Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games are Made by Jason Schreier

REVIEW: 4 / 5 stars

This deep dive journalism work into the development process behind making video games is so fascinating! I loved listening to this, almost couldn’t stop listening, and recommend it to anyone who plays even just 1-2 video games a year. I am glad I listened to this audio book on my computer, so I could Google certain video games to remind myself what the subjects look like.

If you are interested in reading this, I recommend you to do so over the next few years. This is the kind of important topic that will need to be re-addressed every 10-15 years because all the examples here are relevant to today’s situation but new games are released every single year and the industry is constantly evolving. Many of the topics discussed here, such as crunch culture and the gender representation gap, could be different in 15 years, or they could be the same. Either way, it could be interesting to explore.

The video games mentioned here include, but are not limited to:
– Uncharted 4,
– Destiny,
– Stardew Valley,
– Shovel Knight,
– The Witcher 3, and
– Star Wars 1313.

Each video game development history is discussed in its own chapter, which I thought a logical and clean way to structure the book. I appreciated that not all of the video games mentioned are from the same genre. And while App development is mentioned in one paragraph, this kept to PC and console games, which helped to keep the field of references focused.

This book definitely allows me to appreciate the challenges of developing the video games I know, love, and am looking forward to. I also have a greater understanding of the sheer diversity in management and development style that went into these games. Some include: Stardew Valley being completely developed by one guy, Destiny’s relationship to the Halo series, Shovel Knight’s team of 5 democratically split guys, the power of E3 and Kickstarter, Witcher 3’s proud Polish heritage, and how Star Wars 1313 “served at the pleasure of George Lucas” for better or worse.

This is such an engaging read, and so relevant to so many people’s lives!

I give this only 4/5 stars, however, for two main reasons. First is the fact that this ages itself so soon after publication, because the examples are so specific. These are great, but there are no general overview introductory chapter on the industry, which would have better set these examples into a larger context.

Second is that it sort of just ends, without any concluding chapter about how the industry should improve its operations. Schreier is great at reporting, but only gives us the current state of things. He doesn’t reflect on anything. Does he think the crunch culture should be changed, and if so, how? I don’t know; he never says.

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