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A new press for great books on classic video games. Our launch titles: Earthbound, Galaga, Super Mario Bros 2, ZZT, Jagged Alliance 2.

** NEW STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED! All backers who donate $10 or more will be sent a bonus PDF collection of great essays about video games. **

** Sample an early excerpt from Ken Baumann's EarthBound here! **

The Series

Each of our books will take a critical, creative, historical, and personal look at a single classic video game.

Some books will be about the history of the game's creation, some will focus on particular elements like level design, story, and music, some will investigate the subculture that has formed around a game, some will bring in outside art, science, and media, some will have a strong autobiographical element. Many books will be a combination of all these things.

The Format

All the books will be available in paperback and ebook (all formats), and sold both directly from our site and from other major online bookstores. Each book will be numbered, collectible, and will look great on your shelf together.

Who Are These Books For?

In short? Anyone with an interest in games.

An interest in how they're played, how they're made, how they're talked about, who they're for, what gaming does to/for us, their opportunities as an art form, where they've been, and where they are going. We think games are worthy of our respect, curiosity, and criticism.

It's an exciting time for video game criticism. The best of this writing is mostly online--and that's awesome--but books offer a longer and more culturally respected space to dig into these games as subjects, and we want to offer writers that space.

The Books

For the first five books in what we have dubbed "Season One" of the series, we reached out to writers in very different fields: a writer/actor, an acclaimed novelist, an independent game designer, a game critic/journalist, and a game theorist/maker of "weird internet stuff."

Book #1: Earthbound by Ken Baumann

There is no better title with which to start a video game series than Earthbound, an RPG that flopped when it first arrived to the U.S., only to grow in fans and critical acclaim over the years, eventually becoming the All-Time Favorite Game of thousands, among them Ken Baumann.

Baumann will explore the game's origins, its marketing failures, its cult rise from the ashes, the ways in which the game is a window into "what the world thinks of American culture and mythology," how he and his older brother bonded over the game as kids, and what it's like to try to recreate childhood experiences.

Ken Baumann lives in Los Angeles. He's worked as an actor for ten years in film, theater, and television. He starred in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a series on ABC Family, for five seasons. He's the author of the novels Solip and the forthcoming Say, Cut, Map. His fiction, poetry and essays have been published at VICE, HTMLGiant, The New York Tyrant and elsewhere. Baumann also runs Sator Press, a nonprofit that publishes innovative literature.

Book #2: Galaga by Michael Kimball

For 15 seconds of the third highest-grossing film of all time, The Avengers' plan to save the world comes to a grinding halt so that Tony Stark can call out a low-level member of S.H.I.E.L.D. for playing Galaga on the job. 

Acclaimed novelist and lifelong Galaga player Michael Kimball knows the compulsion: He's set and re-set high scores on Galaga machines all across America.

A game many call the greatest fixed shooter arcade game in history, Galaga broke the Space Invaders mold with superior graphics, faster firing, bonus rounds, tractor beams, and superior enemy A.I.

Since its release in 1981, Galaga has never gone away: Sequels like Gaplus and Galaga '88 have been released in arcades, and ports have been made (or re-released) for nearly ever new console system, including Atari 7800, NES, Game Boy, Nintendo 64, 3DS, all three Playstations, and XBox 360.

Michael Kimball is the author of six books, including Big Ray, Dear Everybody, and Us. His work has been on NPR’s All Things Considered and in Vice, as well as The Guardian, Bomb, Prairie Schooner, New York Tyrant, etc. His work has been translated into a dozen languages—including Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Korean, and Greek. He is also responsible for Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard), a couple of documentaries, the 510 Readings, and the conceptual pseudonym Andy Devine.

Book #3: ZZT by Anna Anthropy

In 1991, long before Epic Games was putting out blockbusters like Unreal, Infinity Blade, and Gears of War, Tim Sweeney released a strange little ANSI character-based shareware game called ZZT. What ZZT lacked in graphics, it more than made up for in utility: Fans could use ZZT to design their own games.

