Did you know: Vol 1

did_you_know

Did you know

There is a lot of random trivia and facts about classic video games. Some of it has historical content while others are just interesting to know. To continue spreading retro gaming knowledge we begin a new series that will showcase random classic gaming facts. Some you might already know, but we hope to surprise you from time to time.

Nolan Bushnell created Chuck E. Cheese

Nolan Bushnell and Chuck E Cheese

Depending on how old you are and where you lived you might know about or have gone to a Chuck E. Cheese. Chuck E. Cheese was a pizza restaurant that featured video games, prizes and a dancing mouse. It was the place to go for a kid’s birthday during its hay day as it featured everything a young child would want. It is no surprise the founder of Atari would create a place that showcase food, fun and video games. I personally went there for my thirteenth birthday and had a blast.

Steve Jobs created Breakout

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

There is a little more to this story. With the success of Pong, created by Nolan Bushnell, he and Steve Bristow came up with an idea to create a single player version of Pong and so the concept of Breakout was born. Steve Jobs was tasked with creating the game and brought on Steve Wozniak to help engineer the game. After a lot of sleepless nights and other adventures the project was done. Now in the end Atari had to do some reworking to Wozniak’s design before the final product was released, but overall that is why Steve Jobs got the credit for the creation of Breakout.

Jack Black Stared in a Pitfall Commercial

Jack Black and Atari Pitfall

Funny man Jack Black long before we ever saw him on screen was in an Atari Pitfall commercial. It was in 1992 that the then 13-year-old Black appeared in the spot. Jack Black is counted among the notable celebrity gamers and here we see his history with classic games went way back.

Porn and Video Games go together

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For many a gamer, porn and video games go together like Cheetos and Mountain Dew, but did you know one porn star got her name from a video game? Adult actress, April O’Neil got her stage name from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles own reporter and turtle confidant, April O’ Neil. In addition, April loves gamer geeks specially for their video game knowledge. Google search in 3…2…1…

There is an Atari 3600 version of Halo

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Yes, the classic Xbox shooter, Halo has a version created for the Atari 2600. Ed Fries former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft showed off his creation in 2010 at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. In the game you control Master Chief in an adventure type game where you explore 64 rooms shooting enemies and eventually encountering a final boss. Unfortunately, only about 100 cartridges were made so good luck getting your hands on one.

Just a Taste

There is a lot more history, trivia and weird facts and we will bring you more in the next installment. Until then tell us about classic gaming facts and history you know and perhaps we will feature it in a future article.

Mythbusting six common video game trivia mistakes

Mythbusting six common video game trivia mistakes

Welcome to the return of Know Your History, a feature column that aims to cover proper video game history. Normally, an edition of Know Your History would compare past history to current headlines in an effort to put current topics into proper perspective. This week, however, the aim is to correct a number of video game history facts that I either seen often or have recently run across.

With that said, let us get started with one of the longest running mistakes I’ve seen.

– Pong was NOT the first coin-operated video game.

know your history

A lot of people think and commonly publish that Pong was the first arcade video game. This mistake is incredibly common and with good reason, as I’ve found this mistake printed in video game publications as far back as the late 1970s. While the first successful coin-operated arcade video game, Pongwas not the first, nor was Computer Space, Nolan Bushnell’s first attempt at bringing one to market.

Galaxy Game actually gets the title of being the first coin-operated arcade video game. This space battle game appeared on the campus of Stanford University in 1971, at least two months before Computer Space and almost a full year before Pong.

– The Pac-Man ghosts only have one name each, not two.

know your history

Another long-running mistake is the misconception that the monsters in the original Pac-Man have two names each, such as Character: Shadow, Nickname: Blinky. This is incorrect.

The term of “Character” on these screens is not attempting to list a name but to describe the personality traits of that monster. As top Pac-Man players know, each of the four monsters has a different AI than the others. The “two names” on the title screen are attempting to point that out with one word each, probably losing something in translation.

