Game Boys: Professional Videogaming's Rise from the Basement to the Big Time

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An inside look at the rivalries, big money, and dirty business of competitive videogaming

Yankees vs. Red Sox. Lakers vs. Celtics. And now . . . Team 3D vs. CompLexity. That would be America's next celebrated rivalry if the men in Game Boys had their way. 3D and CompLexity are two of the top professional “e-sports” teams in the U.S. Their battle for dominance, as juicy as any feud in “real” sports, leads the action in Michael Kane's engaging ...

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Game Boys: Triumph, Heartbreak, and the Quest for Cash in the Battleground of Competitive Videogaming

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Overview

An inside look at the rivalries, big money, and dirty business of competitive videogaming

Yankees vs. Red Sox. Lakers vs. Celtics. And now . . . Team 3D vs. CompLexity. That would be America's next celebrated rivalry if the men in Game Boys had their way. 3D and CompLexity are two of the top professional “e-sports” teams in the U.S. Their battle for dominance, as juicy as any feud in “real” sports, leads the action in Michael Kane's engaging and lively chronicle of the lifestyle and business of gaming.

We've come a long way since Pac-Man. Today's games are more elaborate, popular, and addictive than ever. For the elite players, gaming is a full-fledged career that pays big money in prizes and corporate sponsorships. Gamers win, lose, strategize, fight, sign with rival teams, get berated by sideline-pacing coaches. Some use performance-enhancing drugs. And now they're going on TV. Are they really the “athletes” of tomorrow? They act like they are.

Game Boys is a pioneering narrative of the rivalries, quirks, and dramas of a subculture on the cusp of big things. At its most personal, it's a classic sports tale of victory and defeat, punched up for the millennial generation. It's also an engrossing business-meets-popculture narrative that reveals the entrepreneurial ingenuity involved in bringing gaming onto broadcast TV, in the vein of the X-Games or televised poker. Game Boys is an engrossing read for technophiles, gamers, parents, and anyone interested in the business of sports and trends in pop culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Will Leitch
Game Boys made me actually want to sit down and watch people play video games against each other. And cheer. And boo. I can't think of a stronger endorsement than that. (Will Leitch, author of God Save The Fan and editor of Deadspin.com.)
Jim Caple
As someone who never was able to quite handle the leap from Pac-Man to Ms. Pac-Man, I am indebted to Michael Kane for writing Game Boys and explaining how far video gaming has come in the years since . . . and just how far it might go. He'll be the first person I consult when I'm assigned to cover the World Series of Counter-Strike. (Jim Caple, ESPN.com senior writer and author of The Devil Wears Pinstripes)
Matt Mason
Competitive videogaming is ready for prime time. In this excellent book, Michael Kane masterfully draws on the emotion, excitement and backstage drama that helped e- sports hit the major leagues. Whether you play video games or not, Kane will convince you they could be the main event of the 21st century. A fascinating read. (Matt Mason, author of The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism)
Aaron Ruby
Game Boys is a fascinating, rail-gun ride through the world of competitive gaming. With electric prose and engaging authority, Kane skillfully captures all the drama, angst and geekery that drove a niche of passionate gamers to forge a subculture, command the respect of corporations and claw their way into the big time. (Aaron Ruby, co-author of Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution)
From The Critics
Readers of a certain generation are surely thinking, video games hit the big time? Get serious. But their children or grandchildren know what the author is talking about. Today's video games can be as exciting as movies; they can require as much skill as more traditional sports; and they are very big business. The author follows two video-gaming teams, Team 3D and CompLexity, as they battle for supremacy in the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), which was formed in 1997. For a sport that many consider to be marginal (if a sport at all), gaming is highly competitive and full of players who are just as idiosyncratic, determined, and flashy as any other pro athlete. Kane does a nice job of catching us up in the excitement-no easy task, as we are reading a book about people who play a game on a computer screen. Like any good sports book, this one is about the game and the personalities in equal measure.
—David Pitt
Kirkus Reviews
New York Post entertainment features writer Kane tracks the world of competitive video gaming as it moves out of Internet cafes and into the high-stakes world of televised grudge matches. Tracking the roughly two-year journey of a pair of leading teams, the author goes into overdrive making sure we know that they're not the antisocial losers of popular myth, but he doesn't create much interest around them. The book follows two five-man teams that specialize in a first-person shooter game called Counter-Strike, played with religious fervor by hardcore gamers who look down on mere mortals playing Halo and Doom. Starting off in 2005 at the Cyberathelete Professional League (CPL) winter championship in Dallas, Kane tracks the team players through a series of poorly organized matches held in hotel ballrooms. The players resemble pro athletes with their coaches, training sessions, reviews of old games-even, occasionally, salaries. Leading Team 3D gets impressive sponsorship money due to their stylish marketability and savvy young leader Craig Levine, while up-and-comers CompLexity are funded entirely by their leader, lawyer Jason Lake, who has poured nearly $400,000 into the venture. The contrast is there, but it's hardly The Bad News Bears. A dispiriting spectacle gets goosed only slightly when media behemoth DirecTV starts taking an interest and makes noise about turning the matches into the next X Games or televised poker. That development thrills many of the gamers, who would love nothing more than a smidgen of respectability and a steadier income. The author occasionally wrings some human interest from one of his subjects, particularly Cuban-American Danny "fRoD" Montaner, a kid withpersonality and a deadly sniper's eye. However, Kane's background in splashy weekend features shows in the book's overly glib prose, which is adequate in short bursts but tiresome over the long haul. Makes reading about multiplayer first-person shooter video gaming just as boring as reading in-depth accounts of any other sport. Agent: Stacey Glick/Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670018963
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/19/2008
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.08 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Kane is an entertainment features writer for the New York Post, where his greatest contribution to tabloid journalism was giving Arnold Schwarzenegger the title “Governator.” He was a sportswriter and editor at The Denver Post and his writing has appeared in ESPN Magazineand Sport magazine.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2008

