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Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life [Paperback]

Chris Kohler
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Sept. 14 2004

BradyGames' Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life, by Chris Kohler, is a unique book that gives readers an entertaining and authoritative look at the indelible influence the video gaming, particularly, Japanese gaming, has had on the world.Power-Up is the first English-language work of its kind to examine the reasons behind the success of Japanese video games, rather than focusing on the history of video games. Just some of the features readers will find in this book include:


Profiles of some of the most fascinating Japanese video game designers in the industry, along with a critical look at Japanese video games from their earliest beginnings to new, exciting trends that ride the bleeding edge of popular culture.

Explanations on why Japanese video games are unique and why they resonate so well with young American players.

Fresh insight into classic Japanese video games and the elements that made them so different from American games, the origin of Nintendo, Japan's oldest and largest video game producer, Japanese Role-Playing Games, and much more!

In addition, the future of the Japanese gaming industry is also explored.
  • This product is available for sale worldwide.

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From the Back Cover

BradyGames' Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life, by Chris Kohler, is a unique book that gives readers an entertaining and authoritative look at the indelible influence the video gaming, particularly, Japanese gaming, has had on the world.Power-Up is the first English-language work of its kind to examine the reasons behind the success of Japanese video games, rather than focusing on the history of video games. Just some of the features readers will find in this book include:


Profiles of some of the most fascinating Japanese video game designers in the industry, along with a critical look at Japanese video games from their earliest beginnings to new, exciting trends that ride the bleeding edge of popular culture.

Explanations on why Japanese video games are unique and why they resonate so well with young American players.

Fresh insight into classic Japanese video games and the elements that made them so different from American games, the origin of Nintendo, Japan's oldest and largest video game producer, Japanese Role-Playing Games, and much more!

In addition, the future of the Japanese gaming industry is also explored.
  • This product is available for sale worldwide.

About the Author

Chris Kohler currently lives in North Branford, Connecticut. He graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts in May 2002, receiving a BA in Japanese and the Japanese Language and Literature Prize. His graduation thesis was titled "The Cinematic Japanese Video Game" and earned highest honors.


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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Should be titled "An Ode to Nintendo" March 25 2005
Format:Paperback
Frankly, unless you're as enamored with Nintendo as Kohler is, you'll probably find the scope of this book far too narrow to be of any real interest or provide any insight. Kohler has essentially (and I don't begrudge him his good fortune for being able to do so) translated his love of video games and anime into both a successful thesis and a published work. To the uninitiated, "Power-Up" would appear to be an insightful, well-researched treatise; as someone who is approximately Kohler's age and grew up with the same influences of Japanese video games and culture, I found myself time and time again saying, "Yeah, so what?" Save for some of the historical background, the book was largely a collection of geek common knowledge, where "geek" refers to someone whose interests include video games, anime, computers, and the like.
Futhermore, as I mentioned earlier, from the way this book is written, you'd get the impression that the only company that has ever made a video game is Nintendo. References to Atari, Sega and Sony are extremely rare. While I agree that Nintendo has played the largest role in the rise of video games, other major players have established themselves in the last five to ten years, and their contributions are largely glossed over, particularly Sega. These omissions are what give the feeling that Kohler has basically taken his childhood experiences of playing Nintendo, fleshed them out a bit and put them on the shelf.
In short, I wouldn't change the content of the book but I would most certainly change the title to reflect the heavy, one-sided Nintendo bias of the book. If you're in your twenties or early thirties and grew up as a fan of video games and anime, don't bother reading this book - you already know what happens.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something about Japan by someone who understands Japan Oct. 15 2004
By Steven L. Kent - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Kohler has done a very, very good job of surveying the Japanese video game industry.
Unlike other writers who have written game histories, Kohler speaks Japanese and lived in Japan. He covered the Japanese video game market for international publications. Frankly, the depth of his understanding shows throughout this book.
Kohler's interviews are direct and insightful. He managed to get access to many of Japan's leading game designers. As somebody who has read many books about the video game industry, I noticed that Kohler's knowledge of the Japanese language resulted in a more direct style of interview.
Kohler managed to get his hands on the creators of such games as ICO, Parapa, and, of course, Mario.
One thing I will say about "Power-Up" is that it is a specialized book. If you are looking for a general survey of gaming, or a picture book with glossy full-color art, this is not the book. This is NOT a book for folks who want to read about the games they played as kids.
"Power-Up" is a highly-specialized book. I believe that it belongs on the top shelf of ANY collector who considers himself/herself a serious student of video games. This is a resource, like Lenny Herman's "Phoenix," that will be appreciated by hardcore gamers for a very long time.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For fans, by a fan. Oct. 25 2004
By Nicholas C. Anstey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've read a number of video game books over the years, and while most are well researched and informative, they seem to take a cynical or flat out negative tone most of the time. Possibly because they are more focused on the business side of the industry. Not so with this book. A labor of love by a fan who actually speaks and reads the language in which Japanese video games are created, he takes us on a journey from the beginnings of Nintendo in the late 1800's to the modern era without missing a beat along the way. The author also examines aspects of the industry that have gone unexamined in other texts, such as game music and Akihabara. It also includes a number of interviews with leading members of of various aspects of the Japanese gaming world. All in all, it's a wonderful example of what these inds of books can be, and I truly hope to see moreon this subject, both from this author and others, in the near future.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars narrow scope, but an interesting read. April 11 2006
By radiosilents - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
other people have commented thoroughly about the generalities of this book, and i by-and-large agree. i'd like to add, however, that some of the most interesting parts of this book are the omissions.