The original Japanese listings under “Character” paint the picture a little better, with the red ghost described as Oikake (“to pursue”), the pink ghost as Machibuse (“to ambush”), the blue ghost as Kimagure (“moody”) and the orange ghost as Otoboke (“pretending ignorance”).

Compare those “Character” listings to the American versions and they make a little more sense. The character term of “Pokey” (Clyde) is describing him as “a little slow in the head” or something similar.

Make no mistake, the monsters have only one name each: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

– Mario was NOT named Jumpman during production of Donkey Kong.

know your history

Another very common error, despite being easy to disprove with a quick Google search. I’ve heard people tell me that “Jumpman” was the name for Mario in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, with some going so far as to tell me he wasn’t even named Mario until Donkey Kong Junior or even the original Mario Bros.

None of this is quite correct. While it is true that Mario’s working name was Jumpman, and that the instructions on the original arcade version do call him that, the name of Mario came along before Nintendo was even pushing Donkey Kong machines out the door. The original advertising flyer, released at the time the game was released, refers to the character as Mario numerous times.

While Jumpman was almost the character’s name at this time, he was referred to as Mario far earlier than most websites claim and throughout all the merchandising released for the game.

– Sega Channel was NOT the first online console gaming.

know your history

Sega might have claimed this at the time of their short-lived online console service, but to do so would mean ignoring GameLine for the Atari 2600 and PlayCable for the Intellivision console, both from the early 1980s.

– Wolfenstein 3D was NOT the first of the first-person shooters.

know your history

Saw this error listed a lot during Wolfenstein 3D‘s recent anniversary. Numerous mainstream media reports called the classic the first-ever first person shooter, a fact that is nowhere near accurate, as there were numerous others that came before it.

The first is often credited to 1974’s Maze War, which is shown in the slideshow for this column.

– Oh, Guinness Book, how could you make this error?

know your history

I like the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition books, and not just because I’m listed in them every year. I enjoy the great cross-section of gaming that is covered inside.

However, the 2012 edition lists a pretty harsh error on page 202, calling WWF WrestleMania for the NES the “first wrestling video game” in the bottom left corner. How this was not fact checked is a huge mystery, as this 1988 title wasn’t even the first pro wrestling game on the Nintendo console, nor was it the first WWF title to market, either, which would be Micro-League Wrestling.

Numerous popular pro wrestling games came out going as far back as 1983, including Tag Team Wrestling, Mat Mania and Mania Challenge in the arcades and Pro Wrestling on the NES. How did this error make the book?

Then again, this isn’t the only error I noted in the book this year. Page 47 attributes a quote and some information about Galaga champion Andrew Laidlaw as coming from “local newspapers” when, in fact, that quote and information was obtained and first written by me, the person who broke the story to the mainstream media. Click here and see for yourself.

These are just a handful of the common video game history errors out there, but some of the most common. Hopefully this article can go a long way toward helping fix these misconceptions.

Goin’ Out West: Running the gauntlet at E3 2012

Goin’ Out West: Running the gauntlet at E3 2012

E3 2012 has come and gone, bringing forth tons of people, announcements, events and bleary-eyed game journalists who haven’t had a real meal in a week.

I was not among them.  While I attended the full event this year I did not go to cover it.  There are easily tens of thousands of others who went to do just that, so I chose not to.  I went with my other professional priorities in mind instead, leaving the thousands of blogs about the new Call of Dutygame or Nintendo‘s press conference to others.  I do not classify myself as a gaming journalist nor is reporting and writing all that I do in gaming.

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That being said there seems to be expectations from followers of my columns here and social media.  Several e-mails have been asking me where my coverage is, despite numerous public statements that I was not going to E3 to report on it.  Only now am I writing this in an attempt to satiate those who seem to expect it while also showing what I was really out there to do.

Therefore this E3 column will be different as I provide short stories and thoughts on my adventures in Los Angeles this year.

Tuesday, June 5 –

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I always skip the Monday press conferences, knowing whatever I missed can quickly be watched from a comfortable chair later and knowing whatever is shown is going to be seen when I walk the floor anyway.  I rolled into the event on Tuesday morning instead.

