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.
Dear company now passing yourself off as Atari,
This would be the best possible use of your time and resources right now. Think of it as a game design document built on hope.
You may fire when ready.
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.
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?
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. Continue reading
I’m not sure which is the greater virtue of the two, so I have requested the guidance of @RichardGarriott on Twitter. I’ll let you know what he says, if anything.
P.S. If playing with the dog is the wrong choice, I’m pretty sure I got a black bead here.
In February, the fine folks at Oklahoma City’s Starbase Studios announced another of their open house events, during which all and/or sundry are invited to tour their exquisitely detailed replicas of the original Star Trek shooting sets, free of charge (though it’s hoped that visitors might be impressed enough to drop a few coins in the hat, donating to the upkeep of those sets so future fan-made productions can make use of them. My wife was pregnant with Little C when Little E and I tagged along with some friends to visit the sets last year, and that was before they had built sickbay and started work on a transporter room (!). There was no way she was going to miss out on this open house.
As the date got closer, Little E expressed disappointment that we weren’t going to repeat the entire trip with the Martins – i.e. Friday night at Arkadia Retrocade, and a visit to the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma (almost an hour further west from OKC). Since he was so keen on doing it all again, we reserved a hotel room in Weatherford and decided to make it a whole geeky weekend getaway. (It should be pointed out that the timely arrival of a tax refund was pretty much the pivot point where we went from “go to OKC and back” to “make a whole weekend of it.”)
What follows is a ridiculous record – over 60 photos – of the geeky weekend in question. Ready to beam up and go to the moon?
Click on any photo below for the full-size version – I took “the good camera” this time and didn’t rely on my phone for much of the picture-taking this time around.
Gamer kids: begging gamer dads to wash a stuffed Chao by morning since 2007. Here’s something you don’t run through the wash every day…
(You can’t really tell – because dad’s really good at this – but poor Cheese here was barfed on by a cat today. All better now.)