Going Forward: The Next New Frontier In Video Game History

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Hello and welcome to the final entry in Game Design Theory, and the overall history of video games. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey thus far, but to quote an old and wise Dov, “even we who ride the currents of Time cannot see past Time’s end.” Before the end of this blog, however, I would like to take the time to talk about the possible future for the overall industry, and what routes different genres could or even will take in just a few months alone. And with that, I hope you enjoy.

Usually when we think about the realities of video games and their productions, the last thought had typically follows the why of a certain game’s creation. Put simply, we as observers only tend to admire the final product of a piece, a work, what have you. But the true, unbridled efforts of love, dedication, and admittedly seldom dread, lies within the process, the code. A simple team of just two people managed to accumulate, conceptualize, develop, and release the indie game Undertale in 2015. Less than two years later it became a catalyst for fan-made spin-offs, an unguessed trove of theories and speculation, an overwhelmingly adoring fan base, and eventually an official “sequel” three years later. However what the majority of casual attendees–by no one’s fault, mind you–fail to realize is the thirty two months and several push backs it took for these two people to develop and illustrate every asset needed. With all of this being said though, where does it tie in? How are the lessons from Toby Fox and Temmie Chang’s tribulations applicable to game design today?

It seems these days with most triple-A studios, the only process being reproduced is that of a formula. The trails and tribulations only come about from figuring out what aspects, features, and other assets will sell the most; not toward what aspects make the player feel the most. The difference between Undertale and any modern Call of Duty game in today’s light–aside from the drastic jump in graphical and realism quality–is that of the story. You see, anyone with the talent and patience to learn a program can eventually learn how to create their own game. Maybe someone does, and perhaps their launch sells more copies than anticipated. But maybe four months, five months, a few years down the line when that same wave comes back to crash the stores for a refund, it will already have been too late to recognize the fatal issue: the lack of a profound story.

Stories, my friends–at least the ones that keep you up weeks later demanding to know more–are what drives games forward; what pulls players back to fish out another bill from their wallets. Because the ability to tell a story, in my opinion, is one of the very few sources of real-life magic that we have left. To reel an audience in through words alone, to make them move with passion when the protagonist succeeds and jeer in fear when they don’t. To rip apart the heartstrings with an unexpected death only to mend them back together when an old friend resurfaces after years of being presumed dead. These are the things that stick with us as players, as gamers, as people, because for just a moment, we feel that we’re actually in the shoes of the protagonist (or any other character the reader relates to). At the end of the day, it won’t matter if a company dedicated fifty people to make sure the blood splatters in the exact correct way if the character its spurting out of is only seen as a collection of pixels, or just another mindless NPC for the player to run through.

It is very possible that the most powerful companies within this industry will disregard the public’s cries and pleads, and continue to churn out formulaic yet empty titles. It’s very possible that tiles like Fallout 76 and No Man’s Sky have already begun to usher in a new generational crash like the Extra Terrestrial did back in 1982. And because of this, it’s very possible that the Virtual Reality niche may be the last, final gasp of life for this machine, as it then begins to fade into obscurity; only to be remembered for the next punchline. However, it is also possible that the aforementioned failures serve as a spark to the powder keg, so to speak. The last straw a community picks before it decides it’s had enough, and takes to the streets. Who knows? We may see an overwhelming boom and surge for a new generation of video game development. That’s the uncertainty in life. As terrifying and unknown as it is, it can also be beautiful and full of potential if we just find the right perspective to view it in. As long as we keep telling stories, eventually there will be something substantial enough to write a game about it. Art imitates life, and life imitates art because the two are one in the same.

I really hope you enjoyed today’s entry into the history of game design, and the blog as a whole. It was an enlightening experience going back through history with you, and I’m privileged to have been given the chance to do so, and to have experienced it with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and as always,



Looking Back: From Arcades to the Cloud

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Good afternoon, and welcome to one of the final two posts for Game Design Theory, and our overall history of game development. With Thanksgiving Break having passed and Christmas Break fast approaching, I figure I would culminate everything within the history of game design into two final posts: What was achieved, and what we can expect to see and play in the future. Today’s entry will cover the former; what was achieved in the forty to fifty years since Tennis for Two was created. With that being said, I hope you enjoy!

