20 November 2007

Trigger Happier

Update 2013: I am no longer hosting this file. The sequel, Trigger Happy 2.0, is now available.

Update: see the new discussion of this experiment here.

As a follow-up to my post on Amazon’s crippled and hideous Kindle, and the discussion at Mark Pilgrim’s place, I thought I’d try an experiment, and give away for free an “ebook” version of my first book, Trigger Happy, with no “digital rights management” whatsoever. It’ll work on anything that can read a PDF.

Trigger Happy is a book about the aesthetics of videogames — what they share with cinema, the history of painting, or literature; and what makes them different, in terms of form, psychology and semiotics. It was first published in 2000; this is the revised edition with the Afterword written in 2004 2001. (Update: as requested in comments, the 2004 Afterword can now be read here.) The book is offered under a CC Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 license (see terms), for a limited time only. I’m not sure how limited that time will be, so grab it while it’s hot.

Creative Commons License

  • Hi J — if you do manage to convert it to html and send it to me, I’ll make it available as an alternate download.

    Edit: on further consideration, I won’t be offering an html version. (Note that the license precludes distribution of an html version by anyone else.) Thanks.

  • j

    Thanks for the book. I do wish you’d either made a html version available, or used a CC license that allows someone else to convert it to html and make that available. My ebook reader doesn’t do PDF, and my pdf viewer can’t remember my place in the book.

    Gmail does a pretty good job converting this pdf to html (mail it to yourself..), but stops at page 304. Abobe’s pdf to html converter has been churning on it for half an hour now.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the download Steven, can’t wait to read it.

    j, if you use Foxit Reader (google it) you’ll find that it’s an incredibly awesome, lightweight and faster reader than Acrobat and best of all it does remember your last page viewed in a PDF.

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  • Jarmo

    Thanks for the ebook, Steven! I already own a hard copy. Is the PDF really the 2004 version? The Afterword is dated 2001 and there seem to be no references in it to happenings later than 2001. Are there any other changes in the 2004 edition?

  • Ah, you’re right, it is the 2001 version after all. Sorry about that. ;) The 2004 version just has a new Afterword, I might post that at some point.

  • Jarmo

    Thanks for the super quick response and correction! You might also wish to update the title page of the PDF. It currently states “revised 2001, 2004”.

    I would certainly like to read the new afterword. To raise your interest in posting it, I hereby pledge to donate a (modest) amount if that happens.

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  • dan


    thanks a lot, dude!

  • bread

    Thank you :)

  • thanks for doing this, i’ll be reading it soon!

  • jeebus

    Thanks for this – I’ll be converting it to use on the DS.

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  • I’ll be converting it to use on the DS.

    Lovely and apt idea. Please send me a copy when it’s done.

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  • André

    I got your book in ´05 when I was studying in USA and I´ll keep this pdf so I don´t read to carry the book when I want to re-read it on work, heh. It´s a great book and you attitude makes it greater.
    cheers from Brazil

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  • Excellent – I’ve already got the book, but a searchable version is at least a dozen times easier to refer back to.

  • Raule Duke

    Yup – Thanks very much Steven. Just totally fu**ed my PC trying to skin up on the monitor and spilt wine all over my keyboard to boot. Practice what you preach.

    Great idea,


  • Adam

    Wow, thanks for this, been on the look out for a copy every time im in the train station. Now i can read it whilst i look for it.

    http://www.casuallyhardcore.net – Clothing for Gamers

  • Piotr

    Thanks for the book!

  • Thank you for the book. It’s very kind of you to offer it this way.


  • Coherent

    I came to download your book because rockpapershotgun.com mentioned it and it sounds like something I want to read.

  • Your book look nice on iPhone:

  • Sweet.

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  • Steven – Thanks for the ebook download. I own the “physical” version and it was really enjoyable read years ago. Probably read it again now!

