G&G Reads: Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA

By Michael Mendis

Service Games Book.png

Author: Sam Pettus

First Published: 2013

Length: 472 pages

Growing up as a kid, my favorite pastime was playing video games, and most of the time I was playing on my SEGA Genesis.  A gift from my parents at some point in the mid-1990s, the Genesis became an integral part of my childhood, and I spent countless hours playing through as many of the Sonic the Hedgehog games as I could get my hands on.  These years were what cemented my interest in gaming, and even today I enjoy going back every now and then to play some of those classic, retro games.  On top of that, I’ve also come to enjoy learning about different gaming companies, how they operate, and the ways they have impacted the gaming industry as a whole.  So when I heard that someone had written a book talking about the corporate history of SEGA, I couldn’t pass it up.

In his book Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA, author Sam Pettus dives into the history of one of the most fascinating companies in the history of gaming, focusing on their years creating video game consoles.  He details how SEGA put together a console (the Genesis/Mega Drive) and a marketing strategy that could go toe-to-toe with rival Nintendo, and how internal conflict within SEGA’s management tore them apart, causing them to make numerous unforced errors and dooming the company’s future as a console maker.  While Pettus occasionally delves into technical jargon that goes over my head, he does a good job overall of putting everything into language that the average person can understand, boiling down the nitty-gritty details into something more digestible.  He touches on many aspects of SEGA’s business in those years, from the technology within each of their consoles, to their relationship with third-party game developers, to the ways they marketed their products to the public, and more.  To me, the most interesting parts of the book are where it describes the inner workings of SEGA’s management, how the Japanese and Western branches worked together (or, more often, how they didn’t), and the way that different people within SEGA affected the company’s fortunes.

The book is well researched, backed up by countless articles from throughout SEGA’s years as a console creator, as well as interviews from top executives and developers from around the industry.  Some of the interviews within the book are from old articles and gaming journalism outlets, but others were conducted by the author himself, providing new information that can’t be found anywhere else; one former SEGA executive provided Pettus with a detailed account of an important internal meeting that had been largely unknown or misunderstood by the general public up to that point.  Pettus also intersperses pictures throughout the book; some of these images are screenshots from important games released at the time, while others showcase the marketing materials used by SEGA and other game companies.  These pictures provide a useful historical snapshot of the game industry during the 1990s and complement the text nicely.

If you have any interest in learning about the game industry, I highly recommend this book.  Pettus clearly put a lot of time and dedication into making this the most accurate account of SEGA’s corporate history on the market, and does an excellent job of detailing the company’s successes and failures.  When we think of the word “corporation”, we tend to think of some powerful, faceless entity, one with no personality and driven only by profit; Pettus’ great achievement in this book is to highlight the many real people within SEGA who made the company what it was, for better or worse.

Judges - The Texture of Failure: Week 1

By Jacob Toman

The Book of Judges is sometimes portrayed as the action hero comic of the Bible: we see individuals like Samson doing incredible superhuman feats, and stories like Gideon are inspiring in the overcoming of seemingly overwhelming odds. Yet Judges isn’t given so we can idolize or reminise or exalt the deeds of the men and women here; it is given for us to see the commitment of God to making his people holy - set apart from sin - and serve as a warning to the subtle insipid nature of sin. The Book of Judges isn’t a list of heroes: it’s a roll call of what happens when God’s people compromise in their faith to follow the Lord.

  1. Who are the people of God listening to at the beginning of Judges? (Hint: Verse 1)
  2. What does God command to his people in verse 2?
  3. How do God’s people respond in verse 3?
  4. What is the fate of Adoni-Bezak? (Hint: Verse 7)
  5. Was the fate of Adoni-Bezak something God commanded?
  6. What does Caleb promise to anyone who can take Kiriath Sepher? (Hint: Verse 12)
  7. What do we see in Caleb’s wedding gift? (Hint: verse 15)
  8. What are we told about the Lord in verse 19?
  9. How has God dealt with Chariots in the past? (Hint: Joshua 24:6-7)
  10. What is the repeated pattern 27-36?
  11. What has changed from verse 1, to verse 36?

If we begin to look at the Book of Judges as the story of how God’s people utterly rejected the words and ways that he gave to them, we will begin to see the true tragedy of Judges. We begin to see the enemies of Israel as their own sin and rejection of God, and the solution to all their problems found in listening and obeying the Lord, rather than putting their faith in themselves.

Joshua 24:6-7

When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. But they cried to the LORD for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the wilderness for a long time.

Judges 1

1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

2 The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”

3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.

4 When Judah attacked, the Lord gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10 They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).

12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

15 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms[b] with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed[c] the city. Therefore it was called Hormah.[d] 18 Judah also took[e] Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.

19 The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak.21 The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.

22 Now the tribes of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the Lord was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz),24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.” 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.

27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them.30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labor. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. 32 The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. 33 Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the tribes of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.

Community in Mobile Gaming

By Ben Kieffer

In the early 90’s when I was but a lad, my mom had one of the early versions of a Nokia cell phone (the kind with an all green background and black ink block letters).  I was too young to have friends to call, but it didn’t take long before I found on her phone a game called “Snake”. It was a simple concept where you direct a line using the 2, 8, 6, and 4 buttons to move your line up, down, left, and right; the goal is to drive the snake around “eating” blocks that appeared on the screen and the snake grew with each one collected.

Snake Nokia phone.jpg

The game that went unnoticed by my mom was one of the early versions of mobile gaming, an enterprise which today shows up on smartphones, kindles, and tablets in the form of apps and is worth legitimate money. As an adult I do not have a smart phone, but I do enjoy mobile gaming on a Kindle. Far from the days of Snake on a solid green background, I have recently been playing Madden Mobile. The console sports game which has been a staple of EA Sports for many years now has a handheld version.

Madden Mobile cover art.jpg

I quickly found myself filling the little gaps of time with a season game here or a live event there. Smart phones and tablets are a bastion of individualism, each one fitted with all the apps and setting of the owner. Mobile gaming, therefore, can be a completely solitary experience. However, in many mobile games there is a social component. From my experience with Madden Mobile, I got involved in a league; leagues give the player an opportunity to compete against other members and compete in league vs. league tournaments.

In Madden Mobile leagues there are rankings, the ability to send gifts, and a chat box which also automatically updates you on the accomplishments of your members. For the first few weeks I didn’t see anything in the chat box, but then out of nowhere I saw people asking to be made an admin and bemoaning losses. I found a great opportunity in the chat box to get to know people, as well as congratulate and encourage them in their victories. Some would not respond at all, most were polite. Once in a blue moon, someone would give a detailed summary of his entire day. These league members made for the easiest conversation.

One negative aspect of mobile gaming is the chat in league vs. league tournament. People have two levels of anonymity in knowing that they will share the chat space only for 24 hours, and they will be hard to find afterward. I have had people say offensive things that are completely unfounded in reality. I had one opponent mock my ability to play the game and my physical appearance (of which he or she could not have been aware) so I decided to politely agree and say that I probably was bad at the game and would never find love with a pig face like mine. Generally, I don’t engage with the trash talkers, but in this particular experience it was fun to see the person be disarmed and confused when I agreed with their claims.

Madden Mobile leagues.jpg

Mobile gaming is a paradox. It is alone and it is together. It is disconnected and it is entirely connected. It is achievement based and it is a waste of time. So, the question is, are you willing to spend your spare ten minutes growing fake crops, playing in a 3-minute super bowl, or developing a civilization? Because with today’s technology you can do all of that and more, and be as alone or in community as you want in the process.