The sequel's always better

Hi! With two weeks left until the release of my new book Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry, I’ve been reflecting a little bit about my last book and what I wanted to do better this time around.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, which came out in September of 2017, was a collection of stories about how video games are made. Each story focused on a specific game — Uncharted 4, Stardew Valley, etc. — and detailed how that game was (or wasn’t) developed. I wrote each story from a “fly on the wall” perspective, trying to keep my own voice out of the picture. I figured that readers would judge for themselves how brutal and devastating the video game industry can be.

The problem with that approach was that some readers saw it as the condonation of some deleterious industry practices, which made me wonder if it was a mistake to avoid taking a position. Granted, there’s some inspirational stuff in there — it’s hard to read Eric Barone’s story and not want to immediately quit your job to follow your wildest dreams (and good luck with that if you don’t have a partner as supportive as Amber Hageman) — but I saw much of the book as a cautionary tale, not an instruction manual. I’m really proud of Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, but I knew I wanted my next book to be unambiguous about the video game industry’s cold realities.

I had a few other goals, too. I wanted to include more women’s voices. I wanted to focus less on games and more on people. I wanted to write about some developers who usually don’t get time under the spotlight. And I wanted to make sure that in addition to highlighting problems, this book took the time to present potential solutions, offering an optimistic if clear-eyed look at how things can be fixed.

The result of all that is Press Reset (pre-order now!!!), and I’m really proud of it. It’s structured similarly to Blood, Sweat, and Pixels in that each chapter tells a different story, but none of them are completely independent. In aggregate, they all tell a single story: why the video game industry feels unsustainable, and how it can get better. It’s written in the same fly-on-the-wall style as Blood, Sweat, and Pixels — if you liked the storytelling in there, you’ll like it here too — but I don’t think anyone will walk away unclear about where I stand.

The book explores workaholism, incompetent leadership, and the tension between creative people and business people. It’s got stories about people whose names you might recognize, like Warren Spector and Ken Levine, but it will also introduce you to fascinating game developers who don’t regularly make headlines, like Gwen Frey and Zach Mumbach. It’s a bleak but optimistic book that I think will inform and entertain people, leaving them hopeful that this can all get better.

For the next two weeks I’ll be doing a whole lot of interviews and media about Press Reset. I’ll also be announcing a few virtual book events. For now, if you want an early taste, check out last Friday’s Bloomberg Businessweek for an adapted excerpt about Curt Schilling, 38 Studios, and a $150 million disaster that’s still kinda hard to believe.

May 11! Almost there.