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  • big-uns

    Thanks for the download. I own the physical copy too, but it has a really ugly cover – it has an Anime chick with a gun, and a photo of a PS2. And a Pacman. And a light grey background. Still gives me nightmares… :)

    I will pass this on to a few mates who might be interested. Cheers!

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  • “The book is offered under a CC license, for a limited time only. I’m not sure how limited that time will be, so grab it while it’s hot.”

    I thought CC licenses were permanent?

  • Steven

    I mean that I am serving the book for download here for a limited time.

  • This actually displays and reads remarkably well on the Kindle. Thanks!

  • Steven


    You’re welcome. ;)

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  • Chris

    Thx :) i look forward reading your book as it sounds really interesting….

    Greetz from Germany!

  • Jarmo

    Thank you for posting the 2004 Afterword. The pledged remuneration has been paypal’d.

  • Thanks for the digital version! Hope that you blog about the results of this experiment (sales, downloads, generated interest etc)

    Looking forward to reading the book and the results


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  • rico

    I’m looking forward to read your ideas on videogames in a cultural context. I was wondering if there were any “deep” works on this topic so when I read about your offer I thought “why not give it a try” :)

    Anyway thanks a lot for putting it up under CC license for now, maybe I’ll even get a hard copy later on.


  • Thanks very much for sharing this Steven. Oh how I wish I’d had this handy while I was writing my senior thesis on the interrelationship between game and film in adaptations. Trigger Happy is very readable and well put-together; I’ll definitely be picking up my own hardcopy the next time I’m at the bookstore.

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  • AZ

    dearest steven poole

    i first read your TH book in 2003 and honestly do consider to be one of the finest books dedicated to videogames. whilst i understand that you no longer write for edge magazine, i would be eternally grateful if you would consider writing for my forthcoming website. it is still under construction, but it would be an immense honour for me to have you on board. thanks again.

    az x

    ps: i recently purchased your book on unspeak. and i must say, socio-political commentary is dangerous. it certainly doesn’t allow one to ingratiate themselves with the masses.

  • CTN

    Bought the “real” book just yesterday.

  • Christian

    I’ll read it with pleasure, thank you.

    Standing ovation for the free distribution of ideas!

  • Jeremy Hower

    Thank you for making this freely available for us online. The future is digital and it is DRM free!

  • Steven

    The future is digital and it is DRM free!

    Possibly. But then how will writers get paid?

  • Fred

    “some asshole with IP address” It was probably Jeff Bezos he’s totally pissed at you now, I’m sure. Thanks for the free read, I’m looking forward to it!

  • Gracias por el libro. Justo andaba buscando una lectura de este tipo.

  • Thanks, it will be useful. BTW the videogames documentation area a bit odd (i mean books, not only internet), hard to find, in Mexico, more.

    Thanks, again.

  • Сергей

    Огромное спасибо за книгу! AKA Thank you very much for publishing this e-book.

  • Since Trigger Happy was never translated out of English, I’m particularly glad of all the greetings from places that are primarily non-Anglophone. :)

  • I bought a physical copy years ago but this digital/free version is very good to give to students.

  • I’ve recently seen this book listed as one of the must-read, to ppl involved with game industry/studies. It’s a great attitude, linking us to sth with this importance.


  • Eckes

    Danke für stundenlangen Lesespaß!

    Thanks for many hour’s worth of reading fun!

    Just downloaded the eBook and will enjoy it in the dark and cold winter evenings to come.

    Indeed, “how to get paid” is very tricky. And unfortunately it’s very hard to get an agreement with a publisher to be able to publish ones own work when it’s become a bit dated (e.g. after 10 years) for free. That would be the prefered way for myself!

  • Hey,

    Through Norwegian blog NRKbeta.no, I was pointed towards your experimental PDF-book offer here – and I happily just downloaded your book. I’ll read it with great interest! Never heard of you or the book before, so strategically you might say that this is good for publicity. When I’ve read “Trigger Happy”, I hope to be interested in reading more of your work…

    Best regards from Norway

  • I’ve just downloaded this, thanks. I’ve already got Unspeak, which I think is fantastic, so I guess I’m OK to download. Now all I need is a better ebook reader than “Acrobat in a window behind the window I’m supposed to be working in”

  • Joshua

    well played sir, exceptionally well put. I find myself clearly on one side of a line in the dirt I hadn’t even really considered needed to be drawn prior.

