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Good Reads For Gaming Enthusiasts – Essentially Pop

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If you are a fan of gaming in all its forms, there are actually a surprising number of engrossing and informative books that delve into a range of niches and aspects of this pastime.

So if you’ve got a desire to put down the controller and pick up a paper publication, get stuck into the e-book equivalent, or even investigate the fast-growing audiobook market, you won’t go wrong if you choose one of the following tomes.

Casino Royale – Ian Fleming

Undoubtedly one of the best gambling books of all time in terms of the way it catches and conveys the glitz and glamour of the land-based casino scene, as well as being a rip-roaring tale involving international super-spy James Bond, anyone with even a passing interest in gaming should snap up Casino Royale.

There is a certain old-school charm to the way that Bond is characterized, and of course it is appealing to find out what life was like inside high class gambling houses in the middle of the 20th century, long before the era of digital slot machines. And for anyone who gets daunted by longer reads, Casino Royale is mercifully compact in terms of page count, which is another point in its favour.

Blood, Sweat and Pixels – Jason Schreier

When you fire up a game, whether that be a modern blockbuster like the latest Call of Duty or a low budget indie labour of love, you might not appreciate just how much time and effort has been poured into its creation. This book aims to give readers a much better idea about the uphill struggle that most development teams face when working on their latest projects, and it really is eye-opening for the average gamer.

Part of the motivation behind doing this is to show that critics of the so-called ‘crunch’ that developers often initiate to get games finished to a deadline are right to raise concerns about the toll this takes on their employees. And raising awareness about this issue is definitely a good thing if you want working practices in the industry to change for the better.

Masters of Doom – David Kushner

Anyone who played video games in the 1990s would have inevitably stumbled across and fallen in love with Doom, Id Software’s seminal first person shooter that inspired an arm of clones and helped gaming become a mainstream pastime.

Masters of Doom turns back the clock and explains how a handful of dedicated development mavericks achieved such incredible things at a time when gaming was very much seen as a pastime for kids, as well as exploring the legacy of what they built.

Console Wars – Blake J Harris

Another nostalgia trip to the 1990s, Console Wars is a surprisingly pulse-racing read, giving a page-turning overview of the major rivalry between Japanese gaming giants Sega and Nintendo that dominated the decade.

While we obviously know today how that battle turned out in the end, with Nintendo still selling millions of consoles while Sega has been out of the hardware market for more than 20 years. Even so, it is still a joy to revisit the era when Genesis and the SNES reigned supreme.

Mass Effect: Revelation – Drew Karpyshyn

The Mass Effect franchise is known for its richly detailed characters, galaxy-spanning conflicts and deep lore, so it should be no surprise that the novelizations of the world that Bioware built are just as carefully put together and rewarding to immerse yourself in.

There are actually a number of novels in the Mass Effect canon today, but as a starting point it is probably best to opt for Revelation, which is full of intrigue, action and entertaining repartee between its humanoid and alien personalities.

The Player of Games – Iain M Banks

Whatever type of gaming you are into, few books have been able to capture the complexities of being engrossed in and fascinated by competitive experiences as well as The Player of Games from acclaimed sci-fi stalwart Iain M Banks.

Originally published back in 1988, it remains relevant to this day because of the incredible breadth of Bank’s imagination, and tribute to it has even been paid by billionaire Elon Musk in the naming of drone ships developed by his company SpaceX.

The plot of the book features a master games player who is drafted in to attempt to win an incredibly intricate and obscure game called Azad, the outcome of which determines how players are ranked in the society that invented it.

There are of course a multitude of other good reads for gamers out there, so follow your instincts and choose titles that match your preferences.



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Silk Sonic Wants You To Groove With “Skate”

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Silk Sonic has finally released its second single, and it was worth the wait. The duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak have delivered another dose of ’70s nostalgia with “Skate,” the perfect follow-up to their chart-topping “Leave The Door Open.”

After releasing their first single, Silk Sonic performed on several awards shows and specials and were nominated for three BET awards. They’ve even teased a full album, An Evening with Silk Sonic could be coming at any moment.

Until that album drops, though, we’ll have to take what we can get and “Skate” delivers. A funky and smooth tune, you’ll have it on repeat on your Spotify all day long. Check out the new track below and, as always, make sure to let us know what you think!