So as it’s been stated several times in previous entries, video games did not start off as the visual, titanic phenomena that they are today. The very first seed to be planted was in fact William Higinbotham’s “Tennis For Two”, despite rumors falsely pointing toward Atari’s “Pong” as the first. From this seed sprouted a Hyperion tree, so to speak, with millions of different branches harboring vastly unique titles and systems. From this tree came the first arcade systems, and subsequently their later re-release for the familial household. From this tree the first rivaled branches were watered; pitting the first of this new generation of gamers against one another. From this branch sprouted the First Console War where, as it usually goes with conflict, some branches were sawed off; left forgotten to be dissolved by time. And yet, despite all the modifications, the droughts–leaves falling left and right with no suitable replacement in sight–this very tree still manages to pervade the households of millions of people around the globe.

Following the aftermaths of the fabled Console Wars, however, there was always one specific seed that would revitalize the tree, and the industry as a whole. After the bout between Atari and Genesis, the mythic plumber brothers swept the stage. When hand-held consoles walked to the pitch, titles like Tetris and Pokémon were instant home-runs. And finally just when the feud between Xbox and PlayStation had supposedly run its course, Virtual Reality blipped into the scene, completely revolutionizing the overall visual experience.

No matter the conflict, the ramifications from poor sales or out-lash from horribly managed game releases, the industry as a whole always seems to find some route, some crevice to retreat to; only to bide its time before the next revolution. I really hope you enjoyed the first of the final two entries into the history of game development and Game Design Theory as a whole. Tune in tomorrow where I address in my final post where the industry could possibly go from here. Until then, and as always,



The First Console War: NES vs Genesis

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In the wake of the first major crash–in both financial and social terms–within the video game development community, a majority of the leading companies crumbled. The Atari 2600, and its far-less successful heir (the 5200), laid in ruin. Their swan song, the widely criticized ET: the Extra Terrestrial, was the leading cause for the drop; the one feather to come floating down, only to collapse the unsteady empire beneath it. For a few long years, the industry remained silent. No turning gears, no new rumors floated down the mill. It had seemed that video games and visual home entertainment had come and gone; a failure like the rest. But from this barren, decrepit world, a new challenger would emerge to claim the title of Champion. To purge through the pessimistic views toward video games the world had bore after results of the crash, this hero would rise. And though its challengers would come and go, there stood one above the rest that would prove to be the hero’s ultimate nemesis. This is the story of the first Console War in video game history; the war between the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and the Sega Genesis.

The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES for short, was by all counts the sole contributor to the revival of the video game industry in the waking years past the first worldwide crash. It revitalized the visual enamor with stunning 8-Bit graphics (something the world had not yet seen at the time), an updated processor, and a design that ultimately helped soar the home entertainment genre skyward. Its most popular titles–the Mario Bros. series, the Legend of Zelda series, and the Megaman series to name a few–helped restore the faith in game developers and the realm of game design as a whole.

The Genesis was ultimately Sega’s response to this conundrum. Their take was to amp the graphics even further, to the illustrious 16-bit. Through the waves of mania and visual craze, this new department successfully established a foothold in the newly revitalized yet still highly competitive ring of game development. The genesis’s most popular titles include the Sonic the Hedgehog series, Disney’s Aladdin, and the Street Fighter series, among others.

The complex marketing strategy of the Sega Genesis alone wedged the public into two distinct dominions: those loyal to Nintendo, and those devoted to Sega. Their core advertisement was to showcase the aspects and features of what the Genesis was capable of handling, while simultaneously stating Nintendo’s lack of reciprocity. As stated before this wedge in mentalities and opinions shifted the equilibrium of public opinion for one of the first times in video game history; at least to this high of a magnitude. Many times after this feud will have been repeated–the Xbox vs Playstation debate, almost every dual Pokémon game release, even the Gamecube vs Playstation II debate–but none have been as impacting and profound as the the war that restarted it all.

