In my quest to save marginal game-related information from the depths of obscurity, I came across this book, A Parent's Guide to Computer Games by Craig Wessel.
Its back cover is very ominous:
Your kids know what "RPG" means. Do you?
Surprisingly, it's a fairly decent book, given its focus. The first half is given to discussing generalities: the game platforms of the day (Windows, Macintosh, N64, Game Boy, PS1, PS2, Dreamcast); game platforms to come (Xbox, Gamecube, Game Boy Advance, even Linux is given a few paragraphs); surprisingly, a brief mention of emulation, specifically Bleem and Bleemcast; discussion of the various types and genres of games; a few pages devoted to online games, including specifically EverQuest and Ultima Online; finally, an explanation of the ESRB's rating system.
The second half, of course, is devoted to the games, including one to three page reviews of each featured game.
I've uploaded the table of contents for the review section, above. It includes many notable games, including Age of Empires 2, Deux Ex, Diablo 2, Half-Life, Civilization 2, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Sim City 3000, The Sims, StarCraft, and Unreal Tournament in its "Hot Titles" section, and a fair mix of others (from Icewind Dale to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?) in the other sections.
This book was published in 2000, so it's only about 14 years old, today. That said, I think it's worth looking back to see just how things were perceived even as recently as that. The book predicts that Sony wouldn't be able to do much about Bleem, and notes, of Linux, that "game developers have embraced the operating system", though it's cautious about Linux's future prospects.
I'm looking at some other examples of this type of book, as well. Secondary materials won't be forgotten, if I have anything to say about it!
Craig Wessel, the book's author, weighed in on the original posting of this review:
LOL why are you surprised it’s a good book? At the time, this was a big issue, with parents up in arms about the content of video and computer games, etc… I even did radio interviews for this series (yes…in addition to this I did…A Parents Guide to Playstation Games, and A Parents Guide to Nintendo Games).
Cutting edge stuff, right? It was no joke back then though. I interviewed someone with the ESRB – that was interesting.
I was surprised for very much the reason you mention–the appropriateness of video games for children was quite the issue at the time, and for some years before, which led to a lot of books being published to capitalize on the situation. Many of these books were, shall we say, of very limited quality, so finding a book that gave such a good, thorough overview was indeed a pleasant surprise. Don’t sell yourself short!
Trust me, I’m not…we put a ton of work into this one at the time. Even did a fairly extensive series of radio interviews across the country. Glad you found a copy!