Posts from the ‘History’ Category

Unflattering Photos of Video Game Developers

Yale graduate Jordan Mechner

Square programmer Nasir Gebelli

BioShock designer Ken Levine

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell

Spore creator Will Wright in Paris


 
Disclaimer: The content within this article is entirely fictitious and only meant to be entertaining in a tongue-in-cheek sort of fashion. So, for lawyer’s sake — Please don’t sue!
 

♥♥♥ Videogame Hotties!! ♥♥♥

Let’s face it, Dear Reader. Being a videogaming enthusiast has its severe drawbacks. There’s nothing worse than realizing your hobby has turned your pallor from sickly white to translucent. Or like finding out that the amount of money you’ve spent toward your complete Sega Saturn collection could’ve bought an island in the Caribbean.

Or finally coming to terms with the fact that the opposite sex has zero interest in dating anyone who can name all the Koopa Kids, and argue why Bowser Jr. doesn’t count.

Indeed, the life of the joystick jockey is a lonely, barren existence. Well, fret not, Dear Reader. In the vein of a Tiger Beat-style tweeny-boppy-zoppy magazine, tele-games 2600 would like to chase away those lovelorn blues with a Valentine’s Day post on real-life Videogame Hotties! Throw away that life-sized Morrigan pillow (or at least give it to someone who could really use it, like a twelve year old boy) and swoon over these actual, flesh and blood, human people! Yes, living, breathing organisms who work with videogames and are handsome/beautiful while they do it!


♥♥♥ David Perry ♥♥♥

David Perry is the man behind the worm —  Earthworm Jim, that is! Armed with his trusty sniper scope, “Dave” (as he likes to be called) is always on the lookout for a girl to call his lass. This Irish dreamboat only has “éires” for someone who doesn’t play games with his heart! Remember, MDK doesn’t stand for Murder Death Kill, it stands for My Darling Kitten! ♥♥♥

  • Likes: Visiting Irish castles, red wine, algorithms for data compression
  • Dislikes: Prima-donnas, rubber keyboards

♥♥♥ Richard Garriott ♥♥♥

Speaking of sexy Europeans, Richard Garriott a.k.a. Lord British is a real jewel. Richard’s success in conquering the computer gaming kingdom afforded him his very own castle! And don’t think he’s stuck in the dark ages either! This wealthy prince spent $30 million from his own wealth to travel in space! Regardless, those who know him assure us that this cosmonaut is still very down to Earth! “I w[ould very much like to call someone my Queen],” he says. Are you up to the Ultima-te challenge?

  • Likes: Adventuresome girls, evenings by the fireplace
  • Dislikes: Ice queens, being killed in-game

♥♥♥ Jen Taylor ♥♥♥

Not only this girl a princess, she’s a real peach, too! Jen Taylor (or “Jenny” as she likes to be called) is a talented voice over actress who has lent her voice to some of the most popular videogame characters of all time, like Cortana from the Halo series. And believe us, this jaw-dropper is anything but holographic! Although Jenny is very sweet, this girl has no problem saying what’s on her mind — cross her and she’ll give you an ear full!

  • Likes: Talking, other things
  • Dislikes: “Space cases” (LOL!)

♥♥♥ Cliff Bleszinski ♥♥♥

Watch out, girls! Cliff Bleszinski (or “CliffyB” as he likes to be called) is a real Gears-head! Sporting a well-trimmed hairdo and flashing his totally crushworthy smile, this cutie may look Unreal, but make no mistake, he ain’t no polygonal mesh! A night on the town for this ladykiller may quickly turn into a “killing spree” if you know what we mean! So capture this flag, and take him back to your base, before someone else does! 😉

  • Likes: Girls who “shoot straight,” customizable evenings
  • Dislikes: Cheaters

♥♥♥ Roberta Williams ♥♥♥

Gaming royalty in her own right, the Queen behind the King’s Quest series is considered one of the pioneers of adventure games! The beautiful Lady Roberta (or… uh… “Rob” as she probably likes to be called) admits that the search for Prince Charming is a quest in itself! “There are too many ogres and trolls in this business, and I’m not trying to be cute. Why the hell are computer people so goddamn ugly? I’m mean, really, I was at CES last year and most of the attendees would make a pig’s poop-encrusted anus seem pleasant to look at, ” she says. What can we say? This princess has it all: beauty, brains and a sense of humor to boot!

  • Likes: Fantasy novels, macaroons and tea in the afternoon, Phantasmagoria
  • Dislikes: Self-absorbed jerks, pornography

 

Disclaimer: The content within this article is entirely fictitious and only meant to be entertaining in a tongue-in-cheek sort of fashion. So, for lawyer’s sake — Please don’t sue!

Videogame Christmas Commercials (Warm and Fuzzies Sold Separately)

Seasons Greetings, Dear Readers! With the advent of Advent, my schedule has been freed up somewhat and I’m able to spent more time on the literary black-hole that is tele-games 2600. The Christmas season is in full swing — evident by the green and red knickknacks that stores have had out since fucking July. I mean, really, why go through the trouble of putting out that shit early when people are only going to scoff, make the same tired joke that I just did, and not buy it until they absolutely have to i.e. December?

Furthermore, what’s the deal with egg nog? I don’t taste any egg, and what is a nog, anyway?

Irregardless, I love the accoutrement that the holidays always bring. Slushing my way to the 2nd floor of Macy’s just to prance around in nutcrackers and rainbow starbursts they have strung about, drooling over things I could only afford on a Zuckerberg salary; it’s all part of the magic of capitalism Christmas! Even though I’ve somehow managed to become more cynical with age, I still love to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just to see a marathon of holiday cheer on my television screen.

