FROM ANCIENT ORIGINS – Why do we play? Where did games come from? The book begins at the dawn of humanity, when play was just as important as it is now. Discover the ancient origins of gaming from Mancala to Chess.

Illustration of Alan Turing and the Enigma Machine

CAN A MACHINE PLAY? – From the Mechanical Turk to Alan Turing, before the first microchip, engineers and scientists obsessed over creating machines that could play games. And by the end of World War II all the pieces were in place for the very first video games to be invented.

Illustration of Spacewar video game

THE GAME BEGINS – How a group of MIT hackers tore apart a $120,000 computer to invent the first video game, and gave rise to Atari, Pong and the arcade era.

Illustration of Mario and Sonic in a boxing ring

PLAYER SELECT – Discover how Japanese game designers like Toru Iwatani and Shigeru Miyamoto revolutionised gaming by introducing the first iconic video game characters in Pac-Man and Mario. Why do video game controllers, and video game characters, feel like an extension of our bodies? And what effects do video game representations of gender and race have on us as players, and society as a whole?

Image of Chell from Portal escaping GLADOS

LEVEL UP – From the pixellated galaxies of Spacewar to immersive cityscapes of Grand Theft Auto, how do game designers create worlds we want to get lost in? And what can games teach us about the real world and our place in it?

Illustration of the protagonist from Bioshock hiding from a Big Daddy

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE – Choice is at the heart of all games. From Dungeons & Dragons to Bioshock, what do games teach us about free will, personal responsibility and the nature of choice?

Image of the author wielding a chainsaw against a horde of video game enemies

BEYOND PIXELS – What happens when games spill over into the real world? Discover the surprisingly long history behind the panics over video game violence and addiction, the complex relationship between games and warfare, and the positive role that games can play in our lives.