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The Game Console 2.0 review

The Game Console 2.0 is an extraordinary journey through the history of video game hardware.

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The Game Console 2.0 review
No Starch Press / Thumbsticks

The Game Console 2.0 is an extraordinary journey through the history of video game hardware.

You might not know the name Evan Amos, but you’ll almost certainly know his work. Amos is the photographer behind many of the marvellous high-resolution game console images on Wikipedia. His work is seen by millions of users, both on Wikipedia and the numerous other websites and publications that use his copyright-free pictures.

In 2018, some of Amos’ best images were collected and published in The Game Console, a photographic history book from No Starch Press. A second revised and expanded edition – The Game Console 2.0 – was released last year, adding a host of new consoles and images.

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The Game Console 2.0 - NES

The beautifully produced hardback includes over 120 video game systems across nine generations, all pictured in exquisite detail with accompanying text. There’s a chapter for each console generation, starting with the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 and concluding with 2021’s Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.

The text for each entry includes basic information about each system – its release year, price, processor, sales figures, etc. – and a brief description of its history. It’s well written and informative but doesn’t yield any tidbits that will surprise the most committed hardware enthusiasts.

It’s the photography that shines here. Each entry includes at least one image, and often more that detail a console’s regional variants and special editions. The most fascinating entries are those where Amos has disassembled a system to reveal the circuits, transistors, and chips inside.

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Highlights include the remarkably empty innards of a Magnavox Odyssey 2 and the mess of spaghetti to be found inside a Casio PV-1000, a rare foray into the games market from the famous calculator company.

The book is a reminder that for every success story, there are many many failures. For every Sony PlayStation, there’s a 3DO. For every Game Boy, there’s a TapWave Zodiac. And for every Nintendo Wii, there’s a Wii U.

The consistency of the images makes it easy to see each system’s design choices laid bare. (Why did anyone think the Atari Jaguar had potential?) But regardless of commercial performance, each console and controller image is a delight to pore over.

The Game Console 2.0 - PS4 Pro

Evan Amos found his way into photography by wanting to improve the quality of Wikipedia’s console images. This book is a testament to his obsession, and his work is now of genuine historical importance to the games industry.

As a photographic history of video game hardware, The Game Console 2.0 is peerless. The book is an easy recommendation for video game fans, fanboys, and product design enthusiasts. However, for something so overtly technical and detailed it’s also accessible, perfectly pitched even for readers who don’t sleep with an Atari Lynx under their pillow.

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The Game Console 2.0 review
5

Summary


Publisher: No Starch Press
Release Date: Out now


The Game Console 2.0 is an illuminating visual history covering 50 years of video game hardware. The book is the perfect introduction for newcomers, but it’s also an essential document of video game history. An essential purchase.

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Thumbsticks editor and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Triangle Strategy, Kirby and the Forgotten Lands, and Into the Breach.