I really hope you enjoyed today’s entry into the history of game design. Later this week I hope to analyze some of these two console’s best sold titles, as well as their overall impact on the public. Until then, and as always, I hope you have a great rest of your day!



From Pipes to Portals: The Dichotomy Between 8-Bit Legends

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A short time after the collapse and dissolution of Atari and their two systems–the Atari 2600 and the 5200–video game consoles had devolved into rumors of legend, more or less. What was once a booming industry, releasing millions of new and exciting titles, had now been shelved; with little to no remembrance until the next garage sale came about. Unsold titles were scrapped and buried within forgotten landfills across the country, companies were sold and bought off to be later liquefied as a last-ditch effort to making any amount of money back. A few years of this new age had passed before any amount of substantial spark was brought back to the decaying industry. The proverbial iceberg that was ET the Extra Terrestrial bore through the Titan’s hull, and its support washed away from the flow and the current of time; it would take a miracle to revitalize it. Luckily for the public of these times, there were two. In today’s entry, I would like to talk about two of the most prominent posts in the foundation of this new era of video games, and why each one was successful in their own right: the illustrious Tron, re-imagined from the ever popular theatrical release, and the gilded Mario, unknown plumber turned adventurer on a galactic scale.

Set within the digitized bounds of code, the story of Tron takes place inside a computer program where you, the User, are tasked with navigating through four “Digital Arenas”–their take on levels–in order to escape and beat the game. It was based off the widely popular film released under the same name in 1982; published by Disney. Its levels were highly stylized, often with bright neon, grid-like designs–often with angles and vectors–as it was meant to exhibit the aspects of computer code. This alone wildly subverted the expectations of the public during its initial release; compared to the banal and ordinary visual entertainment had been suppressed into for so long. Midway, the developers behind the arcade title, increased the realistic immersion even further by adding those same lit-neon effects to the arcade cabinets released to the public. In addition, it was a stroke of genius to implement a replay feature within the game, so once the player had beaten the levels they would go through them again at a higher difficulty.

Through the pipeline of video game’s history however, another hero had emerged. While unofficially making his debut in the original Donkey Kong cabinets as Jumpman (the character under the player’s control), the developers at Nintendo recreated this character into the popular Mario from the original Mario Bros, released in 1983; though still donning a swapped color palette than the typical blue jeans, red hat and overalls. The goal of this game was to score the highest amount of points by clearing various levels and defeating every enemy during each phase. Atypical of the platforms of that time, Mario Bros utilized a unique style of gameplay called wraparound; every sprite that travels through one edge of the screen reappears at the start of the opposite end, but only horizontally. With only a mindset of clearing phases, there was no need to implement a definitive end to the game; just repeat the same levels and increase the difficulty until the max score is reached or the player runs out of lives.

Though titans in their own right, both of these titles served as foundation blocks for the latent obelisk the video game industry had yet to become. But that, is a story for another time. I hope you enjoyed this week’s entries into the history of video games. Next week, I plan to tackle the first console war between the first two rival companies; Sega and Nintendo. Until then, I hope you have a great rest of your day!

As always, cheers.


From Extraterrestrial to Successful Failure: The Story of E.T.

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By now, we’ve read about innovative revolutions in visual entertainment history that stemmed from humble science fair beginnings. We’ve learned through research and reviews how certain titles fared over others, and how some shaped a fundamentally new era of advancement. As any creator will tell you with indulging in extended periods of extreme creative effort: burnout is inevitable. With strict timelines for creation, production, and shipment of new video game titles, several rounds of week-long crunches–mandatory overtime to oversee the final pushes of video game development–the very release of a new game is a gamble in and of itself. Several factors, investments, and other outside aspects coalesce into a single cartridge, and if the reviews continue to be poor–even outright terrible sometimes–the losses in all aspects continue to amass. This week, I would like to talk about one of the most tremendous failures in video game history that attributed to the collapse of Atari and their two in-home systems, as well as mark the end of the first Golden Era–expunging the console craze if only for a moment–the release of Atari’s ET the Extra Terrestrial.