  • Bernardo

    Hi Steven,

    Thanx for the book. It’s hard to find good video games related books in Brazil.

  • Prego and bitte, etc, to all.

    Eckes: you could try just doing it anyway.


    strategically you might say that this is good for publicity. When I’ve read “Trigger Happy”, I hope to be interested in reading more of your work…

    That’s a nice thought. :)

  • Ron

    Hi Steve, thanks for putting out the PDF copy of your book (sans DRM and all that) for us to read.

  • Olivia LaRose

    We need more people like you in the world of gaming; someone needs to tell the world that we are not all a gaggle of bellicose, deluded losers!

  • John Miles

    I bought and read the print copy 3 or 4 years ago.

    This pdf version will be a great chance to read it again when I should actually be working!

    I thank you, though my boss probably won’t…

  • Over 19,000 downloads is amazing. I know that the publishing industry doesn’t release concrete numbers, but aren’t I right in thinking that number probably exceeds the first printing of the book’s original release?

  • Ilia Chentsov

    Didn’t Spectrum actually have 16 colours?

  • Well, it had 8 basic colours, that could be modified by the BRIGHT parameter (although BRIGHT black displayed the same as regular black). So you could say it had 8, 15 or 16 colours, depending on your point of view. ;)

    Terry: yes!

  • hey Zues

    aw, you done a free copy. nice one steven you old socialist. just wanted to say, i bought a copy off amazon a couple of months ago after i read UNSPEAK and it’s a dead good read. funny to look back and remember imagining how awesome XBOX was going to be, ha, and now it’s rubbish. when will they learn? the best games are made for and by the fans. we need game editing programmes for our consoles. they used to exist on the amiga, why can’t we have them on a ps3? oh, anyway. love the website. recommending it all over. even my mum reads it now. Even my MUM!

  • Foxitreader is the best for PDFs

  • Michael

    Thanks for the eBook. – This is the first PDF eBook which displays natively on my SONY eBook without reformatting

  • Jad

    thank you so much. I am deeply grateful. When I began browsing today, I didn’t expect to find, all at once:
    – a book that takes video games seriously and seems interesting
    – Reference material for my master (about video games and art)
    – a free book (what books should be (yeah I know it doesn’t work in the real world))
    – a nice blog to spend some time on

  • ryan

    my pdf reader keeps telling me that the file is “damaged and cannot be repaired” and I’ve tried two different readers; any suggestions?

  • It seems to be working ok for everyone else. Try downloading it again with a different browser.

  • Sébastien Célimon

    Hi Steven,

    I’m French PR representative of Lulu.com, the PoD webiste where I really suggest you to publish your book. You will save some money hopefully and Lulu is particularly relevant as your book is dedicated for a specific “niche”, ie gamers and Co.
    I suggest you to contact Lulu UK as well to inform them of your book, they could help you for some PR Action. For your information, I’ve heard about you from a French Journalist, Erwan Cario from Libération in France, who has written a nice report on your book… Here : http://www.liberation.fr/actua.....188.FR.php

    Cheers and “Joyeuses Fêtes” as we said at each Xmas Party in Paris!

    Best Regards,

    Sébastien Célimon

  • Basile


    I encountered the same problem as Ryan. I tried with firefox and IE but both did not work. I’m living in China, would that be the explanation?

    Thank you for your help, I’m really looking forward to reading Trigger Happier.

  • Anyone else having trouble with the download: make sure you disable any download accelerators/toolbars/managers in your browser. There seem to be a lot of malformed ones out there that request multiple copies of the entire file rather than pieces of it, so they are denied.

