Never Alone: Video Games as Interactive Design


Please sign in or register to add your own review.

5 stars
An excellent art book with a fresh perspective on the games we play

Art books about video games tend to be authored by collectors and enthusiasts, often lacking a critical outside perspective. Never Alone: Video Games as Interactive Design accompanies an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art of the same name.

In the book, the organizers of the exhibition explain why they selected the specific titles they did. Richly illustrated with screenshots and printed on glossy black coated paper, each featured work is given space to look its best in a static format.

The book is divided into three sections, The Input, The Designer, and The Player, which loosely serves as a way to offer a different focus when discussing each title.

For example, the book explains how sandbox games like Minecraft and SimCity come to life through player actions and emergent behaviors in ways their designers could never have predicted.

The books makes good use of space to immerse the reader in each title’s visuals. Depicted here is “Monument Valley”, a gorgeous mobile game. (Credit: Ustwo Games (Monument Valley) / MoMa. Fair use.)

Occasionally, the book offers a perspective on how games can perpetuate real world biases, as in the ridiculous cast of characters that comprise Street Fighter II, based on national and ethnic stereotypes (the “Yoga Master” Dhalsim was literally named after an Indian restaurant; his name translates to “lentils and beans”).

Among the 35 games are classics from video game history (Space Invaders, Tetris) and lesser known titles that have explored new possibilities of the medium (the Memento Mori mini-game Passage, the minimalist rhythm game Vib-Ribbon).

It’s a fine selection, and the only fault I can find with the book is that it’s a bit short (just under 140 pages) and a bit expensive (the official sales price is just under $40 as of this writing). With those caveats in mind, I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates the art and design of games.

Full list of titles featured in the book
  1. Pong (and its Magnavox Odyssey precursor)

  2. Space Invaders

  3. Asteroids

  4. Pac-Man

  5. NetHack

  6. Tetris

  7. Snake

  8. Katamari Damacy

  9. Canabalt

  10. Monument Valley

  11. Tempest

  12. Yars’ Revenge

  13. Another World

  14. Myst

  15. Portal

  16. Dwarf Fortress

  17. Passage

  18. fl0w

  19. Flower

  20. Journey

  21. Papers, Please

  22. Never Alone

  23. This War of Mine

  24. Inside

  25. Everything is Going to Be OK

  26. Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

  27. Return of the Obra Dinn

  28. Street Fighter II

  29. SimCity 2000

  30. The Sims

  31. Vib-Ribbon

  32. Eve Online

  33. Minecraft

  34. Biophilia

  35. The Stanley Parable