Essentially this game was meant to be a simple, randomly-generated puzzle game, where the player would have to navigate through the in game assets to obtain an extraterrestrial telephone (get it? To phone home? Everyone else did, too). It had been green lit and licensed by Stephen Spielberg himself, and responsibility for development of this project was given to Howard Scott Warshaw, a former developer for Atari. With this much of a simple premise, a green light from Spielberg, and overwhelming support and adoration of the original film by the public, it had seemed every piece of the puzzle was about to fall perfectly into place. The heads at Atari had thought so too, claiming due to the success of Warshaw’s previous two titles (one including Raiders of the Lost Arc from Indiana Jones) and the success of console sales, this new title would only further boost the numbers.

Here we arrive at the oldest fundamental, most vital and yet often the most ignored caveat to developing video games: rushed development. Warshaw himself only had five weeks to conceptualize, plan, and code/develop the game, with the rest of the team having only a week to advertise the game, develop and ship the cartridges. It’s a fundamental fact of life that humans cannot concentrate under excessive stress for weeks at a time; at least not as efficiently as we can without said added stress. Due to this fact, Howard had overlooked a rudimentary flaw within the game’s code: map stability was almost non-existent, so the player would go through one warp zone and end up in a completely new location; going back through the same zone would transport the player to another random place. Along with a cavalcade of other minor glitches and errors, the game was shipped off. Upon initial release, the sales were overwhelming, clocking in at over a million copies worldwide. Though within a few months, public opinion about the game had completely shifted.

The public began to see and experience firsthand the broken code and rushed development of this title and quickly brought their copies back, often demanding justified refunds. This negative review surged through the Atari studio, and ushered in the start of the first severe video game crash of its history. Within a decade, two members of Atari had come and gone through ownership, recording bigger and bigger losses as the years passed. Their team dropped from a massive ten thousand to only a couple thousand within a few months. And ET the Extra Terrestrial, even today, is regarded as one of (if not the) worst video game ever produced. To its creator, the humbled Howard Scott Warshaw, however, the simple fact that his game is continued to be mentioned in discussions more than twenty years later, makes the game a success in its nature of entertainment.

I hope you enjoyed today’s entry into the history of video games. As always, I hope you have a great rest of your day!



Sunrise of the Golden Age: the Newest Revamp of Visual Entertainment

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With every branching path within the creative current of art, there will always exist some abnormalities. Whether if they branch off slightly or radically, whether their flow is more smooth or sporadic, or even if one stream connects with another at a later point, every created work brought about from our collective conscious flows within this unified current. To put this into the perspective of visual media: the one main channel (or goal) within game design is to create a compelling and interesting game that people want to play. Within this main stream, however, millions of diverse diversions begin to emerge. One company might branch off to create the next top horror genre; the next off for pixelated storytelling. No matter the idea, this stream is ever flowing, constantly replenished by the collective effort of every creator existing within it. And it’s with these thoughts in mind that I would like to present a ripple to this pond, so to speak: the existence of a Golden Age, or an era wherein the speed and flow of these channels is as its most rapid–its most efficient. It’s within this era that the public sees the most diversity within title releases, game concepts, and every other aspect within game design.

Within today’s timeline, a myriad of arguments can be made for exactly what time period this acclaimed “Golden Age” applies to. The claim most commonly heard of within the general public is that this age falls somewhere between the late eighty’s and early two-thousands. Along with several other aspects of everyday life, visual entertainment too saw a boom in vitality and enlightenment as creators around the world gathered the resources and motivation to create stunningly unique titles like Super Metroid, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, among so many others. Others, however, claim this Golden Age occurred much later in the history of video games; toward the newest decade with the release of Virtual and (higher quality) Augmented Reality games–Just In Time Inc. and Pokemon GO as respective examples. While another shred of public opinion supports the claim that the Golden Age was long past, that it had occurred alongside the release and revamping of arcade cabinets and their best-selling titles.