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Neil Nathan – ‘You’re My Lady’  – Essentially Pop

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Throughout his career, Neil Nathan has been compared to great artists on the regular. And they’re a diverse bunch too: Dusted says he reminds them of Cat Stevens; Skope likens him to the big three: Beatles, Dylan, and Cohen. Surviving The Golden Age goes further and says his music is imbued with the spirit of Roger Waters, and Bruce Springsteen; while Blogs N Roses invokes two ends of the spectrum in The Kinks, and Neil Young. Even more diverse is Powerpopaholic’s comparison of Nathan’s soulful, high energy songwriting to that of Matthew Sweet, and Jeff Tweedy; while No Ripcord pulls no punches in pronouncing Neil Nathan to be “the bastard stepchild of Jackson Browne and David Bowie”.

That’s some mighty big boots to be stepping into.

But listen to Nathan’s songs, and you’ll instantly know why he elicits such comparisons. He has a classic style about him in every aspect – from his songwriting, deep understanding of the storytelling art, his powerful lyrics, his pleasant and versatile voice, his guitar, with its warm tones, and his talent for timing.

His latest single, ‘You’re My Lady’, a joyous celebration of love and togetherness, feels readymade for easygoing radio; there’s a familiarity about it, it could easily be a 70s FM radio classic high rotation track. It’s a pop-rock standard right from the outset.

The lyrics to ‘You’re My Lady’ tell the story of a man who travels through dangerous terrain, just to get to the woman he loves. His lady. The video takes the frank, forthright, and homespun lyrics one step further, and we see Nathan dressed in a spacesuit, wandering through the desert. Soon enough, he’s performing, helmet and reflective clothing still on, in front of computer animated graphics, strumming his acoustic guitar, while otherworldly landscapes flash by behind him. In one glorious scene we see the earth rise before him, as he roams across a barren moon.

Watch the video for ‘You’re My Lady’ below, and keep up with Neil Nathan and his music by way of his official website.



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Wolf Rd – ‘As Good As It Gets’ – Essentially Pop

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Chicago quartet Wolf Rd have been hometown heroes right from the start of their career, and when they celebrated the launch of their 2019 debut EP, ‘Nowhere Around You’, the show was sold out.

Wolf Rd are still releasing singles from the EP, complete with music videos, along with high energy performances in the Chicago area, which have seen them share the stage with national touring acts, and ensuring their position as one of the Windy City’s most loved local bands.

Made up from Chris Hoffmann (vocals), Nick Hoffmann (drums/additional instrumentation), Geoffrey Duckmann (guitar), and Devin Stone (bass), Wolf Rd blend the signature anthemic melodies and passion of pop-punk instrumentation more familiar to fans of metal; suffice to say they’ve created a sound that is both unique and genre-inclusive. They’ve drawn comparisons with All Time Low, and State Champs, for their harmonic vocals, while their energy sees them likened to Neck Deep, and their raw emotion calls to mind that of their Chicago compadres, Knuckle Puck, and Real Friends. Wolf Rd’s cathartic songs are ideal to get those feelings out, no matter where you’re screaming the lyrics – whether that be the basement of a local club, or through your speakers or headphones at home.

‘As Good As It Gets’, from their new EP, ‘Counterpoint’, shows fans a more mellow, delicate side of the band. Produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered by Roye Robley, the track features acoustic guitars, and sweet harmonies, as well as a guest vocal from Sylvia Mendez. Explaining that break-up songs don’t have to be nasty or violent in order to share the pain, Chris Hoffmann says,

“One thing that was really important to me was that I didn’t want this song to be one-sided. I’m far from perfect, and when things fall apart, both sides usually share some of the blame.”

The video for ‘As Good As It Gets’ starts with the aftermath of a birthday party. A “Happy Birthday Bartley,” banner proclaims its intent, along with torn streamers and empty beer bottles, casually strewn around a backyard. The scenes of the clip perform as a metaphor for the rollercoaster relationship outlined in the song; we see both sides, from the sweet, intimate moments to the heated arguments and the dramatic end. But the memories – just like the remnants of a party, are still there to haunt you.

Watch the clip for ‘As Good As It Gets’ below, and find out more about Wolf Rd and their music online, by checking out their official website.



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