Well Read: Console Wars

The new book, Console Wars, focuses on the war in the 1990s that took place between Nintendo and Sega. Nintendo had a monopoly on the video game industry in the early 90s and Sega was virtually an unknown commodity at that time. The battle that ensued was truly epic and it was fought from the schoolyard all the way to Congress. It wasn’t just a clash between gamers over which brand was superior—it was a war that raged between the two now iconic video game companies—and it was fought on practically every front imaginable.

Blake J. Harris is the author of Console Wars—the writer is also currently working on a documentary and feature film based on his book. The documentary will be co-directed by Harris and is being produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldgberg. The feature film will be executive produced by Harris and it will be directed by the duo of Rogen and Goldberg.

We talked to Blake J. Harris about his motivation to write Console Wars, his current love for the video game world and the historical value of his story.

What inspired you to take on the story of Console Wars?

About 3 years ago my brother gave me a Sega Genesis for my birthday. We had a Genesis when we were kids and getting the system again reminded me of how much time I spent playing video games as a child. That Genesis system really peaked my interest and I started researching video game history. I realized there was a fun story that could be told and I spent about 3 years putting it all together.

Is it true you conducted over 200 interviews with people from Nintendo and Sega for the book?

I felt like an assassin hunting down all those people for interviews. I reached out to a lot of people and at first very few responded. Little by little the network grew when people enjoyed speaking with me and then directed me towards others. It was a real challenge—especially dealing with Nintendo. They are very guarded and it took a long time to get through to them.

Do you think competition and rivalries amongst companies is ultimately good for the consumer and the product? 

I genuinely think it is. I think competition helps innovation. Pricing wars and marketing battles ultimately help the consumer. In the case of Nintendo and Sega, it made both companies make better products. It gave the consumer better graphics, better games and better pricing.

What can you tell us about the upcoming feature film and the documentary based on Console Wars

A couple of years ago I met with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg about my book Console Wars. I spoke with them about my desire to do a documentary based on the book. We had a wonderful 2-hour meeting. We talked about our favorite video games and who I had interviewed for the book. They wanted to be involved in the documentary and ultimately the feature film. Everything Rogen and Goldberg touch turns to gold. Seth is a major star and his involvement has helped us receive a lot of exposure.

What can you accomplish with the documentary that you can’t with the book?

I have been asking myself that question a lot during this entire process. Why do both? What benefits does each offer? There is a rich nostalgia aspect that you can capture with the documentary. The commercials and promotional materials of that era—I try to describe them in the book—but the documentary is the best way to get those things across. It’s also very important to have these people tell their stories in their own words.

Has your appreciation for video games risen since finishing Console Wars?

Definitely. Since starting to work on this project I have bought a PlayStation 3 and a Wii U. More so than just playing the games, my appreciation of them as storytelling devices has gone up.  

Do you think non video game fans will be able to relate to this story?

It’s a very relevant story for our modern society. There was a time when people thought video games were a fad. This story is about the video game industry turning itself into this huge modern day entertainment industry. My goal for this book was to write a story that is compelling. I definitely tried to appeal to the gamer demographic but at the same time I want the person who doesn’t know anything about video games to read this story and realize it’s about more than just games. I think as a storyteller my greatest challenge is making something that is very specific accessible to a [large audience].

Do you have any other projects you are currently working on outside of the Console Wars world?

A musical I wrote about the internet, entitled WikiMusical, will make its debut this summer in New York.

You can learn more about Console Wars at consolewarsbook.com. You can also learn more about Blake J. Harris’ new musical at wikithemusical.com.

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