Blood, Sweat, and Partial Dissapointment: Review of Jason Schreier’s Book (From a developer’s perspective)

Or how I learned to stop worrying and ignore the author.

Having just completed Blood, Sweat, and Pixels — I am unsure how to feel. On one hand, you have stories inside that offer a deep look at all corners of the industry that I work in and are a fantastic resource of accounts of the people behind your favorite games.

That’s one part of it.

The other part of the book is a deadweight, outright waste of time. Sadly, that part is when the author interjects these stories to offer his own viewpoints on industry events.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels could have been fantastic — if it were written by someone else. Image source: Harper Collins

There are a handful of times where Jason stops the flow of the book to point out that most of the people he’s spoken to for the book are male, attempting to remind us that the industry is lacking female talent in most roles.

If it had been only once or twice, I would understand him bringing this up, there are plenty of people who will read this book not knowing of this issue within the games industry. However, I feel he does it excessively to a point where it starts detracting from the quality of the book and feels more so that he’s ranting and pushing some sort of personal agenda.

As I previously mentioned, bringing this up a few times would have been totally fine in my books — it’s an important issue that should be more well-known. I do feel though that he mentions it so often that he attempts to make the reader feel almost guilty for allowing this to happen.

Within the book, we learn about hostile situations between companies like Ensemble and Bungie and various other interesting events not so publicaly known. Image source: Microsoft

This confuses me as most of the people who will end up reading this book will not be in a position to make the changes he wishes for. There is particular part early in the book where he is talking about something completely different before randomly saying (paraphrasing) “BY THE WAY, NOTICE THAT MOST OF THE PEOPLE I TALKED TO ARE DUDES”. It felt like extra information that I didn’t need — like listening to a summary of a court case with a random bystander’s personal thoughts thrown in.

Which is a shame because as I previously mentioned, the half of the book where the author leaves it mainly to the facts and developer’s accounts is absolutely fantastic. They feel like post-mortems from the developers but with all stages of the development process covered, not just the “best bits” as post-mortems tend to do.

At first, the choice of game’s covered can feel a little random, from indie hits such as Stardew Valley to massive titles such as Destiny, at first glance, it might feel as if the author just threw it whoever he could interview. However, I totally understand the author’s intent here — to cover all aspects of the industry, from huge companies to one man armies. This gives you a diverse look into almost every angle of the industry, from publisher motivations to how hard it can be for a person going solo — which is a rare achievement.

From indie sensations to massive blockbusters, many corners of the current video-games industry is accounted for here. Image source: GOG

From other attempts, I have seen in the past that have tried this formula end up coming off incorrectly and breaking the flow of the narratives. This time, I feel Jason has managed to ensure that no matter what project’s story you’re reading — it doesn’t feel slapped together. Each story, no matter how big or small, is treated with respect and diligence and is thoroughly researched in a cohesive manner.

One of the best parts of the book, minus the developer recounts, are the footnotes included. Each one includes additional information that helps me understand people’s choices and actions deeper than their own words could, which in itself is a massive challenge considering how many moving cogs happen in video-game development. Jason uses his writing talent here to pick the important parts of the story and footnote the essential information so no matter what your experience is within the industry, you won’t feel lost.

If the book were just these breakdowns, interviews, recounts and footnotes — it would be a clear 10/10 from me. As mentioned earlier though, the moments when Jason stops the flow to interject his personal opinions feels unnecessary and detracts from the book as a whole — which is a damn shame.

The book offers a refreshing narrative on the Marty Mcdonnell Vs Bungie situation that I had not previously considered and keeps it as factual as possible, which is rare in the industry these days. Image source: Kotaku

To some, the book may look like a compendium of Kotaku articles. As I haven’t read the site in a considerable amount of time, I do not believe these are recycled articles. They feel like complete standalone stories which, if I didn’t know better, I would call fiction because of all the crazy situations developers find themselves in. Sadly, having worked in the games industry long enough, I have seen many similar stories unfold before my very own eyes.

One thing that really irked me as well was the amount of times the author attempted to be helpful by explaining technical terms without truly understanding what these terms meant. There are a number of times you can tell Jason was out of his comfort zone, for example when talking about bugs — he repeatedly uses the term “zapping bugs”. When I say repeatedly, I mean he uses the phrase a good 6–7 times in one chapter alone.

I understand that this will bother only a few people who read the book more than most of the target audience as few deal with these technical terms on a daily basis but I feel just a google synopsis of what these terms meant would have been more beneficial than the author’s poor attempts at explaining technical terms he did not understand fully.

Jason Schreier is a celebrated game’s journalist who writes for Kotaku. Image source: Twitter

So all in all, do I recommend the book? Yes, actually. Without a doubt. The amount of insight you get from the people and their accounts spread across the pages is invaluable information for anyone who wants to know how the industry works or how their favorite games were made and what trials and tribulations occurred in bringing said games to market.

If anything, I am only slightly disappointed with the book. Even though these stories are absolutely fantastic and well put together, the personal interjections from the author and his attempts to explain technical terms really bring down the overall package. I honestly feel the book would’ve been better written by someone who did not feel they had to prove to us that they understand video-games.

Even though he dejects from the book as whole, I still do think the book is worth a read. The stories contained are just too valuable to let the author’s mistakes ruin the whole product.

You can purchase the book now at pretty much any virtual or real book store.