Tetris: The Games People Play

Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

Box Brown came onto my radar when he released his graphic novel treatment about the life of Andre The Giant.  While I’ve yet to read it, the critical acclaim he received for his work at the time made me want to seek out his other writings.  Unfortunately, Box Brown, along with several other things, seemed to have moved to that corner of my mind covered in cobwebs – until this weekend when I spotted his follow-up to the Andre book, Tetris: The Games People Play.

I really enjoyed this, which isn’t a surprise considering one of my all-time favorite books is Blake J. Harris’ Console Wars – the story of the war between video game moguls Nintendo and Sega for gaming supremacy.  Tetris: The Games People Play tells of the behind-the-scenes courtroom battle between gaming publishers looking to secure the rights to what would become one of the biggest video games in the world.

Tetris’ creation came near the end of The Cold War, when Russian culture was very much a mystery to the West.  When Alexey Pajitnov’s addictive puzzler escaped the Iron Curtain, it was already a guaranteed curiosity to gamers.  The drama that would unfold had me devour this in only two sittings.  From the difficulty of negotiating a deal with a creator from a communist nation, to the struggling rights acquisition in regards to the rise of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (PC rights v. home console rights) to the dramatic courtroom battle that held the fate of so many lives and careers.

By adding in “the games people play” as a part of the book’s title, Brown justifies the first part of the book that details a somewhat streamlined history of gaming.  However, the truth is I could have done without it.  The main story is interesting enough without a history lesson tacked on at the beginning.  This is honestly just a minor complaint though.

This being my first exposure to Box Brown, I really dug the art style.  It seemed like a mixture of Herge (Tin Tin) and Darwyn Cooke’s Parker adaptations (one color with varying shades) that combined to craft a sort of minimalist style that I felt worked well with the subject matter.

Having finished this, I’m looking forward to picking up Andre The Giant: Life & Legend as well as the recently released Is This Guy For Real? (Andy Kaufman bio) sooner rather than later.

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