Blake J. Harris takes a prominently one-sided look at the 1990s 16 Bit console war that played out between Sega and Nintendo.
Console Wars, or to give the book it’s full title, ‘Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle That Defined a Generation’ is an extensive retelling of the 1990s feud between the world’s (then) biggest video games companies, Sega and Nintendo, albeit from a very one-sided perspective.
Actors Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg provide possibly the biggest car crash of a foreword you’re ever likely to read in any book. Their involvement extends further than merely providing praise for author Blake J. Harris’ work, the pair were working towards a documentary and subsequent motion picture adaptation of ‘Console Wars’. Neither of which is yet to materialise to the best of my knowledge.
Author: Blake J. Harris | Publisher: Dey St. Books | Year: 2015 | Non-Fiction | Paperback
In the 1990s a war broke out unlike any other in history. Lines were drawn, friendships defined. A choice had to be made, were you Nintendo or Sega? Anyone too young to remember the 16 Bit rivalry between the world’s biggest video game companies will never truly understand. It was like the Stones Vs The Beatles, Oasis Vs Blur, it wasn’t easy to be impartial*.
First published in 2015 I’d been looking forward to reading ‘Console Wars’ for some time. It’s not an easy book to come by in the U.K. and eventually made its way to me as a late Christmas gift in early January, imported from the U.S.
A hefty sixty four chapters (555 pages), author, Blake J. Harris, endeavours to unravel the rivalry that formed between Nintendo, the company that had reinvigorated the video game industry following its demise in the late eighties, and Sega, an upstart newcomer.
Harris chooses to tell the story mostly through reconstructed conversations that took place between the key decision makers at each of the companies. By his own admission there’s an element of artistic license used, but first hand accounts are used as a source where possible.
The result of this approach gives the book a docudrama feel to it. A dramatised account of actual events that takes a little while to get used to and subconsciously undermines one’s acceptance of what is being presented as non-fiction.
Tom Kalinske: President of Sega of America at the height of the ‘Console Wars’
If, like me, you were expecting a neutral account of nineties video game rivalry you’ll soon realise that ‘Console Wars’ doesn’t provide this. With a biase undeniably affiliated with Sega’s side of the story a more accurate title for this book would be ‘Sega: The Tom Kalinske Years’.
Harris’s focus throughout the book revolves firmly around the actions and challenges faced by Sega of America’s leading man Tom Kalinske. Having made Mattel a phenomenal success, Kalinske was hired to transform Sega’s prospects, starting with their 16 Bit console the Genesis (Megadrive).
It comes as no surprise to discover that Kalinske was a prominent contributor to the book with his version of events being told vicariously through the author. This results in a thoroughly Sega-centric perspective throughout. Nintendo are presented as stuffy and stuck in their ways. Sega on the other hand are young, loud and hip.
Obvious bias aside, Harris does a good job of presenting a complex era in video game history in an easily digestible style. In fact, the more you read, the more engaging the story becomes and the challenges faced by each camp are offset by moments of levity that exhibit what an exciting age it was to be involved in the burgeoning gaming market.
Harris may be telling the Sega story, but he manages not to be entirely blinkered.
*For the record my allegiances lie with: The Stones, Blur and Sega.