  • gee…
    thanks :)

  • Cornel

    Dear Steven,

    I’ve played them, I’ve watched them and, I will put my hands up to this, occasionally dreamt about them. Your book however was the first Proper piece of writing i’ve read about the medium of videogaming and I must say that I was impressed. I’m going to buy myself a hardcopy :)

    Thanks, Happy New Year and all the best,


  • Hello Steven,

    I would like to buy this book. Will there be a new version soon ? Or can I buy the 2004 version ?

    At the moment I am in chapter two. Is there something about “Exergaming” ? It would be great when you can write about this topic. “Dance Dance Revolution” has its 10. birthday this year. But in Germany “Exergaming” is still unkown.

    Thanks for the book, it’s great!

  • john

    hey, I found out about the book from nextgen.biz and it seems really cool, even though I downloaded it here, if its good, I’ll get a hard copy to, virtual books don’t compare to a real book in your hands, even if they are on a reader

  • DMcCunney

    Coming late to this particular party – I encountered a chance pointer elsewhere in a discussion of ebooks and DRM.

    Unfortunately, there are an assortment of things that technically *can* display a PDF file, but don’t do so very well. In my case, the example is a Palm OS PDA with a 320×480 screen. I have a very good open source PDF viewer on it, but PDFs aren’t designed to reflow to adjust to smaller screen sizes, and reading them is at best painful.

    As it happens, MobiPocket’s free Creator application takes DRM free PDF as an input format, and generates a file viewable quite handily on anything that has a version of the free MobiPocket reader. That currently includes Windows, Palm OS PDAs, Windows Mobile devices, Symbian based smartphones, and Blackberries, so you can read it on almost anything you have, save a Mac.

    There’s some fiddling cleanup that *could* be done on the result, but it basically works splendidly, and took about 30 seconds to generate here.

    If you would like a copy, let me know where to send it.

  • nick


    IANAL but I don’t think the by-nd-nc/3.0 license precludes distribution of an html version by others.

    Section 3 of http://creativecommons.org/lic...../legalcode says in part:

    The above rights may be exercised in all media and formats whether now known or hereafter devised. The above rights include the right to make such modifications as are technically necessary to exercise the rights in other media and formats, but otherwise you have no rights to make Adaptations….

    I had read that as precluding ‘artistic derivations’, derivations that would be independently licensable. I read the license as precluding translations to other languages and the use of characters etc but not the reformatting of PDF to html – in both these cases copyright law requires permission of the original author and the work gets a new copyright.

    I know Cory Doctorow had some CC work that by-nd-nc/1.0 work that has been translated to other languages, but I’m not sure if that was by ‘special permission’/encouragement (which he certainly grants) or because I was interpreting the ‘nd’ too broadly.

    I’m commenting mainly because I’m interested in where the ‘edges and corners’ of these licenses are. Does any one know for sure in this case?


  • ED

    Payment? That’s simple … Ted Nelson has it all figured out; just upload the book to Xanadu ;-)

  • Nick — good point. I’m not sure myself what that amounts to in terms of a license to convert into other formats. Perhaps someone else has a better idea?

    Sandra — there is no new version planned; you can still buy the 2004 edition from eg the amazon links given. I haven’t written anything about “exergaming” yet, but I might one day when I get a Wii. ;)

  • I sent you a little bit o’ cash for the digital version. Hopefully that helps you out and lets the big, old, rich farts realize that DRM isn’t actually helping their cause much.

    Thanks for the spread of knowledge!

  • Sett

    Thanks for the ebook. I bought the first edition when it came out, and thoroughly enjoyed it (still have it on my shelf). Although I still read normal paper books a lot, I’ve slowly gotten used to using my slate tablet pc to read pdfs (for work) and ebooks (for pleasure).

  • NESJumpman

    Why was HTML denied after reconsideration? If its a bandwidth issue, why not create a torrent to help offset the costs?

  • It’s interesting how some people will complain even when you give them something for free..

    Thanks very much to TorchDragon and all the others who have left tips. :)

  • Hypahnova

    Thanks for the book!

