Boss Fight Books has been one of the more successful video game related Kickstarters, being over 900% funded. Essentially a single video game is examined in detail, including interviews with those who worked on the title and the personal reflections that the author wishes to share about the game. These books average around 100 pages, and have become very popular within the retrogaming community. The series has a mix of both very popular and niche titles such as Super Mario Bros. 2 (Boss Fight Books Book 6),EarthBound (Boss Fight Books Book 1), and the seventh entry in the series Bible Adventures.
Bible Adventures is a very interesting footnote in video game history, as it is published by a company named Wisdom Tree who focused on Christian titles for the Nintendo, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and currently PC. Wisdom Tree ran unopposed by Nintendo, as the video game giant did not want to make waves by harassing a religious company for making games for their very popular systems. These titles were never sold in Toys 'R Us or other major retailers, but instead found a niche market in the Christian bookstore arena in the 90s. Collectors seek out these Wisdom Tree cartridges for their unique shape and color, as well as their games being vastly different from anything officially released for the system. You can also visit their website and play these games for free in your internet browser.
Gabe Durham explores his interaction with Bible Adventures, along with several other Wisdom Tree titles when he was a child. Having been involved with Christianity at a very young age, he had no issues acquiring Bible Adventures from his church library. Throughout the book, Gabe explores his relationship with Christianity, and explores how his faith has evolved over time.
Intertwined with Gabe's story is the history of the Wisdom Tree company. Multiple interviews were conducted and researched with the development team as well as people in marketing and sales. The book is full of technical references on how difficult it can be coding a video game for a platform as complex as the Nintendo Entertainment System, but at no point does the Boss Fight Book overwhelm the reader with long drawn out explanations of bits and bytes. Instead, the writer engrosses the reader with details on how an underdog company sold thousands of video game cartridges to a small but powerful market without any assistance from Nintendo.
I found this book to be a very easy read, and was able to complete it within two nights. Boss Fight: Bible Adventures captured my attention immediately, because like Gabe I too discovered Bible Adventures at a young age. Growing up, every kid had a Nintendo, even the hardcore Catholic family down the street. They also had that unusual black cartridge that stuck out from the sea of grey. Bible Adventures will always correlate with that family in my mind and playing it with those kids. One of the main themes of this particular book is that video games whether playing, programming, selling, ends up being nostalgia that is social. You remember specific points in time that are associated with a particular game title. A great personal example that ties into this particular book is when both my friend Dean and I were not selected to attend an international missions trip with our church youth group. All of our other friends were selected and I remember being pretty upset about it at the time, but the one thing I do remember is how much fun we had creating wrestlers in WCW/NWO Revenge for an entire weekend at his house. That memory will always be associated with that particular game. And quite frankly, I wouldn't want it any other way.
I've read maybe four or five of the Boss Fight Books catalog so far, and I put this at the top of the bunch. If the idea behind BFB is to provide context for these titles and what they mean, not simply through their history but through personal experience, "Bible Adventures" is the clearest of the lot without descending into one side - personal memoir or blunt historical account - too far to lose enjoyment. I blew through the book in a day, and for the amount of information packed into its 99 pages was fantastic.
Of those I've read previously I was beginning to worry, since "Earthbound" was interesting, and the ball seemed dropped with "Jagged Alliance 2" and "Super Mario Brothers 2". But "Bible Adventures" was informative and felt personal the entire way through without any pretense. For anyone interested in the odd saga of Color Dreams/Wisdom Tree, I can't recommend this enough.
A fascinating take on a weird unlicensed NES publisher, Durham covers the history of game designer Wisdom Tree while also analyzing the entire Christian publishing industry, all through the eyes of a lapsed Christian that still clearly has many positive views of his former faith despite his own doubt. The contradictions make this a fascinating read and make me quite interesting in checking out more of the Boss Fight Books series.