Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master: Pong, Atari, and the Dawn of the Video Game by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi

Want a quick way to learn history? Try graphic novels! My latest graphic nonfiction read is Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master: Pong, Atari, and the Dawn of the Video Game by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi.

I will admit that I don’t know much about videogames. I didn’t play much growing up and as an adult, my current exposure is mostly limited to helping people check out videogames at the library. However, I am always fascinated in learning the history, well, behind literally anything. Last week while on a road trip, I discovered that the founder of Atari, Nolan Bushnell, went on to also found the Chuck E. Cheese’s businesses. (Don’t ask how I fell into that random rabbit hole, but it was a fun trip!) Wanting to learn more, I checked the Library’s catalog and found a nonfiction graphic novel called Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master: Pong, Atari, and the Dawn of the Video Game by David Kushner and Koren Shadmi. This nonfiction graphic novel perfectly satisfied my curiosity, though I will admit that it is based on a magazine article and that is clearly reflected given how short the book is. I would love to learn more about the two men involved and their rivalry. Instead the novel focuses on the two mens’ direct relationship to Pong and a bit of their relationship with each other.

Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master is a nostalgic look into the start of gaming. Readers examine the start of Silicone Valley through the lives of Ralph Baer and Nolan Bushnell, two very different men vying for the title of inventor of video games. Baer was a Jewish immigrant whose family fled Germany for America. He developed the first TV video-game console and ping-pong game in the 1960s. Baer then went on to work for Magnavox. Bushnell founded Atari and then put out his own pioneering table-tennis arcade game called Pong in 1972. As a result, a massive battle ensued between Baer and Bushnell over who really invented video games. They spent decades arguing over who started this multibillion-dollar industry, but never really came to a conclusion. This graphic novel focuses on their battle, while also showcasing the groundbreaking inventions and innovation that had to occur for those games to be created and to then spark the seeds for today’s ground-breaking games.

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