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Gamertell Review: Guinness World Records 2009 Gamer’s Edition

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guinness world records gamer's edition 2009 cover

Product: Guinness World Records 2009: Gamer’s Edition (aka 2009 Guinness Book of World Records: Gamer’s Edition)
Price: $21.95
Release Date: February 4, 2009
Publisher: Guinness World Records
Pros: Another good-looking book with plenty of pretty pictures, trivia, history and, oh yeah, a few world records.
Cons: Once again, this is more a trivia book with fan gushing than a catalog of game-related world records. Some rankings are questionably subjective, some are not really rankings and the only reference to Apple is the iPhone.
Rating: One thumb up, one down; 76/100; B-; * * 1/5 out of five.

The first thing you see when you open the Guinness World Records 2009: Gamer’s Edition is a two-page display of praise for the 2008 book by various print and web publications. You may also notice that Gamertell is not included in that or the second montage in the back of the book.

The likely reason is that my review of the previous book was not entirely glowing and here’s why: The 2008 Gamer’s Edition of Guinness’ Book of World Records was not a journalistic chronicle of of world records as the title suggests. Neither is the 2009 edition.

Under the Cover

This year’s book is divided in much the same way as last year’s. The first section has a few pages dedicated to Pro Gaming and Guinness (both how to break records and what amounts to a two-page ad for the Guinness World Records game.

The next focuses on hardware with six pages offering a colorful history of gaming hardware followed by “Best of” pairs of pages each for Xbox, PS3, Wii and handhelds. That’s followed by a feature on Collectors and another about Ralph H. Baer.

The bulk of the book follows which is divided into “record Breaking Games,” focusing on a few genres (war, point-and-click, superhero, space, racing/thrills, fantasy/sci-fi) subdivided into five to seven individual games. There are also sections titled “Genre Busters” and “Gadgets & Gizmos.” There are a few more two-page features mixed in there (“Banned & Controversial Games,” “Healthy Gaming,” “Movies & Games”) and an “At a Glance” section that encompasses some of the previously neglected genres (fighting, mobile, platformer, role-playing, shooter, sports, strategy and sim).

guinness world records 2009 gamers edition atari history pageAt the back of the book are a section of reader-chosen “Top 50 Console Games” and a few pages of the Twin Galaxies video game records.

Everything is presented as pairs of facing pages, sometimes with an image that will cross both. There is a mix of screen shots, product shots, mug shots and avatars, all in full color and full bleed (meaning stuff hits the edge of the paper instead of a blank, paper border) with plenty of cutouts, crops and other creative uses.

Pages are framed by a large header and a narrow columns on each side which include game facts, trivia, notes, facts or brief bios of consulted “experts.” Each record is also marked by a small triangle, with a solid triangle representing a new record and a solid triangle an undated record.

The Small Print

Once again, it’s an extremely interesting and entertaining book but I’m not completely convinced the 2008 Gamer’s Edition of the Guinness World Records book does proper justice to either the game industry or to world records. There are a lot of facts, figures and visual goodness for any gamer to happily adsorb.

However, this is not a collection of world records. Yes, there are some records in there but the bulk of the book is art and facts. These interesting bits o’ trivia are intermixed records in such a way that you’d think this was indeed a massive collection of legitimate records. Instead, judgment calls such as “Most Innovative Use of a Controller” is on the same page as “Most bosses in a Metal Gear Game.”

guinness world records 2009 gamers edition  superhero clipAnd even that record is somewhat out of place, not being the record over all other games but only of one specific franchise. Guinness doesn’t usually divide records into sub-categories like Most Whole-Wheat Pancakes Eaten on a Hilltop or Longest Staring Contest on a Wednesday in June, otherwise it’d be diluted with so much insignificant minutia it would need to abandon its own purpose or publish ginormous cost-prohibitive multi-volume editions every year.

Much like last year’s book, there are also a large number of unquantifiable judgment calls or even questionable meta-score citations. Popularity is not quantifiable or sufficiently qualified, though it appears as fact in many categories (see the image here of the “Most Popular Video-Game Superhero” – so many appearances, and often even sales, does not equal “popularity”). The book also lists the “Highest-Rated Superhero Game” as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 due to its average score on the MetaCritic and GameRanking sites. The problem with those sites is that the scores change as reviews are added (or the site editors decide to change the way they convert scores). So, the book reports, “The fighting game achieved an average review score of 90%,” (p. 85) but the mean scores on those sites for that game are currently (March 11, 2009) 76 out of 100 on MetaCritic and 76.13 out of 100 on GameRankings.

There is also an unusually high number of new records throughout the book or an unfortunate bit of confusion. “New” vs. “updated’ records seem to mean the same thing. When you break a record, is it a new record or an updated record? Or is it a new record in the book? If so, what happened to all those “old” records from the previous book? Are those no longer valid? When you buy a Guinness book of records, you expect to have the definitive resource of world records, not a sampling of the questionable highlights. Even the many included Firsts (“First point ‘n’ click game to use character scaling” – The Secret of Monkey Island) are not quite world records but instead just very notable facts.

Then there are the stupid mistakes. The “Hardware – History of Gaming: 1889-1979″ section, for example, shows various game systems from that era, including what is supposed to be the Atari VCS (Video Computer System, aka Atari 2600) released in 1977. Instead, the image in the book is of a clearly labeled Atari Flashback 2 released in 2005. As for Apple, you’ll find hardly an entry save the iPhone.

Fun vs. Facts

Although I’m being rather harsh, I do like this book as a causal read. I enjoy browsing through it and find it fun to discover a new tidbit of info that this aged gamer might have missed (or forgotten). Pretty much anyone who comes to my house and sees it lying around picks it up and happily browsed through it for quite a while. It has great nostalgic value, a lot of information and is nice to look at. I even prefer the thicker, grade-school text book cover stock of this book over the 2008 book’s thinner, bendy stock. The general enjoyment of the book, collection of trivia, page designs and improved paper stock does mean this books deserves a fairly favorable overall score.

However, I’m still not completely happy with the publication. This is not the collection of world records the name suggests and is filled with enough questionable material to disappoint a critical reader. Guinness should seriously consider finding a few better experts and renaming the book with a title more representative of the actual content such as Guinness’ Big Book of Game Firsts, Facts and a Few World Records.

Read [Gamertell] Site [Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition]

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