Review: Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition

The Guinness Book of Records was always an intriguing bit of light reading for many generations, usually coming by way of forced visits to anaemic school libraries or as a stocking stuffer on Christmas Day. Over the years the book became big business, and some stuffy marketing sought felt the need to develop a new version of the book – Guinness World Records Gamers Edition – to cater for the rapidly expanding video game market.

Guinness World Records has assembled a rag tag mob consisting of in-house editors, British gaming press personalities and the Twin Galaxies crew to help it assemble what is effectively a hybrid of a gaming year book and the more traditional record book. The 2008 edition is actually the first version of the book – subsequent releases have arrived around Christmas time and are showing no signs of stopping.

The book has a very eye-catching layout, but it needs it. The information contained within is written in a very straightforward manner, giving the impression that the book is targeted toward a younger audience. The pages are packed with screenshots and artwork, which more often than not dominates the text. Some sections are a little more text-heavy, but are constructed in a rather pedestrian manner with little regard to substance.

Many of the things that the book presents as records are better described as technical achievements or milestones. A record in the context of the Guinness books are something that can be bested, and that label does not suit things such as the “first backwards compatible handheld” or “first Nintendo console to use discs”. A number of the records are totally dubious too – the “best selling Sim City game” is a favourite example. Some of the records are also subjective – e.g. “Worst Voice Acting”. The book also features some bizarre inclusions like top games lists and interviews with industry people.

One cannot help but critcise the fact that the book is getting a little too caught up in the marketing of gaming titles – the records awarded to The House of the Dead: Overkill and Fuel featured prominently in the promotion of those titles, and either seemed tailor made for the title, or hopelessly incorrect (the playable area of Fuel pales compared to that of something like Elite or EVE Online, realistically).

Twin Galaxies provides all of the high score and speed run data for the games that feature in the book, but this information can be had free of charge through their website. The method Twin Galaxies requires submitters to use (NTSC VHS tape, recorded off the screen) is also somewhat dubious which dampens the authority of the book.

The title of Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition is something of a misnomer. The book is less about records tied to video gaming and more of a yearbook and collection of gaming milestones. It also deviates far from its inspiration’s founding principle of being a “book of facts” by including a number of heavily subjective “records” and editorial content like “The Top 100 Arcade Games” or the “Top 20 Games of 2007.” The book offers little of value that can be obtained beyond a quick flick through at the book store.