Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review - The Awesome Inner Workings of Video Games


The Awesome Inner Workings of Video Games

By: Arie Kaplan
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Publication Date: August 2013
ISBN: 978-1467715843
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 2013

Those old, antiquated games from the 1970s like the Atari 2600 have absolutely nothing in common with today’s games. Not so fast, they have a lot in common, In fact “most game systems are basically the same. The graphics in the newer games are out-of-sight awesome, but the “guts” of the consoles are the same. They include things such as processors, a software kernel, computer code, storage space, memory, outputs, and controls. It’s basically a team effort between all these parts that “bring your games to life.” Perhaps you have approached the expert level in some of your games, but do you know about the workings of the console?

The console has to have some way of thinking or none of the video games would be at all exciting. In fact you’d much rather clean your room if that were the case. The inner brain of the console is “known as the central processing unit, or CPU for short.” Both video consoles and computers need them in order to run properly, but of course the CPU cannot work in isolation. The kernel holds a couple of important jobs. For example, “it helps the CPU talk to the software” and other “important pieces of hardware besides the CPU.” In a nutshell, that kernel is the mover and shaker in the system.

It should be easy to program a game or write in code - wrong. The CPU needs instructions because it “only speaks a specific language and that language is called programming code.” You’ll be wowed when you see an example of a two word character in a game and just how complicated it looks. You’ll learn all about the computer programmers who make those games you love come alive. You’ll also learn about things like game engines, game cartridges and subsequent upgrades such as DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, RAM, specialized cables, controllers, touch screens, and many other things that make those video games perform.

This is a marvelous look at how video games come to life through their “inner workings.” Technology has come a long way from the creation of the Atari 2600 to the consoles and games we’re seeing today. Young gamers will be fascinated with the history of consoles, their guts, and how they work. The layout of the book is exciting and has numerous, small informative sidebars that add additional information. For example, one says “hardware = any kind of computer program, including video games.” There is a very interesting section entitled “Breakthroughs in Technology” that offers a historical overview to the young reader. In the back of the book is an index and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: Young gamers will be wowed when they learn the evolution of gaming consoles from the 1970s games like the Atari 2600 to the present!