8-2 | I AM ERROR: The Nintendo Family Computer/Entertainment System Platform

Book Review

I AM ERROR: The Nintendo Family Computer/Entertainment System Platform

Nathan Altice
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015. Series forward, appendix, notes, sources, index. 426 pp. $40.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780262028776

by Michael Z. Newman

First Paragraph:

The Nintendo Entertainment System(NES) and its Japanese predecessor, the Family Computer or Famicom, hold a unique place in video game history as the bridge between two eras. Before Nintendo’s console, which was released in Japan in 1983 and in North America in 1985, the vanguard of electronic play was the arcade cabinet produced to play a single game. Nintendo’s Donkey Kong (1981) was one such game, which was adapted for play in the home as a cartridge for a variety of consoles including the Famicom and NES. The Famicom/NES was the platform that established home console play as the vanguard. As processing power increased and PC gaming developed, the arcade faded as a key site of electronic leisure. In the later 1980s and 1990s, playing Nintendo was often synonymous with playing video games, and Nintendo has endured into the present by continually exploiting the intellectual property popularized by the Famicom-NES platform, particularly Mario of Super Mario Bros. (1985), whose origins are in Donkey Kong’s Jumpman. Few video game producers or platforms are of greater historical significance than Nintendo and the NES. As an entry in the groundbreaking MIT Press series of Platform Studies, Nathan Altice’s I AM ERROR gives Nintendo its due as an object of rigorous critical and historical study, while also providing a welcome intervention within the literature on platforms as cultural artifacts. Our knowledge of video game consoles and of this one in particular are substantially increased by Altice’s exhaustive efforts to explore and explicate the Famicom-NES from the inside out, but so are our understandings of digital cultural expression and the poetics of computers as expressive media. This book serves as a case study and exemplar of the history of digital technology as an aesthetic terrain.