Lately though, ad agencies have sort of dropped the ball on delivering the yuletide goods. It seems like Christmas commercials nowadays are completely committed to selling to the 1%; I can’t afford to buy a new car for my “loved one” (for that is what I call myself), nor can I plunk down several grand for a diamond simply because it’s that time of the year.

And even in the rare instances where, say, Hershey’s are playing their classic, score old commercial in which green and red kisses chime to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, the damn thing is too old and blurry to watch on my high definition television set.

But that’s not really their fault. The fact is, their heart’s are in the right place. On today’s episode of “Stupid Videogame Shit No One Cares About” we are revisiting videogame Christmas commercials that deliver the warm and the fuzzies, and because they’re displayed at YouTube’s standard resolution, the blurriness will only add to the nostalgia.

Most of these commercials have what I feel are crucial ingredients to a great Christmas commercial:

– Lots of snow

– Set at night

– The most heartwarming rendition of every Christmas tune

– Families hugging

– Inquisitive dog

– Faceless corporation wishing viewers “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”

First up is a Pepsi/Nintendo crossover event supposedly from 1989. I’m kind of ambivalent about the date. If this commercial did indeed air in ’89, Nintendo would be trying to hype Super Mario Bros. 3 and not its salad tossing predecessor. But then again, the commercial plays up the Game Boy, which was released in ’89. Hmm…

The commercial begins with Mario marching into a grocery store during a particularly chilly night. I’m not sure if this was intentional on the animation team’s part, but Mario clearly jumps over and avoids a fruits and vegetables stand in favor of a giant Pepsi display, where upon he is granted Santa-like powers. It seems like some sort of tongue-in-cheek joke that the idol of many an 80’s kid would prefer sugar water over food with nutritional value. But I digress.

Our mighty Mario, now endowed with Kris Kringle’s powers and forever endowed with his weight, starts whipping NES Action Sets and copies of Super Mario Bros. 2 into shopper’s carts. Best of all (according to the commercial), the sensational new Game Boy is up for grabs. In retrospect, it’s funny that anyone (myself included) would’ve gotten excited over a portable NES that was barely functional and ran on way too many batteries. Tetris was the pack-in game for a reason; it was slow enough for anyone to follow on that horrible blurry screen.

On a scale from Hannukah to Christmas, I give this commercial a solid 9. Solid gold.

This next commercial (and I’m only including it in the number 2 slot so I don’t immediately turn readers away) stars morbidly obese soul singer Aretha Franklin dressed up as (what else?) Santa Claus. She’s taking a taxi home in a picturesque Christmas environment and though it’s not directly implied, the commercial seems to say that she’s gonna bust a $99 NES Action Set on her relatives for Christmas, thanks to Target’s low low prices.

These commercials always seem to play up the moment when someone opens a gift or someone finally meets their relatives for the holiday, but never the awkward aftermath.

INT. FRANKLIN HOUSEHOLD – NIGHT

A blizzard rages on outside as Aretha Franklin and her parents awkwardly sit in the living room. A grandfather clock TICKS and TOCKS with every passing second.

MOTHER FRANKLIN: So how’s your career going?

ARETHA: Pretty good.

MOTHER FRANKLIN: (smiling) That’s good to hear.

FATHER FRANKLIN: So what is this you brought us?

ARETHA: It’s a Nintendo Action Set.

FATHER FRANKLIN: …

ARETHA: It was only $99 at Target. Comes with Super Mario and Duck Hunt.

FATHER FRANKLIN: Did you just say what I thought you said?

ARETHA: No, I said “Duck — Hunt

FATHER FRANKLIN: (ambivalent murmur) I don’t know why you wasted money on that, we got a perfectly good Colcowvision in the den.

NIECE FRANKLIN: I like it! Thanks, Auntie Urethra!

FATHER FRANKLIN: Sweetie, I don’t know how to bring this up gingerly, so I’ll be blunt: You’re putting on weight, lay off the Twinkies.

ARETHA: Dad!

FATHER FRANKLIN: Listen, I’m not clairvoyer or nuthin’ but if you don’t stop eatin’ them Little Debbies, you’re gonna look like that fat slug from the Stars War!

NIECE FRANKLIN: Return of the Jedi, Unkie Franklin!

FATHER FRANKLIN: What-everrr!

See? Totally awkward. I give this commercial a 7. Solid meat.

Next up on the docket for duckets, TWO Toys R’ Us commercials! It’s a shame these died out with Reaganomics, but Toys R’ Us commercials are the most pervertedly picturesque children’s ads ever. They typically involve a preamble that serves as an excuse to get a child to mince around with an actor (presumably desperate for his SAG card) in a giraffe costume in the most celestial Toys R’ Us store.

The first one is pretty amusing for its absurdity. An old man starts telling his grandson a horrible story in which he falls asleep in a Toys R’ Us store, and instead of having the police called on him by the toothless cleaning crew, the child awakens to a magical realm where a man in a dirty costume escorts him around the store.

Cut to: The warmest, most idyllic representation of Super Mario Bros. screen EVER. Against a pink and blue starry background, Mario hops and bops his away round World 1-1. This is what makes Christmas commercials great. They take something so permeated into the social consciousness (Coca-Cola, Old Navy, John Tesh) and somehow turn it into the most heart-warming, life-assuring thing ever. Makes me want to grab a grog of hot chocolate, a very thick blanket, and a narcoleptic dog and play that Mario shit all night long.