If I may present a perspective that is admittedly rather unorthodox in nature: any history does not always have to be bound to only one Golden Age. Sure the advancements made with arcade cabinets were revolutionary for their time, and ushered in an all but unknown and new era for the public, but the first and second waves of three-dimensional rendering as well as the flood of augmented and virtual reality games had the same effect and pull to them. It’s foolish to deny the claim that any one age within its history was the best or brightest, but it is equally folly to assume the apex can be reached at only one point in a concept’s entire history.

I hope you enjoyed this shorter entry into the history of video games. Next time I hope to address two specific games I had made mention of in a post prior to this one: Tron and the very first Super Mario Bros. Until then, I hope you have a great rest of your day!

As always, cheers,


Update #2; 11/7/2019

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UPDATE: I sincerely apologize for the lack of updates in the past week or so. Due to the rigor and demand of the end of my seasonal job as well as midterms in college, I have not had enough time to dedicate toward this blog. However now that both roadblocks have been passed, I will be able to post more regularly. As as final note, I am moving the scheduled post dates from every Monday and Wednesday to every Tuesday and Thursday to better accommodate this new schedule. I apologize in advance for the abrupt shift, but I hope you continue to enjoy future content from this blog.

As always, cheers!


The Jump of the Man Inside the Pipe; The Story After Arcade Machines

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Following the overwhelming success of arcade machines and their equally popular titles, what was next in the history of video games? If you were an active gamer between the years 1978 and 1983, there were an endless array of doors, paths, and quests that became readily available to you. Titles like Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, and Tetris quickly became staples of everyday households and families as more and more video games continued to sweep the globe. In today’s day and age though, people tend to forget the foundations that made these titles the nostalgic masterpieces that they are, and instead opt for efficiency or profit over memorability. This week, I wanted to take the time to analyze the more technical aspects of these popular titles, and examine exactly what it was about these games that resonated so powerfully with their audiences.

The most obvious change within the computational capabilities of machines in those times was the advancement to arcade cabinets, with full color displays and dramatic sound playback to name a few others. No longer did the regular Joe have to settle for relying on imagination to warp simple diode displays, oscilloscope graphs and other rudimentary technology into their personal fantasies. Now they could actually see, hear, and personally interact with the–albeit still simplistic–models of humans, monsters, giant apes with a bloodlust for rolling barrels down slanted pieces of slotted metal, anything and everything the player could imagine was either right there at their fingertips or on the way from up and coming game developers. People were so encapsulated by these graphics and the rugged smoothness in animation that was seen as futuristic at the time, that pouring garbage bags full of quarters into once machine quite literally became just another Tuesday in their everyday lives.

A great game isn’t made up of just how snappy, flashy, or realistic the graphics may look. In their youth, the sky was just one of many starting points–way past the proverbial limit–for ideas, concepts, and characters. As I noted above, anything was a step up from simple light displays that depended on the user’s suspension of disbelief and heightened imagination. With the graphical limitations and barriers shattered, producers, developers, and players alike now had the opportunity to expand their horizons to even greater heights. Barring any controversial out-lash for the sake of the narrative, titles like Street Fighter, Space Invaders, and even the Legend of Zelda provided this generation of gamers the first opportunity to insert their personas into a virtual world; one that was not plagued with the same banal reality as ours is. And for a time, this increased flow of strange ideas sustained the titanic engine, so to speak, that powered this new virtual movement for years to come.

I hope you enjoyed today’s entry into the history of video games. Within the next few days, I would like to explore this “Golden Age of Video Games” era a bit further, and possibly talk about specific titles like the very first Mario Bros as well as Tron. Until then, I hope you have a great rest of your day!



