’t know if it’s the solution to the problem, but it is certainly a possible a. I think it’s admirable when a writer is able to be honest about his ideas and not be one hundred percent sure if he’s right or wrong. Honestly, I don’t know where I stand in regards to unionization in the video game industry, but Tap Reset has made it clear that there are forces inside that do not want to see such an arrangement come to fruition. What that ultimately means is a topic I’d like to see explored further, and I would argue that Shreier is the only one doing that.

Tap Reset is the kind of investigative journalism the industry needs the most. After so many decades of stellar profits and major breakthroughs in becoming a supposedly legitimate part of entertainment and art here and abroad, it seems odd that impermanence is the norm for countless game developers. video. Schreier takes a complicated subject and untangles it so that anyone can ingest it and form their opinion. I was disheartened by the obvious greed and madness that caused so many of the studio closures described in the book, but I also had some hope that by bringing attention to this, Schreier will hopefully help. , to push the industry in the right direction. . Please feel free to order a copy of Tap Reset on the link above or at a bookstore of your choice.

About Shelly Evans

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