    Game Boys Is A Winner

    Games Boys: Professional Videogaming¿s Rise from the Basement to the Big Time by Michael Kane is the best inside look at the competitive videogaming industry I have read to date. He peels back the layers of this very complex subculture and lays it all out there for anyone to read - from the gamers themselves to the parents who try to understand. Game Boys has it all - the celebratory victories, the heartbreaking losses, the passion of its supports and accompanies it all with backroom dirty laundry. This book is an informative, exciting read. Author Michael Kane has managed to translate the excitement of competition into his words, and sometimes I found myself reading faster through the competition gameplay to get to the moment of victory - even though I already knew the results of many of the matches he wrote about. As a participant full of passion for the videogame industry, there were so many times I found myself identifying with CompLexity GM Jason Lake and harbouring feelings of resentment towards Craig Levine. Like Jason Lake, I believe in the grassroots foundation of this wonderful industry, and even though Craig Levine has done much to get competitive videogaming out there into the main stream of today's world, I often felt that Levine's tactics were less than honourable, and I am of the generation when honour was at the forefront of how you conducted your life. These are elements which make for a great book - eliciting emotion and appreciation from the reader, making the reader care about the characters in the story. Michael Kane has artfully included every aspect of our advancing technological world - global friendships and rivalries, heroes and villains, supportive families and families who feel the gamer is wasting his or her time. Corporations who only look at the biggest and the best for exposure, instead of looking at and supporting the grassroots events and players who keep the industry churning forward on a daily basis. Event promoters who are in it for the dollar, and to heck with the injury they do to our industry by scamming the players who have poured their heart, soul and often their last dollar into feeding their passion for gaming in hopes of making it to the winner's circle. I commend Michael for the honesty of his words, even the ones which cast a less than idyllic light on the e-sports industry, because the end result shows that our cyberathletes truly are no different from the mainstream sports athletes. They train, they play, they do things they shouldn't, but when it comes right down to the final seconds it's all about the game and the opponent in front of them. Game Boys shows how far we as a competitive market have come, but also shows how far we have yet to go. Michael touched very briefly on the girls in gaming, and while some things have changed since Game Boys went to print, much has stayed the same, from the disdain which meets many girl gamers head on, to the insults and unwelcome photos hurled at them on XBL. While the industry is still very much a boys' club, the girls are rapidly gaining ground - perhaps in the future we can look forward to a book on Gamer Girls to compliment Gamer Boys - what do you say, Michael?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2008

    Great!

    I have been in the gaming community for many years and its great to read stories about what was happening behind the scenes at those LAN events! Read it if you have any interest in professional gaming!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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