J.C. Herz is a popular press writer on the subjects of video games and technology. She has written for GQ, Wired, Playboy and Esquire. Following the publication of this book, she began writing Game Theory articles for The New York Times, until 2000. Her writing is light, but sometimes critically ruminates on the political relationships between video games and defense spending. Her book also contends that video games have "rewired our minds", rendering the next generation of children superbly skilled at the future of digital jobs.
Her latest projects include a children's book, written with her eight year old daughter, titled A Dark & Dismal Flower.
Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds Edit
The book's method begins with a humorously archeaological/geological take on video game history, relaying the origins of Spacewar! at MIT as the "Primitive Blip" that started it all. She then zips through the history of computer games, stopping at Adventure and quickly transitioning to the more nostalgically laden histories of arcade and console gaming. Her second chapter "The Natural History of Videogames" has timeline and breaks games into genres. She argues that there is a strong refusal among buyers to relate to computers as entertainment devices; despite the fact that a console is a computer, entertainment should be kept with the television (the datedness of the book really shines here).
Her fourth chapter, on the history of the arcade, is a particularly useful snippet on how the video arcade was forced out by the redemption arcade, a place where middle and upper class families bring their children to have clean, chaste fun at a high ticket price. Herz is particularly loathing of the housewife who dumps her kids at the arcade in order to have assured solitude, and laments the loss of space for disgruntled, anti-familial commraderie. The successor to the arcade, she argues, is the online game (such as Doom, covered in Chapter 6).
Chapter 7, Virtual Construction Workers, is a refreshing flip of focus, a human-interest story tucked into this book. It recounts the rise of the new digital craftsmen, hard-working, truck driving Americans like "Billy" from Knoxville who creates texture maps for computer games like Titanic. In one of her more notable passages, Herz writes:
"And as it turns out, most of Knoxville's young codesmiths are the spawn of Atomic Age engineers. These are kids whose dads built missles and dams [...] Half the people on the payroll are related to architects of the Cold War or the Tennessee hydroelectric power grid. And now that those jobs are gone, children of the Smoky Mountain military-industrial complex have nothing better to do than play in punk rock bands, become snowboard thrashers, and start new media companies [...] in the cradle of the atomic bomb" (99).
She returns to this questionably critical sentiment in Chapter 16, exploring the piggy-backing between Lockheed Martin's DOD simulation contracts and Sega.
Other thoughtful Chapters include 11, Having A Wonderful Time...Wish I Were Here, on the relationship between scenery and narrative in video games (includes a review of ADVENT, Zork and Myst), and 12, Boys Versus Girls, which rides just shy of an post-feminist critique of the industry.