In the second commercial, another nameless boy falls asleep and dreams of owning a Toys R’ Us store. The store featured is the same we saw in the last one. Forgive me, but it is my nature to apply reality to old commercials. Can you imagine if this dream came true? A seven year old kid is suddenly thrust into the position of store manager, and instead of traipsing around the store, ripping open toys at his whim, he has to discipline his unruly teenage employees, call the authorities on the latest homeless man to claim residence in the store’s foyer, and groan at the latest poop-trastrophy in the lavatory.

We cut to the same Vaseline smeared footage of Super Mario Bros., then back to reality where the kid’s old brother nonchalantly informs him that he just woke up from a dream where he won the Super Bowl. The younger brother says (in regards to his Toys R’ Us dream), “I had a better dream.” Who dreams of this shit? I won’t bother chastising the Super Bowl dream because the NFL is not my forté, but I know toys and videogames and have never had such a stupid dream in my life! The closest I ever got involved the Nickelodeon Super Toy Run contest where kids would go on a five minute shopping spree and grab whatever they wanted in the time allotted. Even in my youth, I couldn’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t just b-line to the videogame section and clothesline the shelves for every Nintendo and Sega product available at the time. Those were the sweetest plums, but the winning kid always managed to waste precious time with filler like “Barbies” and “LEGOs”. Give me a fucking break!

Sorry, I’ve had too much to drink. I give these two an 8.

Even less tangentially related to videogames than the Aretha Franklin ad is this 7up Christmas commercial. It has all the hallmarks of a classic 7up ad; shades-sporting spots, antics, live-action seamlessly spliced with 2D animation. It’s all there. This ad goes back to the days when snipping “points” from soda labels in massive quantities would yield prizes. The prize here being the Spot game for Game Boy. I never played it, but I did play the Cool Spot game for Genesis, so I’m predisposed to like any 7up licensed videogame. Thanks Dave Perry.

Man, that final image this commercial has. Dark ambiance, bright Christmas lights, jazzy Christmas music. Can’t get any better. I give this one a 9.

Our next commercial is for the critically-acclaimed game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Now, I firmly believe this game isn’t the worst game ever made — that unfair label seemed to come about due to lazy spurious “journalism” that quickly fed into itself — but the dichotomy between commercial and game couldn’t be much greater.

Keep in mind this could very well be the first commercial ever made for the E.T. videogame. This commercial was hyping people up for a game they didn’t already know was shit. How’s that for poignant?

It’s a blustery winter night, and unannounced and dressed in Santa regalia, E.T. waddles inside the house of his earthbound chum, Elliott. Being the impatient, inarticulate puppet that he is, E.T. uses his celestial powers to toss Elliott’s present aside and rip open his own before Christmas official starts. And voila! The present turns out to be none-other than the very videogame which bears his name. Christ, didn’t anyone at Atari bother to throw him a free copy for allowing him the use of his life story? Do E.T.s even have the concept of litigation?

This is the most Christmassy commercial of the lot, so I’m going to preemptively award it a perfect 10 out of 10. But there is one issue I have and its with the logic of the commercial. As evidenced by the movie, this is a one parent household, and said parent seems to be asleep as a roaring fire rages on in the house’s hearth. Clearly, the fact that their mother seems to be disconnected from reality serves to augment the film’s storyline. Ah well.

Our penultimate commercial has jacked me up on da warm und fuzzies, and while our last one isn’t as great, it’s still pretty stupid.

It’s another Atari commercial, this time taking place in the future where a family resides in a space station. The patriarch hears a horrible crash and dashes to the command center, where he runs across the most gregarious Santa Claus ever seen on television ever.

I think I’ve mentioned this concept in my last entry, but I’m always baffled when commercials introduce an already insane premise and somehow find a way to amp it up to absurd degrees. Okay, this family lives in space, that’s a pill I can swallow. Big crash, alright? Don’t tell me, I know where this is going. Dad’s gonna save the day using his skills at Asteroids, right?

Nope, turns out the noise came from the most ecstatic Santa ever, who managed to freak out the rest of the family by playing Centipede way too loud. This must be a common occurrence for the Space Johnson 500 family, because instead of trying to beat the living shit out of the intruder like normal human beings would, they sit placated and watched as he plays Pole Position for a bit.

Santy Claus drops off a bunch of ancient videogames and beams off, Star Trek-style. It’s a nice commercial but nothing special. Just mostly insane.

I give this one an 8… outta 5.

Welp, that does it for this entry. Tune in the following weeks for more articles about those Christmas races from Diddy Kong Racing and other Christmassy stuff.

…Christmas!

Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t overdose on tryptophan!

Yo! Noid – A! Review

Dear Readers, I have to apologize. About… n’yeeeeee six months ago I promised to wax excessive on the merits of the Zelda Oracle games. Actually, you know what? I take that apology back. Looking at the site statistics, it’s become clear to me that the only reason anyone ever visits this site is because they typed Oregon Ducks or Stephen Hawking into a search bar, and instead of actually learning about those subjects, they’re treated to some beanpole blathering about crappy Atari games.

I have to admit, while I’m writing this, I have a window open on a live stream of the Occupy Wall St. “movement” (a misnomer if I ever saw one) in New York City. This thing has been going on for a while, but I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that a bunch of smelly layabouts are going to change the basic principles of democracy in our country. It’s like trying to cure cancer by watching reruns of Doogie Howser: M.D.; you can kind of see the connection, but it’s still entirely specious.

In the end, the antics of these odorous and onerous dopes may have the impact of a whiffle bat to a pillow, but if they think camping out in the cold for weeks on end and inhaling tear gas makes them feel better, who are we to judge?

Which brings us lovingly to tele-Games 2600‘s review of the NES “classic” (another misnomer) Yo! Noid.

You may remember the Noid; a relic of times past, this creature’s sole purpose in life was to destroy each and every Domino’s Pizza.

