In his non-fiction graphic novel, the writer and comic-book artist takes us on a revealing exploration of the timeline of games – and why we play them
Video game histories tend to follow an achingly familiar structure. They start with Pong and the Atari years; they do the console wars between Nintendo and Sega; they cover the success of the PlayStation and the dawn of 3D visuals. All the technological waypoints are slavishly ticked off, but rarely does anyone stop and ask: why do we even play video games? What do they mean?
These questions were very much on the mind of writer and artist Edward Ross when he began work on Gamish, a non-fiction graphic novel about the history of games. Five years ago, Ross wrote the acclaimed Filmish, an enthralling illustrated romp through cinema from George Méliès to The Matrix, whose accessible comic-strip presentation was a Trojan Horse for a wealth of in-depth film theory. With Gamish he uses a similar approach, constructing a loving, pastel-coloured visual narrative around titles such as Metroid, Doom and Papers Please, exploring not just the timeline of games but also the culture that makes and consumes them.