Got to walk the floor very little on Tuesday as I caught up with business contacts and potential business contacts along with some friends.  Notable moment came from the VIP area atop the Microsoft booth when I met Philadelphia Eagles wide reciever DeSean Jackson.  He is as tiny in person as he is fast on the field, but quite friendly.  No, I did not let him know I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Wednesday, June 6 –

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Hit E3 early this day to meet-up with veteran video game journalist Rusel DeMaria, a man who has been writing about video games longer than a lot of the gaming media in attendence have been playing.  Also got to catch up with Spy Hunter world champion Paul Dean, who is always an interesting guy to talk to.

The most interesting portion of the day for me started late afternoon as the Los Angeles Kings fans began to arrive to the area.  A lot of tension existed in the area that day, as if the Kings won the Stanley Cup that night there may have been quite a moment in an area surrounded by other video game events.

Met up with Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day at the Nokiato help him out with some stuff he needed to do for the Video Games Live event taking place there that night.  This became a point for multi-tasking, as the VIP party for VGL was going on at the same time as the red carpet premiere of the film noobz at the theatre down the street.  After becoming one of the few people on earth to see exactly how Billy Mitchell primps his hair a group of us walked from the Nokia and past a sea of hockey fans and alert LAPD to the red carpet premiere.

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It was a while before our turn to walk to red carpet, where actor/producer Blake Freeman was presented with a historic award and trading card for the film.  I have to look for footage of a media interview with actor Ron Livingston to see if my accidental blurting out of “Holy ****, the guy from Office Space!” can be heard.  Exactly 45 minutes late for the Video Games Live party we had to skip the screening of the film and head for the door.

As soon as he hit the front door of the theatre, Walter Daysuddenly ran off at a full sprint.  I turned around to see the rest of our group had not yet caught up with us, then back to see Walter still running at a surprisingly high speed.  Not knowing what else to do I took off after him, as a 63-year-old man in a referee uniform shouldn’t run through a pack of hockey fans alone.

We plowed through the barricades in front of the Nokia as I tried to keep up with Walter.  He ran right into the main theatre with me after him as people we starting to take their seats.  I truly hope someone out there got cellphone video of me and Walter Day’s run through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles.  If you do, please post it or send it to me.  It has to be quite a sight.

Plopping down in the Video Games Live VIP party I noticed two things.  I was sweating half to death and the godfather of video games himself, Nolan Bushnell, was sitting 5 feet from me.  Was an honor to finally meet him, even if I was short of breath at the time.

Also glad that the LA Kings lost that night.  Not only was I not prepared to spend the night in a riot scene but a popular story subject in this space, Rachel Lara, might have been a red skidmark on the pavement outside if they had.  Luckily she arrived through the exiting hockey fans in tact that night.

Thursday, June 8 –

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This day marked the first day of the event that I actually got to play anything.  To sum that up, those who complain that football games are the same thing every year will find the new physics in Madden NFL 13 really do change the feel of the game in a big way and that I think Nintendo’s Wii U will catch on well with those that made the original Wii a big success.

A great surprise came to me this morning as me and Walter Day met up at the Nintendo booth along with Guinness World Records’ Gaz Deaves to present Isaiah Triforce Johnson with awards for his successful attempts at being the first-in-line to purchase numerous Nintendo consoles at launch.  The surprise came in the form of Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime along with a photo op alongside him.  Quite a hard fellow to get to, it was a fun thing to happen to me, even if the photos I saw later claimed I was Gaz Deaves.  I can’t quite imagine him with my haircut.

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Later hit the G4tv set for Walter to present Nikole Zivalichwith an award as well only to have the fun surprise of getting one myself while there.

For the rest of the event I got to walk the floor with Walter Day, meet up with some more folks and end up in more cellphone photos than I can count.  Ironically, despite not going to E3 to report on it I ended up meeting more people and becoming more exhausted than I have at any previous E3 event.  I am also still catching up on the trailers I actually failed to find the time to see while out there.