What was it with companies that had mascots bent on destroying their products? I mean, I get the idea that their pizzas are so impenetrable that a lunatic in pajamas couldn’t destroy them but it just sounds nutty.

Here’s a commercial for those who don’t quite remember the character:

 

Fucking insane, right? The Noid became so popular, reserved Japanese developer Capcom set out to secure the license from Domino’s and slapped the bunny-eared maniac over some old Japanese game that no one cared about until said bunny-eared maniac was applied.

The story is as follows; Mr. Green (who is basically the Noid wearing green pajamas) is running amok in New York City. Before Mayor Koch has the chance to declare martial law, the Noid steps up to stop his green counterpart.

You know, it’s one thing to center a game around a completely insane premise (a man in red pajamas destroys pizzas); it’s another to reject that completely insane premise and replace it with one just as insane (a man in red pajamas must stop a man in green pajamas from bothering New York). The Noid drops his quest to squish-a da pies in order to stop the Green Scare.

If there was one word that could accurately sum this game up, it would be “average.” It’s a pretty humdrum platformer. You run around, fling yo-yos at scrunchy looking Will Vinton creations, and in between each level, you suffer an excruciatingly boring pizza eating contest with the local gang leader. There’s a bit of strategy involved with these contests, but they become much easier if you know where to find the relevant power-ups within the preceding levels.

The levels are varied enough to keep it somewhat interesting. If it wasn’t for the horrible hit detection on the skateboarding level, and the aforementioned pizza battles, this game would be a lot easier to stomach. But since I’m lactose intolerant, I find Yo! Noid to be twice as painful!

Yo! Noid has one thing going for it. The game perpetuates the fine tradition of “Music to Find Your Wife’s Bloated Corpse to” that NES games did so well. I don’t know what it is, but that crappy sound chip can really bring out the terror in people. Just listen to this:

 

Past entries include the Dragon Warrior overworld music, and that music that plays when you run into a Nintendo employee in Game Boy Camera.

 

 

The game ends with the Noid taking down Mr. Green, and being rewarded with pizzas, which he goes absolutely apeshit over. I don’t get it. This game royally fucks with his baser instincts. Noids destroy pizzas. That’s what they do. That’s all they do.

Oh well, the game only cost me 4 bucks at a used game store.

So, that leaves us with the aforementioned question; If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? Would anyone care if Yo! Noid never existed? Would anyone care if I never wrote another word on this blog GO DUCKS? Probably not, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is what Capcom felt; they loved the Noid so much they wanted to honor him, by golly. And I love being stupid on a WordPress blog, and by gum I’m a-gonna keep a-doin’ it.

Though you may be schizophrenic, Noid, you will not be forgotten.


In researching this post, I couldn’t help but laugh at the story of Kenneth Lamar Noid. He was just a simple man who wanted $100,000 for all the “anguish” he’s had to endure all his life.

I’m sure if he were alive today, Kenneth would be on Wall Street…

…having his teeth knocked out with a police baton.

An Ode to Nintendo Power

Don’t get your hopes up, Dear Reader. The Zelda nonsense will be back in full force once I finish the crimson half of the Oracle series.

During the halcyon days of print media, the newsstand was lousy with videogaming publications. From Bill Kunkel’s Electronic Games (God rest his soul), to the studied, in-depth Next Generation; from the mainstream’s Electronic Gaming Monthly to the dual paste eaters that were GamePro and GameInformer, we’ve had magazines catered to every videogamer’s taste.

But none quite had the sizable cult that Nintendo Power has endured throughout the years.

The origins of Nintendo Power can be traced back to two sources; the Nintendo Fun Club and The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide. The former was a free newsletter sent out to new owners of the NES that mostly erred on the side of advertisements for new games than tips and tricks proper. Strangely enough, that was reciprocated in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, where Doc told gamers to subscribe to the Nintendo Fun Club.

The latter, however, was a behemoth of exhaustive guides and walkthroughs for about twenty of Nintendo’s better early games. Games like Metroid and The Goonies II were given the white glove treatment with full colored maps (scrawled in what looked like art pens and markers). I find it difficult to relate just how essential this black tome was to a videogamer of that era, but hopefully anyone who’s lost their head in Kid Icarus’ obnoxious last dungeon can sympathize. The writing was a bit poor (pot to kettle, pot to kettle…), clarified by the fact that the masthead contained nothing but Japanese names.

The back of the Player’s Guide featured a quick writeup of every game released on the NES up to that point with a preview of things to come. It’s interesting to note (at least for losers like us) that the guide was being written while Nintendo was preparing to bring Zelda II stateside, as the box art was just doodled in. Also, in the preview section, an unreleased sequel called Return of Donkey Kong was mentioned.

I can’t leave the Player’s Guide alone without featuring this awesome photo in the back of the book. I want to live in that photo.

So, born of these efforts to inform players of games to buy and how to beat them so you can buy more came the inaugural edition of Nintendo Power, sent out to any child smart enough to send in for the newsletter, and on the front, splayed in clay was Super Mario Bros. 2. Ho-lee-shee-it. No longer were children content to read 3-2-1 Contact and Highlights if they wanted something to flip through at the newsstand. Nintendo Power was actually interesting!

The magazine was lousy with everything Nintendo. Within the first few pages was a letters section, where children and sad grown men with mustaches could send in photos of themselves, posing next to a Zenith strobing a faint image of Mario. There was a section where equally sad grown men and women (called “Counselors” to save face) gave tips to little Jimmy on how to defeat Medusa in Castlevania. And of course, the standard high score tables, brief walkthroughs and previews of upcoming games.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see the huge bias Nintendo had slanted in its favor; Nintendo Power was a 30+ page advertisement for its wares, and everything got the red carpet treatment. Even the worst game got some sort of attention, and though they never slammed them directly, you could always tell in reading the reviews that they at least wanted to you purchase ten copies of it. But like a puppy with a bladder control problem, or your octogenarian father with the same affliction, it’s easy to overlook this relentless gushing.

