Boss Fight Books: Galaga (#4) – Michael Kimball

2 out of 5

I would start this, again, by saying that it must be difficult to write a book on a game like Galaga – a game for which, wiki granted-knowledge aside, the creator doesn’t seem to be widely known; for which there’s scant in-game story or much production background to apparently delve in to…  But I said “again,” as Boss Fight Books’ #3 entry – ZZT – linked above, would’ve seemed to have been similarly daunting, and Anna Anthropy did a bang-up job.  Writer Michael Kimball, meanwhile, goes for an ADD and repetitive approach, and admits 100 pages in that he probably shouldn’t have agreed to write a book on a game without much actual content to focus it around…

As BFB’s writers have done thus far, Kimball connects some key aspects of the game and the experience of playing it – namely the game’s “dual fighters” and the surge of the arcade experience at the time of its appearance with the kind of relationships (with the game, with oneself, with others) that sprung up around the culture – with his own life, and those pieces of the book are the best.  But he struggles to expand on this.  Chopping the book up into paragraph-long “stage” chapters, he flip-flops between recounting his abusive childhood and the escape video games offered with fun factoids about Galaga, and then some made up factoids throw in here and there, to which he confesses a few stages later.  It’s a moderately funny joke the first time, and then is never made funnier by repeating it.  Kimball’s research for the game seems to consist of just Googling different references to Galaga; while there might not’ve been some epic story around its creation, there’s hardly anything else here about the game, and its rise and fall synchronicity with the boom and bust of the arcades and games isn’t presented strongly enough to replace that lack.