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Publisher's Summary

When his satirical musings in a college newspaper got him discharged from the Air Force, it became clear to Walt Williams that his destiny in life was to be a writer - he just never thought he'd end up writing video games, let alone working on some of the most successful franchises in the industry - Bioshock, Civilization, Borderlands, and Mafia, among others.

Williams pulls back the curtain on an astonishingly profitable industry that has put its stamp on pop culture and yet is little known to those outside its walls. In his reflective yet comically-observant voice, Williams walks you through his unlikely and at times inglorious rise within one of the world's top gaming companies, exposing an industry abundant in brain power and out-sized egos, but struggling to stay innovative.

Significant Zero also provides clear-eyed criticism of the industry's addiction to violence and explains how the role of the narrative designer - the poor soul responsible for harmonizing gameplay with storylines - is crucial for expanding the scope of video games into more immersive and emotional experiences.

©2017 Walter Williams (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An entertaining and provocative look inside big-time video game development." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Revealing insight into the games industry

Highly reccomended if you're interested in video games. However, I think the book should come with a spoiler warning. Major plot spoilers for games such as Bioshock, The Last of Us, Dishonored and Spec Ops The Line are casually dropped throughout the book.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great insight on an intense, elusive industry

Walt Williams’ chronicle of his unusual rise through the video game industry from quality assurance to lead writer is not only captivating as his friends and foils (the illusive “Fox” and his own abrasive ego) get in the way of his often reckless ambition. It’s a typical games industry tale, but that actually what makes it so appealing. He’s not the first person the game industry has gobbled up and spit out like used Skoal, but his best for beat account is so intense and personal, it provides the kind of detail we don’t even see in the industry. An important and essential read (or listen) for anyone interested what goes on behind the scenes of the video game industry.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

More of a Cultural Exploration

I bought this because I'm doing research into the game industry for a novel I'm writing. I didn't really know what to expect, but, in general, was pleasantly surprised. This piece toes the line of a bunch of different genres: memoir, argument, cultural exploration, etc. Ultimately, I think it succeeds mostly in the mode of a Vice piece on silent meditation, or the sex industry, or freight train-hoppers. That is to say, as a piece that explores an industry most of us are unaware of. As a memoir, not so much. Though there is an interesting thread about addiction that could have been explored.

Buy this if you're interested in game development. There are some interesting stories here for sure. Although, I would suggest listening to it on 2.0x the speed, as some of the digressions are long-winded and generally gratuitous.

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Extremely humorous and quite self reflective

This book is hilarious. The author has a fun way with words and knows how to tell his own story quite well while still being self-aware enough to know when he's in the wrong. I highly recommend it; it is like peering into the author's mind. The narrator speaks very slowly however. I turned the speed up to 1.5x speed and it sounded much better.

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Overall great book

At some points it loses focus but overall an interesting story. Oh, and a bit spoilery for some games.

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Mostly Inspiring

Other than an occasional bout of unforgivable narcissistic pessimism (in a retrospective telling), this book finishes strong with an honest assessment of the inner workings of the development of a triple A game. An informative read for any aspiring writer or game developer.

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Interesting and Insightful. But Spoiler heavy!

A fairly poignant look at one writers somewhat tumultuous journey through video game development. I appreciate his viewpoint regarding a different approach to video game storytelling and modus operandi. My only concern with this book is in regards to its spoilers. The book is laden with huge spoilers to some big name games; Bioshock, The Last of Us, and SpecOps: The Line. Assuming the reader has played those or doesn't mind the story being spoiled, its a good read.

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it's a bad autobiography not what the title says

Terrible book. From the title I was expecting a thoughtful examination of art vs. function/commerce in the industry. It is actually a boring autobiography of a videogame writer who is utterly unlikeable. So much of it is self-indulgent, off-topic, tedious and unnecessary that I'm convinced even the author doesn't know what he set out to write. I feel ripped off by the misleading title and the fact that the writing is so mediocre and riddled with cliches and lacking in worthwhile insight... not to mention it is frequently (probably unintentionally?) condescending to the reader and moreso to game consumers in general.

I hung on until the end hoping for some semblance of value out of it but in the end it has been a waste of a credit and of my time. I could have given it an extra star if the title was at least reflective of the content but it is deceitful and inexcusable.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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great insight into the industry

if you love video games, you're probably always wondering what happens behind the scenes. what was left out? what was development like? one of the industry's best writers takes you through his own journey in a very personal way.