How to Master the Video Games


Definition Video game guide
Written by Tom Hirschfeld
Published by Bantam Books, Inc.
Published 1981
Media Paperback book
Followed by How to Master the Home Video Games
BOTSS relationship The book has an entire chapter devoted
to "Space Invaders-Type Games"


How To Master the Video Games is a video game guide that was released in 1981. Thirty popular games (at the time) of various genres were covered over the span of 177 pages, along with several extras that were included in the book. It was written by Tom Hirschfeld.

One entire chapter was devoted to "Space Invaders-Type Games", all of which (10 total) were bottom of the screen shooters.


The book begins with an introduction, being a mix of Hirschfeld’s opinions of how “video games are not a fad”, that games actually do not isolate people, and likens arcades as to being like a “club”. He also briefly went over the business aspect of the medium (how much a machine’s weekly take consisted of) and what to expect in the book.

Other sections included "For Beginners Only", giving a basic overview of games in particular, stating of how most games have player objects that are controlled via joystick and a fire button, most include scoring as an objective, as well as how some of the games run on waves or cycles (such as with Gorf). The "Know Your Enemy" chapter gives a very basic, quick crash course overview of the workings of a game’s RAM, ROM and (usually) REG functions, along with how the input from the player (the controls) affects games and the kinds of graphics games ran on back then.

"Seven Steps to Mastery" includes watching people play a game, getting and sharing advice from people in regards to a game ("Teamwork"), using "Concentration" on a game, getting a “feeling” for a game’s “rhythms” ("Tempo"), observing various things that happen in a game ("Observation"), having "Experimentation" pay off with discovering bonuses (if applicable), and "Memorization" (as some games you will have to memorize various circumstances, if not entire patterns in order to succeed).

As far as gaming content went, each individual game entry in the book came with a diagram (screen drawing), a list of controls, scoring, dangers to players, observations (which covers game play, behavior of enemies, etc.), and strategies.

A chapter for "Off-Machine Exercises" was also included in order to try to keep players in decent physical form in order to hopefully improve their gaming experience, which involved hand, eye, finger, and tempo exercises. "The TV Connection" chapter also covered the advantage of owning a home console, even though they were far less powerful than their arcade cousins back then. However, as Hirschfeld pointed out, they took up far less space and offer privacy and unlimited plays. They also have a broader range of genres, such as educational, and even if their arcade conversions weren’t exact, they still could have many game variations per cartridge, which the arcade games usually did not.

The book concluded with an "Appendix of Manufacturers", listing addresses of many home and arcade video game manufacturers.

Bottom of the Screen Shooters coveredEdit

The very first video game chapter of the book, "Space Invaders-Type Games", exclusively covered bottom of the screen shooters. These games included Astro Blaster, Astro Fighter, Centipede, Galaxian, Gorf, Moon Cresta, Phoenix, Pleiades, Space Invaders, and Space Invaders Part II.


  • A Space Invaders cabinet is very clearly seen on the book’s front cover.
  • Along with regular strategies being covered, some secrets were as well, such as the 300 point U. F. O. secret in the Space Invaders entry and many of the secret bonuses in the Astro Blaster chapter.
  • Several other genres of games were also covered other than just bottom of the screen shooters, being "Asteroids-Type Games" (scrolling shooters or games where players could thrust a ship around an environment, such as with Asteroids, Space Fury, Space Odyssey, Scramble and more), "Maze Games" (Armor Attack, Berzerk, Pac-Man, etc.), "Reflex Games" (Monaco GP, Sky Raider, Space Zap), and "Miscellaneous Games" (Battlezone, Crazy Climber and Missile Command).


Click on the Tabber below for a review.


Well, this book's killer, what else can you say. I've gone through my two copies of it a million times since it came out in 1981 (yes, two copies, as I had one stolen [but who could blame the guy who did it?] and I had to get another one).

You really have to admire Tom Hirschfeld and two other people credited with whom "originated" it, back in pre-internet days, along with wondering how many (possibly) hundreds of hours were poured into note-taking, getting score tables correct, etc. Possibly one of more of the people involved worked at an arcade or had access to game manuals and the like, but if not, lord knows how much time was spent on just researching it alone, not to mention being able to come up with strategies and all too.

I believe there are very few errors in the book (a certain target in Astro Fighter is labeled as to being a "light bulb"? Oh please!), although the off-screen exercises are a bit much (did anyone actually DO any of these?!). Still, though, I give this a very rare 10 out of 10 from myself, something I hardly ever do upon reviews.

It is that good, period. 10/10

(review by Darrylb500)

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