Dreamcast Worlds: a design history


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“Dreamcast Worlds truly is something special in the annals of games writing in general, yet alone in terms of game histories.” — Game Over Again

15 years ago, Sega released its last games console. The Dreamcast was not the commercial success that Sega needed it to be, but it is famed for its extraordinary, experimental, and groundbreaking games.

This book steps inside three of the games made for the console by studios within Sega itself, to retrace the historical moment in which they were made. Each of the games studied pushed boundaries in their own way:

Skies of Arcadia
One of the first RPGs to be made in full polygon 3D

Phantasy Star Online
The first console MMO

Shenmue
Part life simulator, part interactive movie.

“…studying game design from the other side of the field — from the audience chair — by reverse engineering the structures he found in it, and comparing those structures to cultural, historical, and economic theories.” — Destructoid

Histories of games are usually told from the point of view of a solitary hero. These histories often end up leaving out most of what made games what they were. Games are not stable objects created by a single auteur. They are network effects co-produced by a whole network of people and things.

Dreamcast Worlds builds out a networked history from a standpoint firmly grounded in the games themselves. Just like a history of the Roman empire could be told by walking through the streets of Rome, this is a history of Sega told from right inside its game spaces. It is a history not just of games, but of players, platforms and processes.

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Dreamcast Worlds is the debut book by design historian Zoya Street. Based on his master’s thesis on Skies of Arcadia, the project was crowdfunded in the summer of 2012 on Indiegogo. Like the games studied, it is the product of a network of relationships, edited by backers and inspired by the game development community.

The book officially launches in digital, paperback and hardback on September 9th, 2013,  the anniversary of the console’s wildly successful US launch. Pre-order now to get instant access to a digital beta copy.

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You can read extracts from the book and learn more about the story behind the writing process at Zoya Street’s personal website.

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