In honor of this great/”great” magazine, I’d like to present some of the more memorable moments of its history.

Now, I wouldn’t say that in the early days of NP, the whole thing was thrown together, but the art direction was a little blinding at times. Bright neon colors and creatures with phallic probosces teemed the pages. And although this sounds pedantic, as a kid I distinctly remembered charting the colors of Mario’s clothing throughout the magazine to make sure I wasn’t crazy and that he did have a blue hat at some point.

I’d say Mega Man bore the brunt the largest of Nintendo’s wonky artists. I got the clear impression that both Nintendo and Capcom were leery in revealing the Blue Bomber’s Astro Boy influenced origins, judging by their Americanized* efforts. So as a result, we got this:


And this:

And oh dear God, this:

Thank God the games were fantastic otherwise, cause I can’t imagine anyone buying this in the hopes of controlling a blue cybernetic dwarf with pretty boy lips and Down’s.

To be honest, that first cover I still think looks pretty boss, regardless of Mega Man’s Elephant Man appearance.

Hey, there’s a Robot Master for you, Capcom!

…oh wait, it’s been done.

A lot of the covers were really imaginative. Take the Ducktales cover for example. Can you imagine any magazine in this day and age using their time and resources to come up with anything half as clever as this? A seamless integration of clay models, traditional cel-art and gorgeous lighting.

I think I chubbed up there for a second.

In the early years (at least up through the SNES days), NP would included a folded two-age poster in the centerfold. Yes RBI Baseball fans, you can now impress your friends by plastering this goofy poster in your 80s cool guy room. Still, it could be worse. You could’ve had a poster of Jar Jar Binks reading RollingStone on your wall for months, until you saw the movie and had to shamefully remove it, denying that it ever existed to your friends.

Thanks a fucking lot, RollingStone.

This one is just hilarious. For Nintendo Power’s second issue, the cover story was Castlevania II. Just check out how they decided to advertise it on the cover.

Yessir, that’s Simon Belmont holding Dracula’s possessed severed head in his hand behind the creepiest backdrop this side of western Nevada. Unsurprisingly, Nintendo Power received a load of calls from angry parents about it. Hey, this is what happens when you forget your target audience is children from ages 4 to 30. Remember that.

Incidentally, there was a website that used to sell a t-shirt of this famed cover printed on the front, but the last time I visited, the sizes were – ironically – limited to XXL. As soon as they start selling this shirt in sizes I can wear, I’ll link them, but until then, nada. This is the power I wield with an expendable WordPress blog…

Steve Wozniak, he of glorious Apple ][ fame was a HUGE Tetris player, and would send in his high scores every month. The editors eventually grew tired of this, and stopped printing his scores. Steve did what any engineering genius would do and reverse engineered his name. I can’t find the issue it happens, but they did print a high score for a Mr. Evets Kainzow. Woz, you genius.

Speaking of C-list celebrities, Nintendo Power would routinely feature celebrity videogamer profiles every month. In hindsight, it’s sort of funny to see the winners they picked at the time.

Kirk Cameron

Once the star of the flaccid sitcom “Growing Pains”, later went insane when he found God and started using bananas to contest Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Favorite games: Rygar, Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Gradius, Pinball


Jay Leno

At the time a successful comedian before he screwed over not one but TWO inheritors to the “Tonight Show” throne, earning him a rightful place in Hollywood Hell. Counts millionaire headcase Jerry Seinfeld as one of his allies.

Favorite games: Legend of Zelda, Contra


New Kids on the Block

Euugh.

Favorite games: EUUGH


Wil Wheaton

This former child actor broke free of the shackles of playing a much-maligned know-it-all on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to become King of the Nerds! He seems like a pretty nice guy by all accounts.

Favorite Games Favorite Game: Ice Hockey


“Howard and Nester” is probably the most remembered feature of Nintendo Power. Every issue would feature a comic adventure with the two taking part in games Nintendo really wanted to push at the time. The eponymous Howard was one of Nintendo Power‘s editors and chief gamemaster and would serve as a comic foil to the brash radish-headed Nester. A typical comic would involve the two embroiled in some game fantasy, where Nester would ignore Howard’s advice and bash his skull into a brick ceiling and things of that sort. The artwork was really fantastic, with well done watercolors and a clean style. Unfortunately, at some point they dropped the original artist and replaced them with some hack who apparently had a background in illustrating school books.

Ooh, Annie, where’d you go, baby? I’m guessing the reason Annie never appeared in any of the strips proper was that having two people take the wind out of Nester’s sail in every issue was a bit much.

Around the late 1980’s, RPGs had become a HUGE success in Japan, thanks to its progenitor, Dragon Quest. Nintendo was very keen on repeating that success and creating future business in that genre with a much larger American audience. So for what seemed like ages, Nintendo Power prominently displayed their newly translated version of Dragon Quest, now called Dragon Warrior in their magazine. There were features that explained, in the most simplest of terms what an RPG was, and how you were supposed to play, with maps and detailed enemy charts.