This feature was a revelation to thousands of gamers, including Anna Anthropy, author of Rise of the Videogame Zinesters and the creator of Dys4ia and REDDER. Anthropy's book will take us deep into a rich subculture that today remains as alive as ever, exploring the shareware movement of the 90's, the economy of ascii art, and what happens when a ten-year-old gets her hands on a programming language she can understand.

It's been said that the first Velvet Underground album sold only a few thousand copies, but that everyone who heard it formed a band. Well not everyone has played ZZT, but everyone who played it became a game designer.

Anna Anthropy is a prolific game developer and critic and is the creator of Calamity Annie, Mighty Jill Off, and Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars among many other games, which are available on her website. She lives in Oakland, California, with her pet girlmonster and two lovely cats.

Book #4: Super Mario Bros. 2 by Jon Irwin

In perhaps the most famous switcheroo in all of game history, the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2 was declared "too hard" by Nintendo of America and replaced with a Mario-ified port of the Famicom hit, Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic. The new game (dubbed "Super Mario USA" in Japan) was a huge success for its four playable characters, improved graphics, immersive levels, and catchy music, and eventually became the 3rd bestselling game for the NES.

And yet. Because of its strange new villains, its wild gameplay, and its mysterious touches, SMB2 has for years been regarded as the Odd Mario Out, even as it has seen popular updates on the Super NES and Game Boy Advance.

Split into four sections based on the game's four playable characters (Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess), Irwin's Mario will not be a simple retelling of a 25-year-old story, but instead a compelling investigation into the game's unique mechanics, its fierce defenders (including the author's own wife), and its curious history in the larger context of Super Mario: The Franchise.

Jon Irwin is a staff writer at Kill Screen and winner of the PEN New England Discovery Award in Nonfiction. His essays and journalism have appeared in publications such as Billboard, GamePro, and Monkeybicycle. He received an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College. He lives and teaches in Boston.

Book #5 - Jagged Alliance 2 by Darius Kazemi

The turn-based tactical role playing series Jagged Alliance has been sequeled, expanded, modded, optioned, multiplayered, and kickstarted, but the series' many fans usually point to Jagged Alliance 2 as the high water mark, and one of the finest turn-based video games of all time.

While it inherits the combination of strategic overworld and tactical battles from the X-COM series, Jagged Alliance 2 brings to the table a wicked sense of humor, simulation-driven character design, and a surprisingly deep open-world RPG experience reminiscent of the Ultima or Elder Scrolls games.

Focusing on JA2's development history and basing his book largely on new personal interviews with the game's developers, game designer and web technology developer Darius Kazemi will delve deep into the legacy of a game that still has much to teach gamers and game-makers 14 years after its release.

Darius Kazemi develops open web technology at Bocoup in Boston. For ten years he worked in videogames and more recently has created things like Amazon Random Shopper, RapBot, Outslide, and Clickbait. He runs GameLoop, a game development unconference, and co-organizes the Boston HTML5 Game Development Meetup. He also writes open source Twitter bots in JavaScript.

Timeline

June 2013: Kickstarter campaign.

July 2013: Bossfightbooks.com goes live.

December 2013: Book #1 arrives.

January 2014: Book #2 arrives.

Winter 2014: Begin contracting future titles.

March 2014: Book #3 arrives.

April 2014: Book #4 arrives.

May 2014: Book #5 arrives.

Spring/Summer 2014: Fan-selected Book #6 arrives. (Game/author TBA)

Expenses

We need your help to make Boss Fight Books a reality! The more money we raise, the better these books will be.

Our expenses include:

  • Printing
  • Layout
  • Ebook conversion
  • Rights to hi-res cover images
  • ISBNs
  • Shipping
  • Boss Fight Books website
  • Advances: Because our campaign hit a stretch goal of $10,000, each of our five authors will receive an advance of $500.

The Future

If you show us you're interested in these books, we'd like to keep putting out these books long into the future. We're excited to tackle more recent games, and would be excited to read produce books from other corners of both the video game world and the arts, such as: critics, level designers, creative directors, journalists, screenwriters, comedians, and artists.

