Playing a game on an Apple IIe
Defender on Atari 800
Former Mattel Electronics programmer Dave Akers tries his hand at his game Star Strike on the Atari 2600
Display cases house classic consoles and game boxes
An Odyssey (the very first home video game console) and a Timex Sinclair computer sit next to each other in a display case.
Tom Sloper and his baby: the Vectrex.
Astrosmash on Intellivision.
Game Developers Get in Touch with Their History
The 10,000 attendees of the 2001 Game Developers Conference had a chance to see something special this year: their history. Intellivision Productions and the Classic Gaming Expo put together an exhibit of the early days of the game industry. The exhibit was in the Online Lounge at the Conference, held in San Jose, March 22 - 24.
The Online Lounge is a regular feature of the Conference. Its an area where attendees can relax on sofas while checking their e-mail and stock portfolios on the twenty PCs connected to the Internet.
This year, attendees could also play Defender, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Kickman, Missile Command, Kaboom, Space Invaders, Astrosmash, and Night Stalker, among others, on classic computers and consoles. A Commodore 64, Atari 800, Atari 2600, Intellivision, ColecoVision, Vectrex and Apple IIe were up and running (much to the amazement of many passersby). There was also the original Adventure game (Colossal Cave) playing on an IBM PC ("You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike...")
Although the lounge was surrounded by exhibitors showing the latest in high-resolution immersive video and sound, the word "Awesome!" was regularly heard as attendees saw the blocky graphics of their childhood favorites.
Some of the visitors grew up on these games. Others created them. Developers Chris Crawford (Atari 800) and Tom Sloper (Vectrex) stopped by to chat about the early days. Bill Fisher, who was in charge of Apple II development at Mattel Electronics, brought the unreleased Apple version of Mission X. A number of Commodore 64, Intellivision and Atari programmers also wandered through and shared stories.
Dave Akers, who programmed the Atari 2600 version of Star Strike, sat down to see if he could still save the earth. He did - once out of five tries. Good thing he works today at Namco and not the Pentagon.
Classic Gaming Expo cofounders Sean Kelly and John Hardie and Intellivision Productions President Keith Robinson were on hand to answer questions about the games and systems.
In addition to the working systems, an Odyssey (the first home video game), an Odyssey 100, a Timex Sinclair computer, a Mattel Electronics Aquarius computer, and an Atari 5200 console were shown in display cases. Also in the cases were some rare games, including some on cassette tapes for Atari 800 and Apple II and one of the infamous X-rated Atari 2600 titles, Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em.
A videotape of computer and video game commercials from the early 1980s played continuously.
While everyone enjoyed the nostalgia of the games, there was a serious reason for such a display at the Game Developers Conference. "If you go to film school, they'll make you watch Citizen Kane and silent movies," pointed out Keith Robinson. "Game developers should likewise be familiar with old games. They don't have fancy graphics and effects - just good gameplay. If you can figure out why these games are fun - and they still are - then you have the solid foundation to build a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art production."
Robinson hopes the exhibit becomes a regular feature at the Conference. From the grins and laughs as they played the games, most of the visitors seemed to agree.
Exhibit coordinated by Lisa M. Dawson (Intellivision Productions) and Stacey Ackerman (Game Developers Conference). Transportation and setup for Intellivision Productions: Tom Kahelin.
Special thanks: Joe Santulli for the Odyssey, Sinclair, and Commodore 64; Bill Fisher for the Apple IIe; and Dave Warhol for the Atari 800.