The art was thankfully westernized from Akira Torionlydrawsangryeyesbigforeheadsandusestoomanylines’s God awful designs. Just look at the Dragon Lord in OUR copy of Dragon Warrior. You’re telling me Akira’s version is better? Fuck you! Everything he draws ends up looking like Goku, anyway…

Unfortunately, sales for Dragon Warrior were a smidge underwhelming. I surmise the reasons being that, again Nintendo was short sighted in realizing its audience were primarily grade school tots who couldn’t read, let alone read ye olde English and the steep learning curve in what amounted to a graphic version of a pen-and-paper RPG. I give them credit though. They did introduce the RPG to western audiences pretty well. When they realized how much backstock of Dragon Warrior they had, Nintendo promised new subscribers to their magazine ONE FREE COPY! Presumably, they ran through their stock and gained new readers in the process.

Incidentally, this is how I managed to finagle a copy of Dragon Warrior. I was about five at the time, barely able to read, and absolutely mystified by a videogame that would deny me my God given right to play it. This and Faxanadu were games that I was more-or-less not allowed to play because I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Mario and Zelda were more my bag. But being somewhat discouraged from these games at an early age really rekindled my interest, and twenty years later, I finally finished Dragon Warrior on an actual NES… clone.

Jesus what a slog…

I’ve polled friends and they all seem to agree that this was probably the freakiest advertisement they ever used in the magazine. Remember, I had trouble separating a Tetris 2 commercial from reality, how do you think I reacted to this?

The magazine went through many transmutations, and starting with the SNES era, just didn’t seem the same. Once all the game publishers saw the crappy artwork Nintendo was using to promote their games, they started hiring their own art staff to sell their games. Gone was Howard and Nester. Well, first Howard when he left for LucasArts, then Nester when readers realized how lame he was without his bowtie counterpoint. That certain kitschy (I use that word too much on this site) 80’s kid’s magazine style left as the magazine became more contemporary.

For whatever reason, the magazine got a second wind during the N64 era, possibly thanks to the advent of the Internet at the time. I can’t really explain it, but the N64 issues seemed as sweet at those first ones.

They also started issuing out some sweet swag at the time. Nintendo would routinely send out promo tapes for its biggest releases. By now, I’m sure you’ve seen them all through viral videos on the YouTube. By far the best one is the Banjo-Kazooie promo tape. Nintendo hired actor/comedian/film critiiiIIIIC! Jon Lovitz to narrate, and it’s pure bliss.

Now, I actually have a piece of art that I sent in to Nintendo Power that was published. I was reading the latest issue at the time, saw the artwork and for the next five minutes, couldn’t shake the strange sense of Deja Vu I was feeling, until it hit me. Really speaks volumes about how dense I can be. I won’t say what issue or even what era. I’ll invite you, Dear Reader to find it and report back, for a prize!**

In recent years, Nintendo Power nearly gave up the ghost, but thankfully, it was rescued by Future US publishing. The writing and layout is more contemporary, influenced by the Internet’s unrelenting diction. There’s still the classic Nintendo bias, but it’s toned down significantly and reads more like EGM-lite I suppose. I’d recommend it, not just because magazines – let alone gaming magazines – are having trouble keeping footing in this world, but because Nintendo Power just needs to be around. It’s one of those constants that, without, would throw the world’s chi out of whack.

God bless you Nintendo Power!

*”Americanized” means “shitty”

**Prize will not be good

George Plimpton vs. The World

Welcome back, Dear Reader, to another installment of Tele-Games 2600. In coming weeks, I’ll begin to cover games and systems that – believe it or not – have nothing to do with the Atari 2600, but for the time being, bear with me.

In the nascent days of video gaming, when our favorite hobby was in the process of attempting to stand on its own two legs, an important facet was beginning to form: the advertising game.

Looking back, television and print advertisements have served as zeitgeists for different eras of video gaming, capturing the new and exciting products each year had to offer. They’ve also served as unintentional comedy, as nearly every commercial back then featured kids stuck-in-time going absolutely ballistic over something stupid like Lock ‘n Chase. I often wonder if these same kids were that simple-minded to be impressed by Lock ‘n Chase, and how they might have a complete mental breakdown after seeing, oh I ‘unno, Super Mario Bros. 2 in action.

The best ads would always end with cosmic rays or muscular arms pulling the kids through the screen and literally putting them into the game, which is just logistically baffling. Think about it: NASA required 400,000 to put a man on the moon, and this commercial is telling me that Atari only needed one fat bearded game programmer to thumb his finger at the physical properties of the universe and create games that pull actual human beings into its crappy Galaxian clone. C’mon Atari, we’re not that stupid!

Sometimes, the television would just explode, which actually happened in a commercial for Tetris 2, Nintendo’s God awful sequel to the classic game. I can remember watching that commercial live as a young pup and being freaked out that everyone playing the game would detonate unexpectedly. I guess I was under the impression that commercials were there to explain how dangerous owning something like Tetris 2 was (looking back, I wasn’t totally wrong. It was a horrendous game).

Getting back to the topic at hand, Mattel’s Intellivision was one of the first to attempt to topple Atari’s mighty reign on the video game market. It was an interesting system looking back, to say the least. The controllers resembled calculators and were hard-wired to the system with phone cords. The body of the system itself was sleek– well, as sleek as the late 70s were going to get, which was sort of undermined by having to plug a goofy looking cartridge into the side of the system.

Mattel’s new game had superior graphics and sound, but they would need someone the American people were familiar with to pitch it. They needed someone they could trust…

That’s right, George Plimpton, famed sports writer, actor, athlete, composer, circus performer, etc etc. This guy has literally DONE. IT. ALL. I don’t know exactly why Intellivision went with George, but I’d wager a guess that because he’s had every career known to man, that us common folk would have no choice but to believe a person so learned in every aspect of life.

