[SIGCIS-Members] Book announcement: GAMING THE IRON CURTAIN out Dec 18 on MIT Press

Jaroslav Švelch jaroslav at svelch.com
Wed Dec 5 10:16:39 PST 2018

Dear colleagues,

I have mostly been just a lurker on this list, mainly because I have never been to a SHOT conference and don’t know most members in person. This might change next year, as I’m planning to come to Milan.
However, I would like to announce the release of my book Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games.

The book tells a social history of computer games in 1980s Czechoslovakia in seven chapters, starting with technology policies and hardware manufacturing, and ending with activist games about the 1988-89 demonstrations that led up to the Velvet Revolution. Along the way, I peek into paramilitary youth clubs, arcades on wheels, and bedrooms and kitchens of computer enthusiasts. I also dicuss informal software distribution, gaming fanzines, DIY joysticks, illegal arcade machine manufacturing, ports and conversions, and some very local computer game genres. I’m hoping the book will be of interest not only to game scholars, but also to historians of computing and technology in general. Also, it has cool photos!

The book is coming out December 18 with MIT Press in the Game Histories series: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/gaming-iron-curtain
If you’d like to ask for a review copy, please contact David Ryman at MIT Press: dryman at mit.edu


An official summary follows:

How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia
Claimed the Medium of Computer Games
Jaroslav Švelch

Aside from the exceptional history of Tetris, very little is known about gaming culture behind the Iron Curtain. But despite the scarcity of home computers and the absence of hardware and software markets, Czechoslovakia hosted a remarkably active DIY microcomputer scene in the 1980s, producing more than two hundred games that were by turns creative, inventive, and politically subversive. In Gaming the Iron Curtain, Jaroslav Švelch offers the first social history of gaming and game design in 1980s Czechoslovakia, and the first book-length treatment of computer gaming in any country of the Soviet bloc. 
Švelch describes how amateur programmers in 1980s Czechoslovakia discovered games as a medium, using them not only for entertainment but also as a means of self-expression. Sheltered in state-supported computer clubs, local programmers fashioned games into a medium of expression that, unlike television or the press, was neither regulated nor censored. In the final years of Communist rule, Czechoslovak programmers were among the first in the world to make activist games about current political events, anticipating trends observed decades later in independent or experimental titles. Drawing from extensive interviews as well as political, economic, and social history, Gaming the Iron Curtain tells a compelling tale of gaming the system, introducing us to individuals who used their ingenuity to be active, be creative, and be heard.

Jaroslav Švelch, Ph.D.
New media and digital games scholar (http://svelch.com)
Postdoctoral fellow, University of Bergen
Games and Transgressive Aesthetics project: http://gta.b.uib.no/
Assistant professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague (on leave)
My book GAMING THE IRON CURTAIN: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games
Coming out December 2018 with MIT Press, https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/gaming-iron-curtain

Phone: +420 773 988 425

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