• Aaron Main

Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry Review

It's interesting to see the video game industry coming up in the world. From that infantile state of being a brainless waste of time, onto its teen years of knowing what it wants to be when it grows up, to its now current form of being a grand escape from reality that can manipulate our emotions. Video games have always been there for us, and we support them, but there's a darker side like the man behind the curtain we were never really supposed to know about.

With the excess of these deep adventures comes an industry that continues to be at bat, ready to pump out home runs in the form of larger and larger games. Small developers either grow or become absorbed into big corporations; and eventually... casualties and bystanders who aren't just handed the ball, but have it intentionally swatted out of their hands. It's a cruel world, a cruel industry, and one that may already be rigged from the start.

One thing we haven't had much of until late, are the reports of what these developers and publishers go through in order to ship out the biggest and best games. But behind every publisher and developer are lines of individuals who each have their side of the story, and what it really means to work in the gaming industry that currently ingests their works, then viciously spits them out half digested, but still alive.

Jason Schreier, the author behind Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, has become that investigative reporter we've needed to shed the light of those dark corners of this fantasy world, where video games "only" bring joy. With his latest book Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry, Schreier dives deep into the curvature of just how deep the rabbit hole goes and the human cost behind our beloved games. Press Reset introduces what feels like a group of mini stories that left left me gasping at some moments, and flabbergasted the next. These are rooms in the laboratory that the scientists never wanted us to see into before. Press Reset gives a broad view of the experiments that go on behind these closed doors, and what comes out on the other side.

Being a reporter in the game industry previously for Kotaku and currently for Bloomberg, Schreier is able to convey a comprehensive story within Press Reset, to where the first few chapters sow the seeds, as you watch them develop, sprout, and grow into a vast, branching tree that never lets up until the fruits it bears blacken and fall to the ground. Schreier is able to garner unprecedented, almost behind-the-scenes access to those moments, and who worked in these largely familiar developer "families." A neat backstage pass into the darkest reaches in which we were never meant to see.

Press Reset goes above and beyond studio closures and the ethos behind those who were dropped from their branches, and having to learn how to gain their footing once more on their own. Moments of gut-wrenching, turn-for-the-worst side effects really drag down the moral of how we should see these corporations, and the facade placed over them-- everything is fun and games, until you understand the cost of the people at the bottom. And that's what makes Press Reset intriguing. It doesn't bore you with technical aspects of the corporate life, but instead pulls you in on a more intimate, one-on-one level. Schreier explores the wrath of the big guys and the bubbles built to house their developers. And in the end, guides you through the bubble as it bursts and everyone who was inside helplessly falls like from a burning plane with no shoot or safeguard in place.

If somewhat off-balanced with the endlessly-bleak outcomes a lot of these workers experience, Schreier does bring the reader back from time to time with a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Where empires crumble, villages rise from the ashes, and that's how we learn of how some of our most beloved developers come to be. Some of the best parts of Press Reset are the triumphant moments where indie studios blossom from the seeds of those bad fruits and rise once more.

Overall Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry is a triumph of flowing moments. Giving such a deep dive into a world we were never privy to explore. It allows us a holistic look the world of video games that can mean a lot of joy to us, but the livelihood to those behind them.

Press Reset: Ruin and Recovery in the Video Game Industry can be found at book retailers nation wide.

An advanced copy of this book was provided for this review from the publisher.