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Video Game Book Reviews

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The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual

review by Sam Derboo - October 30, 2011

"A necessary part of moving game journalism, and games, to the next level." With those words by Dean Takahashi, the The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual advertises itself, and the cause seems noble and desirable; each step towards a consistent use of names and termini across the thousands of web publications and blogs that deal with video games - predominantly or peripherally - has to bring a great deal of relief for anyone who ever agonized between "cut scenes," "cutscenes" or "cut-scenes." The Videoga - there's already the first problem: Videogame, written as a single word. The issue is even adressed in the introduction, "but someone had to make a choice and draw a proverbial line in the sand. So that's what we did, because that's what journalists and editors have to do every day - make tough decisions." Well, frankly, that was a bad decision - by the book's very own standard, which puts up the following four statutes for those "tough decisions."

1) Ease of comprehension for a general audience.
2) Common usage and accuracy.
3) Convenience, with respect to writer use/remembrance.
4) Official styling, as preferred by game developers and publishers.

The only guideline that applies to this choice is the second one. Championing "videogame" (58,000,000 hits on Google) over the much more accepted and widely used "video game" (408,000,000 hits on Google, refered to as such in the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia) only puts the authors under the suspicion of a petty attempt to promote their minority preferences through the publication, rather than actually caring for an improvement of games journalism. The main part, which is essentially a short dictionary for gaming-specific terms, also shows some weird omissions: Apparently Thomas, Orland and Steinberg complete all their games in one single session, as terms used for storing game status are alien to them: No savegame (save game? save-game?), quicksave, autosave, not even passwords are found in the listing. Then there are seemingly arbitrary taboos on certain abbreviations: "Sega Master System (SMS) Do not shorten to Master System." Why not? Are there any other well-known Master Systems it needs distinction from? Where's the "may be shortened after the first use"-clause that can be found in many other entries?

The last quote was already from one of the appendices, which provide lists of official spellings for a number of game consoles and operating systems, sales figures for some important systems and common video game genres. These are the most useful in the book, although they leave writers alone as soon as they stray to far away from the mainstream. Though not as much as the "brief History of videogames," which only contains the most essential milestones every video game writer should have memorized (aside from those that may or may not be incorrect). The lists of notable video game characters, companies, personalities and titles finally are so damn short they might just as well not be there.

Finally, an afterword that praises pretentious rambling about the meaning of life as the highest form of criticism, and a list of article URLs with an unproportional prominence of "new games journalism" leaves no doubt about what the cover quote meant by "moving game journalism to the next level," further alienating readers/writers that might not identify with this particular niche.

All the doubts about the book's integrity aside, the most important question remains: Is it useful for my publication/website/blog? It is, at least by saving the first steps to what can eventually become a complete compendium of important terms with your own additions and alterations appended to it. Will it move game journalism to the next level? Aside from actively trying to worsen the confusion about "video games" and "videogames" by promoting the separatist spelling that should really be eliminated, it actually might if it can bring everyone to care about consistency within their own editorial body.

Update 01/28/2013: The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual has since been made available as a free e-book. Be sure to check out the official homepage when interested.

Quick Info:


  • David Thomas
    Kyle Orland
    Scott Steinberg


  • IGJA / Games Press


  • July 2007


  • 100


  • 978-1-4303-1305-2

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