The publishing house MAL’OPUS has released the book by American gaming journalist Jason Schreier titled “Press Reset: Burnout and Recovery in the Video Game Industry.” It will be of interest not only to Ukrainian gamers but also to those working in the video game industry. I have already read it and am ready to share my impressions of the content and the quality of the publication.
Jason Schreier is a game journalist from the USA, known for his insights and predictions on video game releases. He has worked at Kotaku for a long time and joined Bloomberg in 2020. “Press Reset” is his second book about games and the industry. His first book was “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made.” The Ukrainian edition of the latter was released in 2020 by BookChef and is titled “Кров, піт і пікселі. По той бік створення відеоігор.”
“Blood, Sweat, and Pixels” is a book about the challenges of creating video games. The author defines games as somewhere between art, science, technical progress, and a business that aims to create an entertaining product and make money from it. It is precisely due to all these factors that a significant portion of games face delays, and developers work in emergency mode.
In “Press Reset,” Schreier explores why it is so difficult to stay in the game industry, why game studios close not only after failed projects but also immediately after very successful games that enter history.
The author tries to put himself in the shoes of a game developer and convey to the reader the constant tension they experience. They all live with the thought of being laid off at any moment. Today the studio is still working, developers stay overtime and work on weekends to release a game, and tomorrow they are asked to pack their belongings and look for a new job.
It’s important to note that the book mostly focuses on companies in the USA and Australia, as the European game development culture is somewhat different. Similar situations of overwork exist there as well, and it undoubtedly happens in Asian companies, but European game studios have managed to build a more or less adequate work culture, reducing the number of burnouts and layoffs. Ukrainian game developers working in Europe confirm this. Their thoughts and impressions are presented at the end of the book.
In “Press Reset,” Schreier also highlights interesting facts about the creation of iconic games (Epic Mickey, Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, Dead Space, etc.) from cool studios (Ion Storm, Irrational Games, 2K Marin, etc.). He shows how difficult they were to develop, the efforts teams put into their projects, and how quickly and unexpectedly they were laid off.
“Press Reset: Burnout and Recovery in the Video Game Industry” also tells stories of complete failures: studios and their never-released but highly promising games. For example, several chapters are devoted to 38 Studios, its founder, the famous baseball player Curt Schilling, and their never-released “killer” of World of Warcraft called Project Copernicus.
In other chapters, we have success stories. These are instances where new studios rise from the ashes of closed ones and create popular games. However, most of these are indie projects rather than AAA ones. Even worse, some saved studios also close, and developers find themselves at a crossroads again, having to look for a job, move, part with friends, etc. The author intertwines all these stories into one large narrative, making it fascinating to unravel.
Instability is the common feature of the entire gaming industry, as noted by Schreier. The average game company, even a large one, almost never can plan game after game, as its capabilities and finances depend on the success of the project it is currently working on.
In the last section of “Press Reset,” the author dedicates his efforts to solving the problems of studio closures, burnouts, and layoffs. He proposes several solutions (remote work, specialized outsourcing, etc.), but he also acknowledges that these might not provide significant help.
Schreier increasingly places blame on large corporations and publishers, targeting money and neglecting creativity. However, even in modern times, Kickstarter still supports the gaming industry, mainly funding AAA projects. Therefore, perhaps the author should not criticize the sources of funding for most AAA projects but suggest solutions to address the problem, engage in dialogue with their representatives, and encourage communication.
“Press Reset: Burnout and Recovery in the Video Game Industry” is an easy and quick read. The book will appeal to gamers and everyone involved in the industry, but it is written for everyone. It includes many concise explanations of game culture and genres, the peculiarities of game creation, and development nuances. All of this is well known to any gamer but not necessarily to the average reader outside the gaming sphere. Therefore, Schreier explains in a way that even non-gamers find interesting.
I really liked the cover, the quality of the edition, the touch-friendly yellowish thick paper, but the typesetting saddened me.
On some pages, text blocks turned out to be crooked, on some, the margins were made too wide, and on others, too narrow. I am far from being a perfectionist, but the placement of text blocks on different pages was too noticeable. Sometimes, it was annoying and hindered reading.
The book was printed by the well-known Kharkiv Book Factory “Globus,” which prints for many Ukrainian publishers, and I have very high-quality books from them. However, it seems like they hurriedly and clumsily handled this one, making it
not very good. I don’t know who is to blame for this—MAL’OPUS publishing house or “Globus” factory—but we have a very sharp contrast between the cover and what’s inside.
I believe that “Press Reset” will be released with more print runs, and the publishing house will fix the mistakes and improve the typesetting. Because in everything else, we have an excellent edition worthy of the attention of the modern Ukrainian reader.
“Press Reset: Burnout and Recovery in the Video Game Industry” is a must-read for gamers and everyone connected to the industry. It offers an interesting, well-written, and excellently presented history of significant problems in this popular field. However, the author highlights the dark aspects of his own country and does not pay attention to the rest of the world with different work cultures, social protection, etc. Nevertheless, this does not prevent getting maximum enjoyment from the book.