Review: Flynn’s Retrocade

When we last left the Little Green Men and their Big Green Dad, they were searching for a new “arcade home” in northern Utah, and they encountered… disappointment.

This weekend, however, was a different story. The kids’ mother was off work, she wanted to spend some time with them, and having last taken them to a mostly-out-of-order “arcade” that reeked of a dive bar in decline, I thought maybe I’d better scout out the next place by myself to make sure it was appropriate. This particular voyage of discovery took me about an hour north of our temporary home base in Lehi to the small town of Roy, Utah… home of Flynn’s Retrocade. Read More

Review: The Atomic Arcade

I looked up lots of things about the Salt Lake City area months before moving there: schools, housing prices, utility prices, jobs, restaurants, retro arcades.

Retro arcades? Well, yes. I’d think you would have to be completely new to the blog to know that Fayetteville, Arkansas’ own Arkadia Retrocade was quite rightly regarded by the entire family as “the happiest place on Earth”. Before or after the divorce, if we needed a stiff shot of undistilled happy, we headed up I-49 to Fayetteville to visit Arkadia’s vast collection of working vintage arcade video games, where you pay five bucks at the door and get a great big dose of happy.

Both of my boys have been weaned on the classics of the ’80s – Little C is a Q*Bert and Ms. Pac-Man fan, while E is a fan of more elaborate console quests like Super Mario and Legend Of Zelda. Finding a good family-friendly retro arcade along the lines of Arkadia on our new turf is seriously a top priority. I’ve heard a lot about Flynn’s Retrocade in Roy, Utah, but that’s further away from our current home base than Fayetteville was from Alma – it’s at least an hour’s drive north, closer to Ogden than to Salt Lake City. Much closer than that is The Atomic Arcade in Holladay, just slightly east from Salt Lake City. Online reviews were a muddled mix of positive and negative. My overall impression from a brief visit with my kids tended very much toward the negative. Read More

Cyan Saturday

read!I’m declaring it Cyan Saturday. Not sure why, but it flows off the tongue way better than Black Friday, doesn’t it?

First off, I want to introduce a new tradition, wherein I point you toward books written by several of my closest friends. Somewhere between common interests and all of us being writers at heart, an awful lot of us have written and published books in the past few years. A fair few of the books fall into the same wheelhouse, subject-matter-wise…but not all of them! Anyway, peruse this fascinating list of Books My Friends Wrote and add their works to your bookshelf or the bookshelf of someone who needs a gift this holiday season. You really can’t go wrong – I vouch for all of them as writers and as people.

And my own books? They’re now available through a nice new digital delivery gateway right here at theLogBook.com, a long-needed improvement that finally happened thanks to a little bit of digital drudgery undertaken by my oldest. The new system is really neat, and unlike the old one…it just works. And to celebrate the “grand re-opening” of that component of theLogBook.com Store, I’ve added a couple of crazy bundle deals (they’re the ones with green buttons) that’ll save you…well…a bundle.

Books. They’re what’s for dinner. Go getcha some.

Work the room

That first time I went to Classic Gaming Expo was quite something. I had won, in a contest on the Digital Press forum, a pass to attend the alumni dinner held the night before the opening of the show proper. This event was a closed-doors event where the game designers, programmers and executives got to mingle and have a bite to eat and a few drinks without the pressure of the paying guests who’d be asking, the next day, “what was it like when…” questions that they probably get asked every year. Me, I was neither a game designer nor a programmer. I had, in fact, played Atari today, but I hadn’t worked there. I liked to think of myself as a historian and a game journalist at best, but definitely felt out of my depth. To my mind, this meant one thing: sit back, shut up, soak it all up and remember it. Listen, don’t interject. This ain’t your party, but you got in anyway, just relax and enjoy like you belong there. In short, it’s advice I’ve given to my kids as they grow up: it’s not all about you.

Well, that’s what I thought going in anyway. Some of the show’s honored guests graced us with their presence on the forums and we were already acquainted in an internet kind of way. I was almost immediately greeted by ex-Apple-and-Atari programmer Steve Woita, who is a bundle of almost-zen-like friendly in a Hawaiian shirt, and he immediately introduced me to Keith Robinson, president of Intellivision Productions. Keith and his cohorts – the “Blue Sky Rangers” – had been the original programmers for the Intellivision game console in the ’80s, and when Mattel Electronics dropped the video game business like the hot potato fad they thought it was, Keith bought the rights to the software, the hardware, and the name. It has to be pointed out what a unique situation this was: the Atari that releases games now is neither the Atari that Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney started in Ted’s guest room, nor is it the boom-years giant that it became after Warner Bros. bought it from Nolan. Modern Atari is an intellectual property holding company that scooped up the remains of 1980s Atari at fire-sale clearance prices. Same with the current holders of the Colecovision name and IP. These IP portfolios have changed hands many a time. Intellivision Productions, though? That was always the same bunch of people who had made the games in the first place. And at the center of that web, as its organizing force and its public face, was Keith Robinson.

Keith Robinson
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On the passing of Joyce Worley-Katz

I was saddened this morning to hear that Joyce Worley-Katz, 1/3 of the editorial team of the pioneering ‘80s Electronic Games Magazine, has passed away. She was married to fellow EG editor Arnie Katz, and together with the late Bill Kunkel, they opened up a whole new area of entertainment journalism that many take for granted today.

I corresponded with Joyce early in the 2000s, at the urging of Bill K. (who was a mentor to many of us trying to follow in the gaming journalism field), about her experience in working with many of the behind-the-scenes personnel at Magnavox during the Odyssey2 years. I was working on a book to chronicle the system’s rise, shaky flight, and fall, and Joyce was happy to pass along any remaining contacts from those years, though some of them had already left us, leaving me without enough story for a whole book. (Which was a bummer – when two of your writing/editorial heroes who set you on the path you’re on today tell you that yes, you are the guy to tell this story…that’s a lot of validation right there.) What notes I was able to gather… form some of the backbone of the Select Game podcast covering the Odyssey2 and Videopac libraries.

Joyce will be missed. She plowed a new road alongside an emerging art form. And she is proof that, from the very beginning, women were a vital force in video games, and those trying to marginalize or silence their voices in that medium betray a complete lack of understanding of its history.

The one about the Pokemon

I know a lot of you are sick to death of hearing about Pokemon Go, but let me tell you, if you have a kid who’s accustomed to sitting on the sofa to catch his or her Pokemon, and now they’re all but begging you to get out and about so they can hunt for Pokemon instead of staying inside in air conditioning, you realize this is the greatest thing ever. The Wii was Nintendo getting us off our butts; this is Nintendo getting us out of the house.

All of the headlines that have made you question the sanity and/or value of humanity in the past week? Some of that stuff might not have happened if folks had something in common, something that brought people from disparate backgrounds together to actually get to know each other.

Even if that something is looking for imaginary critters with ridiculous names, that’s better than hunkering down in the bunker and being afraid of each other, right?

And then BB-8 vanquished the basilisk

E and I played a Tuesday night game of checkers, during which he told me he wanted to introduce some sort of “battle” element to the game. After we finished our game, I fired up the old Apple II game Archon and let him watch the demo mode, and he was instantly hooked, but underwhelmed with the graphics and sound.

So I showed him the NES version. Hooked times two.

Then he proposed we turn it into a board game with our checker board. The following wonderful madness ensued. Read More