Bit By Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World

Basic Books

Coming May 2017! Pre-order Now!

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In Bit by Bit, Andrew Ervin sets out to understand the explosive popularity of video games. He travels to government laboratories, junk shops, and arcades. He interviews scientists and game designers, both old and young, famous and less so. In charting the material and technological and business history of video games, from the 1950s to the present, he suggests that their appeal starts with the sense of creativity they instill in gamers. And as Ervin reveals, the best games, in building on longstanding traditions of narrative storytelling and pictorial representation, rise to the level of art. From Tennis for Two (1958) to Minecraft and beyond, video games offer us experiences that cannot be found in any other medium. In this witty, searching book, Ervin explains the power of games, and why their reign will be long.



“Ervin makes it a point to introduce as many view points from underrepresented populations as possible. There are many female critics, game developers and players interviewed and quoted in Bit by Bit. […] An engrossing and necessary read.”
—Electric Literature

In a contemplative ode to electronic entertainment, Ervin ventures into the world of video and computer games … His affection for the subject is obvious. … [I]t’s a personal journey that speaks volumes on how video games have grown, evolved, and multiplied to fill myriad roles over the years.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

“It’s unusual for a history of video games to feature multiple quotes from Rilke, references to philosophy and Zen Buddhism, and comparisons to great works of art. But that’s exactly what Ervin serves up to support his compelling argument: video games can be art.”



Advance Praise


A fun and insightful analysis of the cultural, educational, and historical value of video games. Ervin deftly traces the evolution of our most interactive art form from Adventure to Minecraft, while offering riveting first-hand accounts from many of the men and women who made it all happen. Bit by Bit is an essential addition to every video game lover’s library.”
—Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One

“Like spaceships or skyscrapers, video games are a collaboration of humans and machines, of art and commerce. One part flesh, one part metal, one part markets, one part truth. Andrew Ervin composes a winsome but measured portrait of games from all these pieces, bit by bit.”
—Ian Bogost, author of How to Talk about Videogames 

Bit by Bit is the perfect video game book: it’s part gamers’ history, part history of games, and by a writer inclined to philosophical insight and literary reference. Extra hearts for a history that actually includes the contributions of women, too!”
—Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World

“Not many books about video games allow Denis Johnson to rub shoulders with Monkey Island or Vladimir Nabokov with Peter Molyneux. Ervin’s taste in games is excellent, his points are thought-provoking, and his cultural omnivorousness (take note, aspiring game journalists) is thrilling. A terrific book.”
—Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter