Review: Video Game Bible, 1985-2002

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at books which attempt to review large numbers of video games in bite-sized reviews – much like similar reference guides for movies, like Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide or Halliwell’s Film Guide .The last of our video game capsule review tomes to go under the microscope is the self-declared Video Game Bible, 1985-2002 (ISBN: 9781553697312).

The Video Game Bible was assembled over the course of three years by a team led by Andy Slaven and Michael Collins. The book, released in 2002, covers all consoles released between 1985 and 2002 which had completed their life cycle. As such, the guide leaves out the entire second generation era including the Atari 2600, the first majorly successful home video game system and the Sony PlayStation, the leading system of the fifth generation era which had well and truly wound down by late 2001.

The guide follows a basic format, listing the name of the game, the US publisher, a 1-10 score denoting the game’s rarity, a rough dollar value (in $US) along with a 10-100 word basic description and evaluation. Box images from four games featured on a page appear in full colour, along with a random fact about video games. Of course due to the age of the book the rarity information (freely available from Digital Press) and the dollar value are no longer accurate.

Coverage in the Bible is almost exclusively US focused, though they do break away from that focus when it comes to covering the Amiga CD32, whose release in the US was aborted when Commodore went bust. Anyone looking for information on import releases for any of the systems covered is simply out of luck. This leads to particularly aenemic coverage of the Sega Master System, Turbografx-16/PC Engine and Sega Saturn, which enjoyed greater success outside of North America. It’s just something that has come with the territory with these books to date.

What really pulls the book down is a lack of quality control. You expect that a certain number of errors will escape notice during the production process, but the Video Game Bible far exceeds the acceptable threshold. The book is rife with spelling mistakes and factual errors. A number of the descriptions/capsule reviews featured in the book are without merit, which are unforutnately attached to the more obscure systems covered in the book. Coverage of some of the more obscure consoles is limited to a page of basic information; the authors are happy to tell you what you already know in great detail, but fail to educate or enlighten readers about things that they’re unlikely to know about. The book is also tarnished in one spot by an obscure political rant which claims that Global Warming is a conspiracy created by the producers of Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Yikes!

The Video Game Bible is still available, but the sheer number of errors and low quality entries in the book make it difficult to justify a purchase. Future versions of the Video Game Bible were planned for release as late as 2005, but never came to pass. Michael Collins and a number of other contributors to the project established the site RF Generation out of frustration at not being properly credited in the book.