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Quite a fun time overall, and the slideshow to the left will show some of these very adventures.  If anyone reading this also has photos or videos of the happenings mentioned here please Tweet them to me @OriginalPSP or send them to my website at PatrickScottPatterson.com.

In the meantime I rest in this window between E3 and ComicCon as I hope and pray for no more downtown street runs.

The Interview: Nolan Bushnell

This was originally posted on Twin Galaxies and is reposted with permission of Twin Galaxies and writer Matt Bradford. You can see the original Interview here.

Nolan Bushnell

Nolan Bushnell hasn’t worked a day in his life. At least, there are very few he’d consider “work”. From his early days at Atari, to launching Chuck E Cheese, and now his current adventures at the forefront of interactive entertainment and education, the aptly titled “Father of the Video Game Industry” has led a life rich with innovation, excitement, and most of all: fun.

So how did he find time to talk to us? We have no idea – but you can bet we took advantage of the opportunity. Join us as we pick Nolan’s brain on the future of gaming, why it pays to remember the past, and what it is to be a gaming icon.

 

 

nolan-bushnell-image

Let’s begin with one of your most recent achievements; your British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Fellowship Award. What did this mean for you?

Well, what was really nice about that is [gaming] was being represented or thought of as a truly creative endeavour, and that really is sort of a transitional point in some ways from being a hobby and just about games. I mean, I’m not sure if Monopoly—as wonderful a game as it is—ever got a BAFTA [laughs].

It was a nice win for gaming. When do you first recall video games receiving that level of recognition?

I’d say probably in the very late 80s or early 90s. One of the pivotal games that I’ve always felt represented a big shift was Doom. Somehow, the graphics, the immersion, and the ability to feel like you were in another world…I think it was truly excellent. And then, to add to that, do you remember Myst and those kind of games?

The point and click adventures…

Right, the point-and-click adventures. One of the things that happened with those is the graphics and the sound and the experiences were so compelling; like, I felt like I visited those islands. So all of the sudden, there became an ability to really capture the emotive experience of being somewhere else. Of course, movies give that to you in the abstraction—one’s interactive and one’s passive—and so I kind of think that was where I felt it was really good. Before that the technology was so rough, the best we could do was sort of a cartooney view of the world, which was not immersive.

Are modern games hitting that mark in terms of immersion?

Absolutely. Now it’s almost de rigueur; you do that all the time. It’s not novel or new to be immersed in a strange or fantasmagorical world.

You hit on a topic that sometimes polarizes the gaming community; that is, the idea that modern games don’t offer the same degree of immersion or skill level as some of the more classic games. What’s your take?

I think that both camps are right. I mean, let’s face it, in some ways the early classic games are much more finely tuned and in some ways better produced because we could not rely on graphics to steal the show. We really had to make sure the challenge was right, the timing was right, and the difficulty was right at every level or else the dog didn’t hunt, as they say.

And in some ways the arcade world—the coin operated world—was a very, very good development world because each quarter was a vote. We as developers got immediate feedback from our customers as to what they liked and didn’t like, what they found objectionable, and when they would quit putting quarters in the machine. That feedback mechanism was very, very good for the early days.

In reality, very often graphics can actually cause fuzziness in the gameplay. For example, I play tournament chess. We wouldn’t think of playing on anything other than the classic wood, knight, queen, king, and bishop chess set. There are brilliant and wonderful chess sets, but to have to worry about whether what you’re moving is actually a bishop or actually a rook because the design is kind of funky…that’s not part of what chess is. Chess is about no ambiguity, and often times really good graphics will introduce a level of ambiguity when it’s not wanted or not needed, or is actually destructive to the gameplay. If you go back to game theory, sometimes you want to introduce abstractions and sometimes you don’t. It depends on what the creator or director of the game wants. Gratuitous abstractions are not good.

Can you think of games that demonstrate both extremes?

The one that harkens back for me is a game called Zaxxon from the early days of the coin-op business. That was very, very confusing to a lot of people. In some ways, though, Tempest had a level of abstraction that was quit obtuse, which people found very, very compelling.

