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Snake Pit

Snake PitThe Game: You’re an adventurer with a bullwhip and a hat, and you hate snakes and love treasure – sound familiar? The bad news is that you’re surrounded by slippery snakes, scurrying scorpions and jumping spiders, all of whom can kill you See the videoinstantly on contact. The only way you can eliminate these foes and claim the treasure is with a precisely-aimed crack of your whip…but if you’re surrounded, your treasure-hunting days are probably over. (Bally Sente, 1984)

Memories: When Warner Bros. bought Atari, it quickly became apparent that Atari founder Nolan Bushnell and new CEO Ray Kassar – Warner’s newly installed point man at Atari – were an uneasy fit at best. Though accounts differ between the two men, the final straw seems to have been Bushnell calling an executive board meeting and not quite getting around to inviting Kassar to it, after which Kassar went to his Warner Bros. boss, Manny Gerard, and drew up the legal papers to forcibly retire Bushnell from his duties at Atari. Bushnell was put – as Atari senior staffers called it – “on the beach,” with no say in the company’s future but a healthy percentage of a bonus pool that depended on the company’s performance. Continue reading

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ToggleThe Game: Two players’ vehicles start in opposite corners of a confined grid; when moved, each vehicle leaves a light cycle-style trail of that player’s color (red or gold) in its wake. But here’s the twist: the players won’t be eliminated by running over the opponent’s “wake.” Instead, running over the other player’s wake once will knock that portion of it down; running over the resulting gap refills that space with your color See the videoinstead. The object of the game is to occupy as much of the grid as possible by the end of 45 seconds. (Each game consists of three 45-second rounds, and each successive round adds obstacles such as walls, or gaps through which players’ vehicles can fall, resulting in a delay while that vehicle is replaced.) The winner of the best two out of three rounds wins the game. (1985, Bally [under license from Sente Ltd.] – unreleased)

Memories: After being “put on the beach” by Atari’s new Warner Bros.-controlled management – a term meaning that he was out the door, but still receiving money from a bonus pool that, in Atari’s heyday, was quite substantial – founder Nolan Bushnell was left at a loose end in more ways than one. He began building his new empire, a chain of franchise restaurants called Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, which combined food service, robotic characters whose technology Atari had no interest in pursuing and therefore allowed him to retain, and arcade games. Bushnell was still eager to have something to do with the video game industry, but a non-compete clause literally took him out of that game for seven years. In 1985, that clause expired, and Bushnell was ready to get back in the game. Continue reading

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