And don’t forget, George Plimpton himself was there when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, helping to subdue his killer to the ground. I’m sure Teddy himself bought an Intellivision after that bravura performance, and if it’s good enough for “America’s Royal Family” it’s good enough for the rest of us.

George brought a very erudite and collegiate air to these Intellivison commercials, which made the Atari 2600 seem like mere child’s play in comparison. Check out this ad, attacking Atari’s space games.

This commercial is a little unfair in comparing Atari’s venerable but outdated Asteroids with Intellivision’s latest game. It’s like an art critic declaring Michelangelo a shitty artist for a wonky pot he made in 4th grade.

And although he’s playing a little dirty by literally hijacking an Atari commercial (which looks to have been no more than 5 seconds long), George’s point is clear: Intellivision is the superior system for space games.

In this next ad, Mr. Plimpton takes on Baseball for the Atari. Let’s watch!

I have to completely side with Plimpton on this one, Baseball is a completely shit game. The limited sprite capabilities of the Atari means that the offense is always comprised of flickering ghosts, while the limited controls mean that the defense is comprised of three men who clomp around in unison, kind of like that Christopher guy who used poles to dance around with puppets. Ha, how’s that for obscure?

Atari, embarrassed by what George had to say about their piece of crap game, took umbrage and released Realsports Baseball, which was closer to the real thing than the bizarre art school project they originally put out. George is no longer having to contend with little kids in his ads, now that Atari has literally brought out some heavy hitters. Here’s an ad for the game:

Oh snap, Plimpton! Looks like Manager Billy Martin’s got your number, pal! This commercial is riotous for several reasons, not the least of which is Billy’s “stick-up-his-ass” walk as he approaches the camera.

Billy’s big salvo is his attempt to discredit George merely talking baseball and not living it. Honestly, if I had to make my baseball gaming decisions based on what a drunk who’s never played a video game in his life and spends most of his time on the field verbally sparring with the umpire says or an intellectual with functioning eyes who’s played baseball and routinely writes about it, I’d obviously believe the latter. Plimpton was merely calling a spade a spade, and guess what? Realsports Baseball turned out to be a piece of garbage, anyway!

Also, I love Billy’s assertion that he’s a “nice guy.” Billy’s infamous for his pugilistic outbursts, and has fought everyone from amorphous baseball blob Tommy Lasorda to the starting lineup of the 1960 Chicago Cubs. Nice try, Martin.

This next commercial offers a more generalized view of the comparison between their baseball games and football games.

Once again, I have to give the nod to Intellivision. Atari’s Football is a baffling ordeal to witness in motion. Each team is only allowed what looks like three robots on the field, they’re constantly flickering, the line of scrimmage is for whatever reason behind the defense and the field is so compacted, each yard is ten pixels wide!

Plimpton’s none-to-subtle bashing of the game has once again raised the ire of Atari, who’s recruited brick fathouse Ed “Too Tall” Jones to wax intellectual on the merits of their new Realsports Football.

Things go sour immediately when we realize that Too Tall can’t act! Just check out the way he snaps from his forced laughter into the typical spiel of claiming Plimpton don’t know shit. The best part happens when Too Tall, try as he might, attempts to smile legitimately at the end. You can literally see the strain he’s putting on the muscles in his face to pull off that mighty endeavor.

Of course, the game was crap, but you knew that already.

The Intellevision didn’t last long, and subsequently George Plimpton was relegated to martyrdom, alongside Nelson Mandela, Jesus Christ and that old woman who couldn’t for the life of her find the beef. I’d like to take this moment to salute you, George, for navigating us through the first console war in video game history. Your contributions will not be forgotten.

Atari Games with ‘Star’ or ‘Space’ in the Title: Part I

Hoo lordie, can you believe this humble blog has lasted long enough for a SECOND post? I honestly can’t, and I’m still skeptical because I’m still in the process of writing it, right now. I could very easily hit the X on my browser and prove myself right. But I’m not going to do that. I will suffer the art of writing, and writing poorly about video games no one cares about anymore and shouldn’t care about, for you, Dear Reader.

A hero for the ages

Yesterday, I was feeling a little guilty about mocking early Atari games. Lambasting their primitiveness is not exactly brave or clever satire, especially when comparing them to today’s latest grey first-person shooter whose TV ad features some rap artist I couldn’t bear to know the name of. Honestly, I could do without today’s generation of games, knowing its target audience has been co-opted by urban mall rats perpetually clad in large billed hats and stylized neon shirts. Listen cool kids, stop encroaching on our territory and go “party” or whatever. Video games are reserved for the socially damned.

Sorry, tangent. As a change of pace (seeing how this is my 2nd post and all), I decided to couple today’s games with a theme close to my heart, Space Games!

So join me, and astrophysicist/cyborg Stephen Hawking as we explore… the cosmos of the Atari system.

The earliest of these games, Star Ship was actually a launch title; a more depressing thought I could not dream of. Get this, the launch titles for the 2600 included the following downers: Air Sea Battle (slow and boring), Basic Math (even slower and more boring), the previously trashed Blackjack (boring and not even a proper game of blackjack at that!), Combat (fun for two seconds), two racing games (horrible), Video Olympics (a game that dares to disguise ten different ways to play Pong as legitimate sports! Nice try Atari, but Basketball doesn’t involve a ricocheting ball and paddles!!), Surround (looks like Snake, which is boring) and Star Ship.

Easily, Star Ship sounds like the winner of the bunch. Star Wars was released by then and had inoculated the world’s consciousness with space fantasies. And thanks to Atari, you could relive the movie right in your own home. Let’s take a look:

Okay, this isn’t quite the game I imagined. The cover of Star Ship promised me a decent facsimile of a space battle, but instead, they gave me what looks like a simulation of a bad house party.

