Of old knights and new heroes

"Dungeons and Dreamers" tells the story of the video game culture

Brad King and John Borland are two veteran online journalists. Now they have taken a break from their working medium and devoted themselves entirely to the world of computer games and their players. The result is an exciting history of game culture from role-playing games to the online game boom.

Of old knights and new heroes

Screenshot from Ultima Online: Age of Shadows

Some stories have strange heroes. People like Richard Garriot for instance. Garriot was enthralled with the world of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games as a teenager. Later he created the Ultima series and made role-playing games on the PC popular. Ultima Online is also known as one of the first crude attempts at a commercial Internet role-playing game. What is less well known is that Garriot has a penchant for appearing in jousting rituals, turning his homes into giant ghost trains, and shocking his neighbors with fake bones lying around the front yard.

Brad King and John Borland’s new book Dungeons and Dreamers – The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic is full of such amusing anecdotes. The two U.S. journalists have chosen Garriot as one of the main characters in their book. They follow his life journey from slightly cranky teenager with nerdy hobbies to fairly cranky game developer in detail, showing how gaming culture has changed over the past 25 years with the advent of computer and video games.

Why the music industry is going to hell and the game industry continues to grow

Anfangs waren es nur belachelte Aubenseiter, die sich dem Erschaffen von Fantasiewelten in Rollenspiel-Kreisen verschrieben hatten. Today, these fantasy worlds have become a billion-dollar business. Not everything can necessarily be attributed to Garriot and his role-playing games. King and Borland therefore add further threads to their story: The story of ID Software, the rise of the Counterstrike clans, the success of mod programmers, the public backlash after the Columbine school massacre. They weave all of this into an exciting cultural history that makes no claim to completeness, offers no half-silly explanatory patterns, and doesn’t rise to the level of social theory – and for that very reason is extremely exciting and enlightening.

Borland and King are well known on the net for their countless texts on the online music business. The book seems not least like a liberation strike. An attempt to find a perspective that the petty squabbling about MP3s and P2P does not offer. Brad King comments on this in an interview with Telepolis:

Computer game developers deal with games for years. Once they are published they give tools to the players and declare: ‘Here, change it.’ People in the music business were never going to do that. That’s why the music industry is going to hell and the games industry continues to grow – even though they both have the same piracy problem to deal with.

Brad King, Jorn Borland: Dungeons and Dreamers, The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic, McGraw-Hill/Osborne (http://www.osborne.com) 2003, 25.00 USD.

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