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What Sega history books are wrong?

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by cartridgeculture, Jun 19, 2022.

  1. cartridgeculture


    Wiki Contributor Member
    So there are quite a few books that cover Sega history, and not all of them are as correct as others. Which is okay, this isn't to harp on authors who made mistakes (game history is an evolving landscape), but it would be helpful to know what mistakes were made. A list of errors per book would be incredibly useful for potential readers and researchers, much like our Sonic the Hedgehog Encyclo-speed-ia page contains. This is a large task, but if anyone remembers even a single inaccuracy in a Sega history book, please contribute!
  2. LockOnRommy11


    This is a monumental task, considering some details we have are up for debate, whilst others have previously been proven, only for them additional evidence to crop up.

    One major example of an ongoing issue is the ‘who did what’ for Sonic’s design. Various sources from Japanese and Western internal SEGA sources cite slightly different information and opinions on who did what and say (I.e removing Sonic’s fangs, assuming they were there to begin with). Lots of this information is spread across various publications, from gaming magazines to dedicated books such as Read-Only Memory’s Mega Drive / Genesis Collected Works.

    I think this thread is a great idea, though I fully expect this to become a years long drawn out discussion, as we will likely debate amongst ourselves as to what is and isn’t wholly factual.

    I’m due a re-read of the Collected Works at some point actually, so if anything sticks out to me I’ll post it here.
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  3. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    bed 'n' breakfast Wiki Sysop
    Northumberland, UK
    Wiki and Minnie's Runaway Railway
    All of them.

    There's a concept of the half-life of knowledge, or "how long does it take for half the facts in your chosen field to be proven wrong", and from my experience, Sega history is has a very short one.

    As a fun example, many (including Sega) will be going around promoting the 23rd June as Sonic's birthday. We now know it isn't. We did not know this a year ago.
  4. Ted909


    the future kick your ass Member
    As a rule of thumb (and this probably goes for any subject with knowledge split between cultures on different sides of the world), I would say that Japanese books usually have a more deeper + truthful understanding of Sega's history while based in that country, but not so much the western side of things. And obviously vice versa.

    As of yet, I don't believe anyone, certainly not within the constraints that a book presents with topics involving video games, has ever handled both sides of the company accurately/with enough nuance at the same time - and whether somebody will still remains to be seen, though it also would be a pretty big task all things considered.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2022
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  5. Gryson


    General rule of thumb for history books: A book's accuracy can be measured by its sources.

    Some comments on individual books:

    Service Games: The Rise and Fall of SEGA by Sam Pettus
    Very poor source use. Relies mostly on newspaper/magazine articles and rumors. Little-to-no use of Japanese sources yet attempts to make conclusions (which are not accurate) about the Japanese side of the business. Avoid.

    Console Wars by Blake Harris
    This is more 'historical fiction' than history book, so it probably doesn't belong on a list of Sega history books. It was written based on interviews with SOA employees, but it includes numerous contradictions to what those same employees and others have said in interviews over the years. Without any direct quotes or citations, it's hard to know what is based on reality and what is the author's fancy. Avoid.

    Playing at the Next Level: A History of American Sega Games by Ken Horowitz
    The most accurate and authoritative book on SOA history. Based on numerous interviews with former SOA employees. Has citations but doesn't use direct quotes (but many of the interviews are published on Sega-16).

    Sega Mega Drive / Genesis: Collected Works by Keith Stuart
    Stuart's write-up of Sega history at the beginning of the book includes a lot of great interview snippets with former Sega leadership (Nakayama, Kalinske, Rosen, Toyoda, Katz). Ultimately light on content, but probably the best portrayal of the Japanese side in English (not that there is any real competition...). There are also a lot of short but good interviews printed in the book.

    The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent
    Notoriously inaccurate book written in 2001. Includes a lot of Sega info (which was recycled by Pettus's Service Games) but sources are primarily a few disgruntled former SOA staff and newspaper/magazine articles. Avoid.

    Game Wars by Eiji Ohshita (Japanese)
    Originally published in 1993 and updated in 1996 with more interviews. The authoritative Japanese book on Sega history. Based on interviews with many of Sega's top leadership. Includes many direct quotes. Most or all of the other Japanese books on Sega published in the 1990s are using this as their primary reference.

    There are numerous books/other sources in Japanese that include interviews with former Sega staff and developers.

    No book is going to be 100% correct, though. Authors will always try to fill in the missing gaps as best they can. Interviews can be inaccurate, since interviewees can remember incorrectly or view things through filters / biases. Every book or interview should be approached with skepticism and every point looked at from multiple angles. This is all the more true where failure has occurred (an unfortunately frequent condition for Sega), since failure tends to draw out the worst in people and creates a lot of finger pointing. For example, if you asked every one of the 800 people working at Sega of America in 1995, "What went wrong?", you'd probably get 800 different answers, each from a different perspective and each wrong in its own way.
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