Significant Zero

Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games

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About The Book

From the award-winning videogame writer behind Spec Ops: The Line comes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how today’s blockbuster video games are made.

When his satirical musings in a college newspaper got him discharged from the Air Force, it became clear to Walt Williams that his destiny in life was to be a writer—he just never thought he’d end up writing video games, let alone working on some of the most successful franchises in the industry—Bioshock, Civilization, Borderlands, and Mafia among others.

Williams pulls back the curtain on an astonishingly profitable industry that has put its stamp on pop culture and yet is little known to those outside its walls. In his reflective yet comically-observant voice, Williams walks you through his unlikely and at times inglorious rise within one of the world’s top gaming companies, exposing an industry abundant in brain power and out-sized egos, but struggling to stay innovative. Significant Zero also provides clear-eyed criticism of the industry’s addiction to violence and explains how the role of the narrative designer—the poor soul responsible for harmonizing gameplay with storylines—is crucial for expanding the scope of video games into more immersive and emotional experiences.

Significant Zero offers a rare look inside this fascinating, billion-dollar industry and a path forward for its talented men and women—gamers and nongamers alike—that imagines how video games might inspire the best in all of us.

About The Author

Ryan Mattson

Walt Williams is the award-winning video game writer known for his work on such beloved franchises as Star Wars Battlefront, Bioshock, Civilization, Borderlands, Mafia, The Darkness, and the acclaimed, genre-bending Spec Ops: The Line. His book, Significant Zero, explores the hardships and insanity of AAA game development. He lives in Louisiana with his family.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (September 2017)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501129957

Raves and Reviews

“A compelling look into a world that doesn't like to spill its secrets to outsiders . . . . [Significant Zero] has a bright Hero's Journey arc (complete with setbacks, small deaths) and the winning of boons through cleverness and combat.” (Jason Sheehan, NPR)

"Fascinating and compelling, Walt Williams’ memoir is an incredibly human account of what it takes to survive in today’s video game industry. Significant Zero is more than a tale of Williams’ hard-won wisdom but an inspired vision of a better future for games.” (Jane McGonigal, author of New York Times bestsellers Reality is Broken and SuperBetter)

"Prediction: What William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade was for aspiring filmmakers, Walt Williams's Significant Zero will be for aspiring video game developers. Williams is—somehow simultaneously—funny, rude, exasperating, and inspiring, and he describes the insider reality of game development better than anyone has yet. A tremendously entertaining book." (Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives and Apostle)

"There is no one way to break into the AAA game industry. But, as Walt's hilarious and humble account shows, fumbling through it like a badly planned heist seems to work and makes for one hell of a read." (Janina Gavankar, musician, actress, “True Blood,” Far Cry 4, and lead of Star Wars Battlefront 2)

“Walt Williams finally brings to video games what Robert Evans' "The Kid Stays in the Picture" brought to film: A seminal book of vicious truths. Funny and unforgettable, Significant Zero unravels a highly secretive creative industry in ways PR professionals only have nightmares about." (Mitch Dyer, writer, Star Wars Battlefront II)

"Significant Zero demystifies the game publisher-developer relationship and puts a human face on the struggles of people working their way up from the bottom." (Dan Stapleton, executive editor, IGN)

"An entertaining and provocative look inside big-time video game development." (Kirkus)

"A dark, humorous look into video game publishing, essential for anyone interested in the gaming industry and an entertaining read." (Library Journal)

“Williams reveals the video-gaming industry in all its lucrative shine and questionable morality . . . . [and] provides a refreshing and realistic portrayal of succeeding at attaining a dream via an unforeseen career trajectory.” (Booklist)

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