Canada & Mexico

If you live in Canada or Mexico and you want print books, you do not need to donate the full $15 per book for international shipping. Instead, please add $7 per book and that will cover the additional shipping. (So: Either $7, $14, or $35 depending on the tier.) Thanks!

Stretch Goals

Here's what will happen the more money we raise:

$5,000 Initial Goal UNLOCKED: Just 8 Hours after the Kickstarter went live, we hit our initial goal. That means Boss Fight Books is definitely going to happen. Now let's make this press as good as it can be!

$10,000 Stretch Goal UNLOCKED: We promised our authors that if we hit our stretch goal of $10,000, they'd each get a $500 advance. And early into Day Two, we hit that goal! From Anna, Darius, Jon, Michael, and Ken--THANK YOU.

$15,000 - Forewords UNLOCKED - Each launch title will contain a short foreword by an established writer, game designer, or artist.

$20,000 - New Tier: ZZT Game UNLOCKED - After she writes her book, Anna Anthropy is going to make a brand new game in ZZT. One backer will get to decide what the game is about, where it takes place, and who the main character is! Once the game is complete, Anna and Boss Fight will release the new game, crediting you as co-creator.

$25,000 - New Tier: Game Art (Part One) UNLOCKED - Artist Rachel B. Glaser (of the much-loved NBA Paintings series) will create a piece of original artwork inspired by the game of your choice. The piece will be created in Photoshop (either 18"x18" or 18"x24"), printed on heavyweight, satin-finish photo paper, signed by the artist, and then mailed right to you. + your name on the SPECIAL THANKS page of each of our launch titles + all rewards for "SEASON ONE" PRINT SUBSCRIPTION.

Last Week of Campaign UNLOCKED - Book #6 finalists announced.

$30,000 - New Tier: Game Art (Part Two) UNLOCKED - For a limited number of backers, an established artist will create an original piece of art for you by painting a vintage game cartridge.

$40,000 - Bonus eBook UNLOCKED - All backers who donate $10 or more will be sent a bonus PDF collection of great essays about video games, featuring the work of Boss Fight authors and other established writers.

End of Campaign - Book #6 title revealed!

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Each of our authors is already hard at work on his or her book, and some titles may take more or less time than the author expected. In the interest of getting books out to readers as soon as possible, we may need to rearrange the order in which the books are released.

Our publication model ensures that as long as we meet our initial goal of $5000, we can accommodate any volume of sales. And no matter what, we will keep our backers updated throughout the launching and printing of these launch titles.

Please be sure to check back in with us throughout the campaign for news, interviews, press, stretch goals, and updates.

Thank you so much for your support! Let's get these books out into the world.

FAQ

  • Yes. We love novels that integrate gaming, but we think this series will hang together better if all our books are nonfiction.

    Last updated:
  • Not that old. It's often easier to write about games that have been around a few years: They've had time to be played, considered, replayed, reconsidered, and written about, but we are interested in tackling newer games as well. Just not "Bioshock Infinite" new where the game is still in its big sales cycle.

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  • Sure! If you want two copies of one book, you can simply choose the $40 "Both a PRINT COPY and a DIGITAL COPY of the TWO books of your choice..." tier and then let us know at the end which you want.

    If you want additional books, simply choose the same tier mentioned above and then "overpledge" in proportion to the number of copies you'd like. ($60 = 3 books, $80 = 4, etc.) If you live outside of the United States, please add an additional $15 per book. We can accommodate any volume/combination you like.

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    NEW ZZT GAME TIER *** After she writes her book, Anna Anthropy will make a brand new game in ZZT. You will get to decide what the game is about, where it takes place, and who the main character is. Once the game is complete, Anna and Boss Fight will release the new game, crediting you as co-creator. + your name on the SPECIAL THANKS page of each of our launch titles + all rewards for "SEASON ONE" PRINT SUBSCRIPTION.

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