Significant Zero

Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games
Narrated by: Kevin T. Collins
Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Art
4.4 out of 5 stars (158 ratings)

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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)

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What listeners say about Significant Zero

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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 people found this helpful

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  • DJ
  • 06-24-18

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 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Great but needs SPOILERS warning for some games.

The book did a great job of giving some insight into the game making process, particularly from the view point of a workaholic. The narrator was a little on the slow side but I sped the narration up to 1.15x and it sounds fine. The biggest aggravation is that it without warning, the endings for several games were revealed. Granted they're "older" games but still widely played. Bioshock, Last of Us and Borderlands.

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Inspiring

Anyone that is in the industry, aspiring to be in the industry, or that simply possesses an interest in the people who make games should read this book.

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compelling

A story not only about games but about the people who make them and the potential within them.

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  • Kc
  • 11-19-18

What a Fantastic book

One of the best books I've read relating to video games.You won't regret picking up this masterpiece

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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.