I like books almost as much as I like video games, with non-fiction being my particular favorite form of escape. Read Only Memory’s Britsoft: An Oral History combines my passions, and I was delighted for a chance to review.
Britsoft: An Oral History works as a text companion to the critically acclaimed documentary From Bedrooms to Billions, which details through interviews the rise and fall of the British games industry. Britsoft contains many of the quotes that couldn’t make it into the movie from some of the British games industry’s development legends. The names are easily recognizable to any video game nerd and sure to impress: from Peter Molyneux, creator of Populous and Dungeon Keeper; to David Braben, developer behind Elite: Dangerous and Rollercoaster Tycoon; David Darling, founder of Codemasters; and the Oliver twins, the masterminds behind the Dizzy series—to name just a few.
Endless hours of interviews do not lend themselves well to the text format, but editor Alex Wiltshire makes it work surprisingly well. Not only does he break it down chronologically so that you can see how the industry has evolved over time, but also by theme, linking similar anecdotes on making music, mail order, or BASIC programming etc together. There is a lot of technical jargon but stories are told simply so that even someone with almost zero knowledge of how to develop games, e.g. me, can understand.
The bulk of Britsoft: An Oral History is made up of these accounts, which trace the line of the British gaming industry from mailing home made games out in jiffy bags, right through to the rise of AAA in the UK, but that’s not all. At several points throughout, Read Only Memory litters its tome with high quality glossy color images from the early industry, including early images of industry greats, reproductions of newspaper articles, and old school advertisements. The appendix also features short biographies of all those interviewed, as well as technical drawings of all hardware mentioned, from the humble Magnavox Odyssey to the virtually modern day SNES.
In all, Britsoft: An Oral History is the sort of high quality I’ve come to expect from Read Only Memory. The pages are thick and luxurious, and while the purple and green color scheme may seem garish to some, the design choices here are spot on for the theme. The images of course are all of extremely high quality. This, however, is a luxury item and at £30 may be out of reach for many gamers. It is worth every penny. Britsoft: An Oral History is a treat-yourself product for all would be video game historians out there, and a pleasure to include in any gamers collection.
My copy of Britsoft: An Oral History was provided as courtesy. You can buy yours from the website.