I read forty-four books this year, which is not as many as I have read in previous years. I read a lot of articles and blog posts about video gaming, but only two books about it (an indication of the location of all the hip criticism at the moment, I think, though Dan at Digital Ephemera has an impressive list). I've already told you my thoughts on Extra Lives; this post is about Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction.
In short, I loved the book. It was easy to read and elucidated all the things I was confused about (including some a hint that Aarseth's taxonomy of interactive games is impractical, why didn't I think of that?). The game history section focused on the evolution of the form, being aware of the limitations of hardware but without getting caught up in a specs discussion. I also loved the chapter on narrative. The overview of video game "risks" seemed a little overly dichotomized (psychologists' research vs anthropologists', essentially), but it gave a good overview of the state of things (most research from psychologists oversimplifies the variable of "video game").
These guys really did their research! If you're overwhelmed by the amount of serious literature on video games, this book will have you covered for a while, though it does not cover current issues like the rise of the indie game and viral marketing things. It also has a disappointing amount of punctuation and sentence errors. Anyway, I liked this book so much that I wrote the only Amazon review for it (some small part of me is sad when good books like this go unnoticed). Hope you've had a great holiday!