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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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Everybody’s geekin’ for the weekend, part four: do it again!

Whoosh!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?

OKC+WXford trip
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.

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GlitchCon 2014 panel schedule

A brief history of time (war)The whole schedule can be seen here, and it’s full of events that are smothered in awesomesauce and seasoned with a liberal sprinkling of amazeballs. For those curious, I thought I’d “zoom in” briefly on my marathon triple-threat panel-o-rama on Saturday night. 😆

So it’s like this: I’m going to be speaking for three hours straight. 😯 Here’s what I’ll be blithering and blathering about… Continue reading

Everybody’s geekin’ for the weekend, part one: Space (invaded)

As a rule, we tend not to do weekend getaways and vacations here, and being flat broke is typically the culprit. Last weekend the Mrs. and Little E got to go on a road trip with her parents, though it was more of a business trip Pongwaterthan anything, without much sightseeing. Early last week I learned that a special event or two was happening out toward Oklahoma City, and started trying to pull a road trip of my own together out of sheer willpower. Sheer willpower, it turns out, doesn’t solve all the issues with my occasionally wonky loaner car. I’m grateful to have it, it gets me to work and back home again, and it’s driven a lot in the past week as I’ve gone to various far-flung work sites. But Oklahoma City? Not so sure it’s up for one continuous 3-4 hour journey. I started trying, far too late, to see if I could land a rental car, but it’s Memorial Day Weekend: they’re all spoken for.

Nathan and Chandra Martin contacted me via Facebook earlier in the week; they were making a rare return to Fort Smith with their kids and wanted me and Little E to show them this arcade that I’ve spent so much time talking about in Fayetteville. The thought honestly hadn’t occurred to me to say “Well hey, wanna go to OKC too?” That’s a bit like showing up at someone’s party and saying “Hey, let’s make this party about me!” As it happens, the thought had occurred to them too, and the whole weekend became a massive singularity of geeking out.

But on Friday night, it all started with keeping all of our kids up way too late at the local arcade. Continue reading