for example, they author segues straight from talking about Ninja Gaiden to NOJ/NOA's localization process and standards for content. he mentions that religious iconography, drug use, etc, are all prohibited from being portrayed in Nintendo software, and the list of prohibited content includes cigarette smoking.

the author fails to note the irony, however, that in the aforementioned game there's a bad guy leaning against a light post smoking a cigarette he throws aside before dashing at you. i can only assume it slipped past the censors without them catching it, but my friends and i had noticed it years ago and marvelled that it had been made it through the review process intact.

it's these kinds of things that make me feel like this book is a good general source, but anything deeper than a surface look at the topics covered would require some additional reading/sources.

there are quite a few nuggets of interesting trivia in here - more than enough to make a gamer smile (dragon quest being legally prohibited in Japan from selling on any day except Sunday or a holiday, for example). my copy was a gift; i can attest that it makes a fine one.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interviews with industry movers and shakers Feb. 12 2005
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Power Up examines video games in general, and Japanese video games in particular, as an interactive storytelling medium. But video games were not always regarded as art - Japanese influence pioneered cinematic techniques that transformed games from primitive, non-story plaything such as the classic Pong to sweeping epic sagas such as the hero's complex journey in role-playing games like Final Fantasy 7. Though non-Japanese games are included in the discussion, Power Up especially examines how storytelling ideas in Japanese videogames have so thoroughly permeated the gaming world, from the first-ever game cutscenes in Donkey Kong onward. Author and dedicated game fan Chris Kohler presents his research of and personal interviews with industry movers and shakers such as Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario), Hideo Kojima (designer of Metal Gear Solid), and many more. The impact of classic series on game storytelling and narrative include discussions of specific series such as a Mario games, Pokemon, Final Fantasy, and Grand Theft Auto among others. Black-and-white photographs and screenshots illustrate this fascinating exploration of everything from how videogame music evolved from bleeps and boops to full-symphony orchestras to the adventures that might await any truly hardcore gaming fan who dares to shop in Akihabara. Though Power Up concentrates especially on video game history, references to modern developments up through 2004 keep this survey current. A highly recommended treat for gamers in particular, and a valuable resource for students and researchers seeking to better understand the cultural shifts in video games as a communicative, interactive, expressive artistic medium as vibrant (and popular!) in its own right as books and movies.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too short and too shallow, but basically worthwhile Sept. 14 2005
By some dude - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, mostly. Within its scattershot set of chapters about Japanese games in general, there's a fascinating, albeit sketchy, history of Nintendo that contained many small revelations for me, despite that I've been playing video games incessantly since 1987 or so. But the rest of the material was less compelling for me. The chapter about music games and music in games actively frustrated me--it gave only a brief survey of either topic, and seemed to spend most of its words on a tedious, obsessive examination of Final Fantasy albums. A chapter about Akihabara, Japan's premier consumer electronics marketplace, pushed the trivia-to-insight ratio similarly high. In his effort to treat video games as if they deserve the attention of artists, Kohler concentrates too much on material that is only interesting to fans.

Still, on the whole I'm glad I read this book, and I hope Kohler's stated desire to encourage further such works is satisfied; there is clearly much more to say.
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