My shoes have holes in them. This is not a good thing when negotiating the slush filled streets and snowbanks of Toronto in December. So, at the end of my work day, the daylight already faded, I dragged my soggy feet over to a local store in my neighborhood. It’s a great store. As you walk in, along the left side, a row of old school arcade games and pinball machines greet you with funky sound effects, flashing lights and groovy graphics that never fail to seduce me as I walk by. One of which is Gauntlet, one of my favourite games growing up. After coming up with snake eyes on the shoes (nothing really tickled my fancy; I am, admittedly, a terrible shopper), I slopped home, tail between my legs, slightly disappointed.
When I got home, I began to make dinner. I slipped in a DVD of Seinfeld; my wife has just recently discovered the show, so we are on a binge marathon. It was the Frogger episode, you know, the one where George buys the Arcade game from the seedy pizza shop hangout of his youth, so he can preserve his high score for his own sense of accomplishment.
So I was delighted then, after having been reminiscing about old arcade games, to discover a new interview with one of the pioneers of the industry over on Wired. Eugene Jarvis produced pinball games for Atari and video games for Williams Electronics. It was thanks to him we got games like Defender and Robotron:2084. He talks about the history in making those games and what big an influence his childhood had on his career; notably pursuing the forbidden back room at his local cigar shop to play pinball in sleepy Northern California. It’s reassuring to hear that he is still making games today, at one of the very few companies producing old school coin-op games.
When the Smithsonian starts adding video games to their collection, you know that games aren’t just for rebellious young tykes in shady back rooms anymore. They are an important part of our cultural lexicon. Even if you lose your high score when you’re a kid, it stays with you forever; soggy feet or dry. I should probably go find some new shoes now. Right after this one last game of Frogger.
You may also want to check out:
A Brief History of Video Games
The Art & Design of Retro Video Games
Title Scream & Chiptunes: 8 bit Sound & Vision Get Revisited