Billy the Kid: The Fallacious Rise of the King of Kong

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For a number of us, video games have been a staple of our past. There was nothing more satisfying than mopping the floor with a sibling or friend in a competitive beat-em-up game, or watching your vehicle rush past your “ghost” (a transparent computer routing your best time that’s saved on that specific level) and achieving a new high score in popular racing games. For awhile growing up the local arcades, bowling alleys, and carnivals were the only place we could experience these types of arcade machines; unless you were one of the few rich and lucky enough to buy your own system. But for a majority of us, that was a dream for our adult lives, though in those moments, we worked with what we had. With the release of games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man–games that revolved around setting the highest score possible–a whole new slew of players rose from out of their caves, and into the spotlight. In a surge of Y2K-like mania, players rushed to complete as many levels in Pac-Man as possible to try to be the first to achieve the infamous “kill screen”. This kill screen was actually an error in the system’s memory, however. When the player reached level 256 (to put this into perspective, around six to seven hours of constant play), the game would attempt to load a nonexistent level; resulting in half the screen corrupting into a jumbled mess. For one man, the infamous King of Kong Billy Mitchell, that jumbled, pixelated screen sparked inspiration; a goal to reach before anyone else. Unfortunately for the constitution of the nature of legality, adherence to the rules was never a strong suit of his.

Early in the race for the highest of scores, there arose a mediator, of sorts. A hub where all submitted scores would be judged and ranked accordingly. In simple terms, the video game’s version of the Guinness Book of World Records surfaced under the name Twin Galaxies. the referees and members of this records community set clear and defined regulations for how records should be submitted, dividing them into two main categories: Records achieved using a traditional arcade cabinet, and those that were achieved using an emulation program; the most popular being MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator). This division was put in place for one main reason: a component within MAME allowed a user to create “save states”, or points within the game they could reload to after a failed run; this allowed players to keep saving the game until a high enough score was reached. Any player that was caught manipulating save states in this way to pass off an edited run as an original cabinet one was often stripped of their scores, but indefinitely banned from any further submissions to the archives.

Despite the incessant lies, coercion, and cover-ups in the current day, the notorious King was not always the laughable pariah his efforts have painted him to be. In fact his first few records–the very first highest score of over eight hundred thousand on Donkey Kong, the first to achieve the Pac-Man “kill screen” and subsequent three million point high score, and the later high score recapture in Donkey Kong of over nine hundred thousand–were achieved through legitimate means on genuine arcade cabinets. In his early days, he truly could have been considered a top contender for the royal title, so to speak. But alas as it tends to go for the power hungry, these accolades were not enough. Whether it was because of a constant pull of the rug underneath him from fellow gamer Steve Wiebe as he surpassed Mitchell’s scores or simply seeking recognition for recognition’s sake, his true intentions were never quite deduced. Regardless, the Kid had fallen to greed, and no amount of carefully constructed monologues or flashy american flag ties could help pull him out of this pit.

The first publicly known misstep was the falsified creation of media showcasing Mitchell’s first world record within the original Donkey Kong arcade game. Due to the limits of technology during the Golden Age of video games (where arcades saw the most light), successfully capturing clear evidence and proof of a player achieving a high score was naught but a dreadful challenge, in most cases. This led to communities coming together to a single area to watch the contestant attempt for a higher score. In this era, the simplest way to convince the public of your achievement was to have a large majority present during said achievement; its much harder to deny the same claim from thousands of people than it is from just one man. Despite this mentality however, Mitchell insisted on producing a recording of his first million-point-run, but there were a myriad of errors and inconsistencies within the tape itself. Random screen flashes/tearing over the score, shoddy cut ins and outs of audio throughout the clip, just to name a few, and yet not ten minutes after the video’s submission, Billy Mitchell’s first fabricated score was scribed into record by Twin Galaxies. The second misstep–coincidentally following similar events–was the successful submission of another fabricated score in Donkey Kong’s successor: Donkey Kong Jr. Brought about from the same jealous greed as the original Donkey Kong had given him, Mitchell’s lust for attention and recognition had continued to drive him further and further away from the road to redemption.

The biggest, and arguably most heinous set of missteps made from Billy Mitchell were the lies, cover-ups, and backroom connections he had made over the years with those both inside of and those who contributed to Twin Galaxies. During his time within the gaming records community, Mitchell had made several ties to influential and powerful members within Twin Galaxies. One of which, a referee by the name of Todd Rogers, was actually the definitive referee for both of Billy Mitchell’s high scores in Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. Furthermore, the financial infrastructure that had kept Twin Galaxies soaring past the competition during its heyday was heavily funded and supported by the King of Thieves himself. You know what they say I suppose, why risk losing investment when you can just bet with house money?

