Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Brooks on Books: Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

I am no "video game guy," but I have loved playing Tetris for years. I had no idea reading about it would be so much fun or that the addictive puzzle game had such a fascinating backstory. Box Brown, who earlier produced an outstanding biography of Andre the Giant, delivers another fantastic graphic novel with this enthralling story of the game.

Brown starts with a brief illustrated history of games in general--how they started, why they appeal to people, and so forth. It's a fine beginning that provides context and sets the stage for the tangled account of Tetris itself.

The deceptively simple-looking game of the falling puzzle pieces was created by Soviet software developers. How it made its way to the USA and around the world is an incredible story you have to read to believe. It involves bureaucracy, geopolitics, foreign intrigue, corporate chicanery, and so much more.

I really don't want to give anything away, but just know that Brown's skillful rendering of the story draws you right in and doesn't let go. He manages to make the human "characters" stand out, and the real-life twists and turns of this saga have a big impact due to the quality of the storytelling.

I figured that reading this would make me want to go play some more Tetris again. What I didn't know was just how much I would love this book. I highly recommend Brown's brilliant adaptation of a surprisingly complex real-life story of business, one told against a backdrop of the timeless appeal of playing games.