Today, Portal is a game in which there’s some abstraction that are really wonderful integrations to the gameplay. As for games that are using gratuitous abstractions, there are a few of the Zynga games [Farmville], but that seems to be working for them!

To be called the Father of Arcade Industry is a huge honor, and a lot to live up to. How does it feel to carry that title, and how are you keeping that moniker alive?

Actually, to tell you the truth, I don’t focus very much on the rear view mirror. I’m always focusing on what I’m doing, and right now while I’m doing some help with Atari on the 40th Anniversary, my real drive is to fix education using some of the things I know about how to immerse kids and how to addict them to activities that can be educational as well as entertaining.

Does that involve game theory? Are you drawing on your experience as the founder of Atari?

Massively. We know for a fact that video game play increases the IQ. There’s been study after study after study, and it’s absolutely true. What happens though, is video games are, in fact, addictive and people who play an excess amount of video games find that they end up being able to creatively problem solve, but they’ve got no data to fall back on. They’re what we call “processors with no memory”. I think that it’s important to keep a well balanced life.

You’ve been in the gaming world for quite some time. Who else do consider an unsung hero of the video game industry?

I think Steve Meyer doesn’t get talked about a lot, but he was absolutely pivotal in a lot of the creative thought that Atari is known for. Ed Rothberg [Battlezone] is another one who did some wonderful stuff. Joe Decuir in the later stuff in terms of being a brilliant coder. That’s kind of the early days. Of course, I’m a big fan of Will Wright [Sim City], and I think John Carmack from Doom has done wonderful things too. He’s not necessarily unsung, though.

What about some of the indie developers coming up. Any on your radar?

Yeah, the guy who made Minecraft, this Markuss “Notch” Persson. I just think that that is brilliant in its simplicity. There’s this rule in gameplay: maximum richness, minimum rules. He’s kind of done that, and created this very, very compelling world space.

It’s seems right now there’s a lot of gameplay innovations vying for domination. You’ve got motion controls, social gaming, graphical enhancements, and all that. Is there anything you see as coming out victorious in the next couple of years?

Oh yeah, for sure. We all know the direction; we all want to have essentially an artificial universe. Whether we’re talking about the Holodeck or Westworld, we want virtual experiences that are real. I’m not sure if we’re ever going to get jacked in like Neo.

It’s funny, I just finished a science fiction book that will be published in a few months, Video Games 2071. It’s set a hundred years in the future from the first video game. I timed it from Computer Space, and I sort of let my technology mind run wild as to what I think the ultimate video game would be.

Which is almost the Matrix, right? Being unable to separate the video game space from the real world?

Yeah. It’s kind of a reverse turing test.

Do you see us getting to that point?

Getting close. I think we can get real close. And with what I consider the technology to be, that is not just possible, but probable…and probably sooner than what I postulated in my book.

We’re talking a lot about future trends, and Twin Galaxies lives in the more competitive domain of gaming. Do you think competition is still going to play a key role in the video game experience going forward, or is that going to be replaced by social and cooperative experiences?

No. I see a lot of signals that say competitive gaming is going to explode. I predict that within two years there will be several television channels devoted to nothing but watching other people play video games.

Understand that what happens is players become audiences. People watch basketball and baseball because they played it as a kid, so they know the rules intimately, and in some ways they project their aspirations from then onto the players now. That mechanism is part of our psyche, and that’s going to happen in games. You have to have enough of the audiences, and you have to have the right games, and the right dynamic. I believe that someday somebody will put it all together in a very short while.

There was a time in 70s and 80s when that appeared to be happening, but it never fully took off. What is different now?

The games were not designed for viewing that well. The field of view was constrained. I think in some ways they should almost design a game sport that is designed for third party watching.

Assuming competitive gaming does take off as much as you predict, will there be a need for score keeping organizations like Twin Galaxies?

Not only that, I think there’s going to be opportunity for Video Game Halls of Fame for great players– which clearly are score based, and all kinds of those things. Remember that what we have is a social phenomena, and surely as there’s walks of fame and a lot of these things, once it becomes a social phenomena, people want to experience it aspirationally.