    I was an avid reader of your edge column, and have always wanted to read the book of the same name.

    The only thing that was stopping me getting it was a severe lack of funds and the fact that I hate carrying a book around with me that isn’t in ebook format and on my DS.

    Thanks again!

  • Following your CC BY-NC-ND license I posted the PDF to my Scribd account. (http://www.scribd.com/) Scribd just informed me that it has been removed at someone’s request due to copyright infringement. I’m not sure if that was you or your publisher but I was wondering if we could get this straightened out. I’ve replied to Scribed explaining that I posted it and followed your license. Are you involved, and if not, would you mind becoming so. If you requested the takedown would you mind explaining why as I am honestly confused by the request.
    Michael Sauers

  • Hi Michael,
    The book was actually posted to Scribd with the improper license, a BY-NC license instead of BY-NC-ND. Further, since Scribd is a commercial organization whose business model is to run ads besides content uploaded by its users, I consider that to be a violation of the no-commercial-usage clause. Therefore I requested they remove it. If you want to host it yourself somewhere in a noncommercial context, you are of course welcome to do so.

  • Thanks, Steven!
    I liked the “glimpses” I got from the PDF so much that I purchased the printed edition. (it is also cheaper than letting it print out at the university :) )

    I like the idea of online distribution, especially with books where (potential) readers can see what the book is about before purchasing. Also, there are hardly books on gaming in German book stores, let alone English books on gaming.
    Thus, I encourage you to experiment with putting your new book online in a few years, though I might get it earlier this time.


  • Robbie

    Thank you for this Mr. Poole for I am a poor student.

  • Guy

    A great gem. Thank you so much!

  • jo.black


    I´m a great fan of your book, but I had my problems with Paypal (for instance they wanted 0,54 Euro fees for a 10 Euro transaction (in the same country)).

    So I got rid of Paypal (thank god).

    Give me another possibility to donate (credit card??) and I will do it.

    Perhaps its this sucking Paypal because so few people are donating (Paypal shoult rott in hell).

  • Hi Jo,
    I can’t handle credit-card transactions directly, that’s incredibly complicated (and expensive) to set up. Perhaps you could donate €9.46? ;)

  • fred

    Hey dude, nice read.

    PS This site does a reasonalble an *free* jobs of convert the PDF:

    “waka waka waka” (pacman ghosts)


  • I like the idea of online distribution, especially with books where (potential) readers can see what the book is about before purchasing. Also, there are hardly books on gaming in German book stores, let alone English books on gaming.

  • Hey, just downloaded the PDF and it looks awesome! I’ve been looking for a book like this for awhile, can’t wait to give it a read.

    Thanks a lot!

  • andres mauricio

    the boos is excellente

  • Hi,

    it would be great, when you could also write about Game Accessibility.

    The part of cybernetic is very nice.
    It is true that there are still a lot of possibilities.
    But Accessibility is more important I think.


  • I like the idea of online distribution, especially with books where (potential) readers can see what the book is about before purchasing. Also, there are hardly books on gaming in German book stores, let alone English books on gaming.

  • Thanks you

  • thanks aoot

  • Truly a great book

  • This really is a must read, thanks for sharing

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  • thanx man its great!!!!!!!!

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  • Thanks man…!

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  • info en el blog de Steeven Poole. Libro de videojuegos gratis (¡yupi!)

  • SteveD

    I didn’t make a donation, but I already own the physical version (yes – it is true) of it and I want to thank you especially for allowing me to make notes in something other than my precious books.

  • You’re welcome!

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  • I might be a be late with this, but is trigger happy still available to download? I have tried entering 2 different e-mail addresses at the top of the page but nothing :-(

  • Michael Tamuyao

    I can’t download.. :(

  • Jonathan Bowers-Bone

    Hello, I was just wondering if you are still able to give away a free e-book!
    Thanks and all the best.

  • lihaiya jeli

    ok, thank you very much


  • lihaiya jeli

    good article, i like it


  • zhou facheng