Due to several failed lawsuits on Mitchell’s end as well as a collective cavalcade of evidence piled against him, it seems the only fitting end for this erroneous King is to sit alone upon his stolen throne, to look back on achievements that were not ever his to claim, to live in a world where every single plan this supposed mastermind had concocted had failed. And on that note, I would just like to say I really hope you enjoyed this week’s first entry into the history of game design. These posts will typically end up being longer than the rest due to their very nature of being categorized as stories. Regardless, I hope you have a great rest of your day, and I look forward to speaking again this Thursday!

Until then, cheers.


Arcade Machines and Their Systems: A Quarter of the Whole Truth

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This week, I wanted to forego the usual singular game analysis and instead focus on a different aspect of video game’s history: the stories behind the first arcade machines, and how they were popularized (or rather modernized) into the sort of nostalgic household memory that they are today. As a whole, the arcade scene was an ingenious startup for developing the home-game world we currently live in; it was a way to test the waters to see if and who would occupy themselves with this new form of visual media. Now the games developed for these systems were never designed to be too complex like today’s open-world RPG’s, but instead designed with intense, instant action, to draw the players in with a hook, and present visually stunning images while their quarter cups became lighter and lighter.

The first of these revolutionary arcade games sprung from the creative minds of Larry Rosenthal from MIT and Cinematronics, a popular titan in the arcade-game development industry: Space Wars. Due to its unique vector-display capabilities, this game produced a compelling display, despite it only loading mono-chromatically. The game revolved around a simple premise: you and one other player control two spaceships with five different buttons–one to rotate left, one to rotate right, one to engage thrusters, one to fire a round or shell, and one to enter hyperspace–and the goal was to see who could destroy the others’ ship the most within a given time period. The most unique aspect surrounding this game that really made it stand out was the fact that the play time was completely dependent on how much money the players inserted into the machine; where each quarter bought a minute and a half, and a full ten dollar roll of quarters bought a non-stop hour.

Ask anyone you know the first arcade game that comes to their mind, and more often than not the average answer would be either Space Invaders or Pac-Man; or rather Pac-Man and MS. Pac-Man, if they’re really unfamiliar with the video game environment. For the most part though, these are the two most common games that come to mind, and for good reason. The first, Space Invaders, centered around a single player piloting a spaceship to fend off an array of alien ships that descended in a gradually increasing S-like formation down the screen. To progress to the next level, the player would have to eliminate every one of the alien ships by hoping their shots connect before the array reaches their forts; game over. To keep things interesting (and to keep the players hooked) sometimes a ship would drop an upgrade, allowing the player control over another ship and giving them a better change to achieve a higher score.

Finally the narratively acclaimed King of Arcade Games, Pac-Man (and later the Queen, Mrs. Pac-Man), who overwhelmed early video game arcades and later the pockets of their players since its release in 1980. When most people think of video games, they think of this: a yellow half-circle floating around a screen gobbling up little white pellets, all while trying to avoid four different colored ghosts that chase it endlessly as the game goes on. For nearly forty years after, Pac-Man Mania had swept the globe; from several off-brand spin-offs to the eventual official sequel, as well as a boom in sales for physical arcade machines.

These games, they started a revolution in visual entertainment. For the first time since its budding release, the public could view video games in a much more casual light, rather than something to trudge through in education; boring modules and low-res biological presentations. Now the player–us, we as humans–had a chance to insert ourselves into these characters. To live out a life different than our own. Sure it was pixelated, horribly paced and often focused more on getting that extra quarter from you, but for those brief moments in time where you were immersed into the game. You had your hands on the controls, your mind shifted into gear; it was your moment. And it still continues to be, even with more and more advanced technology being released every year.

I really hope you enjoyed this week’s entries into my narrative retelling of the history of video games. Tune in next week where I begin to cover some of the most popular stories, scandals, and controversies that have come about due to the rise in video and arcade video games. Until then, I hope you enjoy your night and have a great rest of your weekend!



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