If you say the name”Bill Kunkel” to someone in public, they are likely to either just refer to the MLB Baseball player of the same name or give you the “Never heard of em” line. Those who delve deep into the background of video games though, especially on the journalist side of things; will tell you that Bill was the man who pioneered video game journalism in the first place. “Confessions of the Game Doctor” tell the memoirs of Mr. Kunkel as he breaks his way in and out of the comic book business during the early 70’s and eventually starts the first video game publication: “Electronic Games”
“Bill’s book is unique from any gaming history book I’ve read. Hands down.”
If your looking for a book similar to “Game Over”, “The Ultimate History of Video Games” or “Power Up”, you may be slightly disappointed. This is strictly a look at game journalism from Bill’s prospective, so don’t expect to learn the origins of Donkey Kong here. Instead we get to go back to a time where the only way to cover video games in print was with a telephone, electric typewriter and an artist’s rendition of “ game screen shots”. Reading this book, I learned just how lucky I am to live in an age where if I want to get something out to the public; I can put in a username and password and write or get in front of a camera and talk and have a video up available to millions in minutes. Bill’s journey into working on comic books is quite interesting as well, mostly because its not as glorious as it might seem to be. Bill covers his tenure with Marvel, DC, as well as Harvey comics; its obvious that people really jumped around from company to company in the industry.
Bill sadly passed away at the of 61, just a few short months ago. RIP Bill!
The most interesting parts of this book to me were about Bill’s expert testimony on 3 rather large scale court cases involving the game industry. The first being Pac-Man VS KC Munchkin, the second defending the Game Genie and finally defending Data East’s Street Fighter clone “Fighter’s History.” If it wasn’t for Bill’s representation of these companies, we may never have saw Game Genie on store shelves and Capcom would most likely be the only fighting game in town next to Mortal Kombat. For someone you may not have heard of, he’s certainly helped broaden the industry as a whole.
Photo courtesy of Chris Cavanaugh.
If you’re interested in game journalism, pay your respects to Bill by picking up this book. While I did find some chapters to be a bland at times, the best chapters make the whole book worth while. Bill and his book has definitely helped shed a little more light on the dark alleyways of an industry I love.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Pick up the book here: http://www.rolentapress.com/Products/Confessions%20of%20the%20Game%20Doctor/Preview.htm