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Book Review: 'Console Wars' captures an important time in video gaming history

by Hayley Riggs McGhee Modified: August 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm •  Published: August 3, 2014

“Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo and the Battle that Defined a Generation” by Blake J. Harris (It Books, 576 pages, in stores)

The late 1980s were the best of times for video game hero Mario and the company that created him: industry giant Nintendo.

The famous plumber ran amok through his virtual universe, rescuing princesses, killing bad guys and even starring in a Saturday morning cartoon.

But in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog bolted onto the scene. With his snappy red shoes and his snappier 16-bit graphics, upstart video game company Sega’s little blue guy sped right into gamers’ hearts — often stealing the place occupied by Mario and his friends.

“Console Wars” is the story of how Sega, with its hedgehog and its edgy marketing campaign, took the industry by storm and for a while managed to beat Nintendo at its own game.

And like Sonic himself, the book is weird but strangely enticing and endearing.

For gamers who grew up during the Sega-Nintendo war, “Console Wars” will be entertaining and revealing.

The book tells the stories behind many moments that greatly affected video gaming, like the creation of Sonic and his sidekick Tails, the development of revolutionary games like Super Nintendo’s Donkey Kong Country, and the decisions by Nintendo and Sega not to work with Sony, causing the company to eventually release its own console, the PlayStation.

“Console Wars” is told mostly through the eyes of Tom Kalinske, the former CEO and president of Sega of America who was hired to slay Nintendo.

The weird part lies in the format of the book. It’s presented as narrative nonfiction — as in, the basic facts are real, but, as author Blake J. Harris explains in a note at the beginning of the book, some conversations and details have been altered or imagined.

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by Hayley Riggs McGhee
Assistant Sports Editor
Assistant Sports Editor Hayley Riggs McGhee has worked for The Oklahoman since 2005. She previously worked as a page designer/copy editor for the (Fort Smith, Ark.) Times Record and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas. She is a Roland...
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