You’ve give us a lot of insight into what’s the come, but what about what’s already happened? Looking back, what has been your proudest achievement?

My family of eight children, being married to my wife, and having a really nice home and support structure. The most important thing is really your family and friends. All the other stuff is window dressing.

The reality is, am I proud of things that I’ve done? Absolutely. But, you know, they were a vehicle for creating an interesting life for myself and my children in some ways. I’ve had really, really fun life. I haven’t worked a day in my life. Well, actually, that’s not true. We all want these ideal jobs, but there are times like [at CES] where the last thing I wanted to do is go down to the consumer electronic show and fight the crowds, but yet I was curious. So is that work? Is that play? I don’t know.

Speaking of your career, it seems far from over. Aside from the educational initiative and your continuing work with Atari, what else is keeping you busy?

I’m also on the board of a company, CyberSecurity, that I really love. I get involved with companies that are doing important and interesting things. Right now, part of the thing that I really like is I don’t have to be CEO. CEO is really a hard job. It’s all consuming. I think as I’ve got older, I’ve found it’s really fun to not be CEO [laughs]. It’s really fun to—I don’t want to say dabble—but to have an impact on a broader set of issues.

I am absolutely, in my core, an existentialist. The journey is the reward.

Are you playing anything right now?

I still play Go. I am playing some Portal. I am playing a lot…an awful lot…of the Atari Greatest Hits on the iPad. It’s a wonderful articulation. It brings me back and, you know, it’s almost like a time warp. I was playing Lunar Lander today and just having a ball. It was like time travelling back to 1976 or whenever it was. I got the Atari joystick and button thing for the iPad for Christmas, and I’ve just been having fun playing Missile Command.

What about your work in the industry? Anything up your sleeve?

I’m actually doing work on a truly interactive movie. Imagine, if you would, 100 people in a theatre playing an interactive movie. I’ve got a design, and one I think would be spellbinding. I’ve driven the cost out of it, and I think that it’s possible the first few interactive movies can make 20-percent of what Avatar did with the fraction of the budget.

You know, a lot of people think that it’s horrible to give away all your secrets, but I’m almost the opposite. I like to bounce those things off people. I’ve found that an unproven idea you can’t give away, let along have somebody steal them [laughs].

People don’t realize how bumpy the road to innovation is. Could any of the thousand companies come up with the iPad? Absolutely. And I think some people did. You know, people were talking about Apple Computers and that five years before, but what you have to do is execute properly. A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to execute properly.

And that was Steve Job’s genius.

Exactly. And in some ways it was Atari’s genius. At one point in time, we had about a 90% market share. That’s really, really hard to do unless you had the secret sauce. Anybody could have done what we were doing, but we did it first and best.

That said, the Fairchild Channel F was out almost a full year before Atari. How did Atari succeed where it failed?

This is going to sound very dismissive, but…they were really crappy games [laughs]. Quite candidly, the technology was not extensible. It was viewed a tiny little step on the pathway to a multi-game, which is where everyone was going. Everyone wanted to do a multi-game. Once you have a multi-game, it has to be good enough, and [the Fairchild Channel F] just wasn’t. The Magnavox Odyssey, they basically had huge returns, and actually in some ways—and i hadn’t realized it at the time—but kind of poisoned the well for consumer games going forward.

How so?

When we took the Atari Pong to the Toy Show, we sold none. Nobody wanted to touch it, because there had been enough people that had heard about Magnavox and some of those things, and so they just didn’t see it. If it hadn’t been for Sears, I’m not sure if we could have gotten it launched. Of course, it turned out to be one of the most successful consumer product launches for ages, but it was a real, real struggle. When you look at it, what was the difference between Pong and Ping Pong games. You could say, well, “was there really that big of a difference”. And it turns out it was massive.

Yeah, you could say that. 

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Twin Galaxies thanks Nolan Bushnell for his time and for laying the foundation for what TG staff and members enjoy on a daily basis. Look for Nolan in our Trading Card Series and keep watch for his next big projects.