The starfield in this game is no more than four stationary white blocks, blinking intermittently. The only real clue that you’re actually moving forward in space is the fact that the enemies, every now and then, get bigger. Speaking of which, just how creatively bankrupt were the game designers back then? The enemies in this game are horrible to look at! I feel like I’m trying to break through a naval blockade, what with all the blue ships moving toward me. Every now and then, a pink alien (who I imagined has suffocated in the vacuum of space and is really just a corpse floating around) and inexplicably an Enterprise from Star Trek will appear.

The shooting aspect of this game is a little odd. You’re expected to move your cross-hairs over an alien/naval ship/Enterprise and press the fire button, and if you’re successful, the “action” pauses for a moment while the target blinks on and off, then disappears. You don’t really get the sense that you’ve destroyed anything, and the whole game ends up feeling like a remedial version of the old Star Wars Arcade game.

Oh sure, if you tire of that nonsense, you can always select another game option. Frankly, if you’re desperate enough to hit the Game Select switch hoping for some variety, you already know you’re fucked.

Stephen Hawking sez:

Unlike the rest of the games on this list, Star Ship is slow enough for me to play. Despite being almost completely immobilized, I was able to bark commands to my graduate student manslave, who then inputted my commands into the joystick, pressing the firing button when applicable. I grew bored of this after three minutes, and decided my time would be better spent reneging my retraction of a Unified Theory of the Universe. I found the answer, it’s “blue.” If you don’t believe me, then prove me wrong, smart ass. I dare ya.

The next game on our list is Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator. Now, this is actually a pretty good game, though I have to mock the title for not being entirely accurate. This is probably the most twitch-action Star Trek game ever made, so don’t let that nonsense about “Strategic Operations” fool you. There is no strategy in this game. Not only that, it’s barely anything like the show; no diplomacy, no arduous Prime Directive nonsense, no cardboard alien worlds and no Shat.

In Star Trek: SOS, you have two action screens, one which shows your swift-moving Entership flying around space in an overhead perspective, and the other showing a first-person view from the bridge. Your goal is to shoot endless Klingon ships, and occasionally save star bases from said Klingon ships. The action is fast, and the Atari does a commendable job of translating the game home.

Now, I was pretty familiar with this game from playing the Apple ][ version in my youth, which compared to the Atari 2600 version was like playing the game on Quaaludes. It was so mind-numbingly slow, but I was convinced if I played it long enough, the pace of the game would pick up, but it never did, Betty! It never did!

I don’t have much else to say about the game specifically, so I’ll briefly mention the commercial for it. The ad mentions the game was so challenging, it came with a controller overlay. It’s a neat add-on, but the idea behind is complete bullshit. If you’ve played Asteroids, you already know how to play Star Trek: SOS. Thrust, fire, turn. Repeat.

Oh yeah, and check out that smug kid at the end, dressed like a Vulcan. Boy, I’d like to beat the living hell out of that priggish little shit.

Stephen Hawking sez:

Being a huge fan of the show, I was asked to guest star in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where I played poker against Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Data, the show’s jaundiced idiot man-child. As I recall, I won.

Later, I was able to take a tour of the Enterprise bridge set, where I was allowed to sit in the captain’s chair for as long as I wanted. It took ten minutes for my cadre of graduate student manslaves to hoist me into the seat, and less than one minute to want out. I’m ashamed to admit, I made a mess in the chair. As I understand, it was never cleaned up out of spite. Sorry Patrick Stewart.

What, you want me to talk about the game? Well, what about it?

Our third and last game… eugh… is Space War. It’s another one of those early Atari games where anything that could go wrong does so in a spectacular fashion.

Upon first seeing the game, I’m reminded of the famous Van Halen story where they demanded in their contract rider that each venue have a bowl of M&Ms without any brown candies. The thinking was because their stage show demanded so much technical (and electrical) detail be taken into consideration, that should the venue failed to address a single aspect of the contract, they might’ve failed to address other aspects of the contract and therefore disaster was just around the corner. If the boys arrived and found a bowl of candy without any brown M&Ms, that meant the promoters read the contract front and back and could safely accommodate them.

Now then, the reason I bring this up, is because if you program a game with ‘Space’ or ‘Star’ or ‘Cosmic” or whatever in the title, it better adhere to the following:

  • Game must have black background and star field somewhere
  • Game must have spaceships
  • Game must be exciting

Now look at that screen! Do you see a black background and star field anywhere? For Pete’s sake, that’s the easiest aspect of the game to get right, and you fucked it up royally Atari! I don’t care if this game was programmed in assembly, how hard can it be to simply change a GREEN background to BLACK? Change a register or whatever, speckle around some white dots and viola, you’re done!

My point is this: if Atari failed to get the easiest and most blatant aspect of a space game wrong, what chance is there that they actually got anything else right?

Space War is essentially Combat mixed with Asteroids, with Pong bullets! I’m sorry Atari, but not every game can be Pong! At some point, we have to evolve, or else we’ll never get to Super Mario Bros. and that means no Legend of Zelda and that means no Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Best Game of All Time.

Anyway, as I was saying, Space War is Combat mixed with Asteroids. Two people fly Asteroids-like ships while attempting to shoot each other for the vain goal of having more points than the other. Unfortunately, it controls like a dodgy version of Asteroids; attempting to thrust your way into any direction will takes minutes off your life and because the game fails to provide precision aiming, shooting your opponent will quickly prove frustrating.

There are other game options, some involving a yellow dot with a gravitational pull that the game tries to pass of as a “sun” and others featuring squares that fly aimlessly, accomplishing nothing. All in all, bad game.

Stephen Hawking sez:

I was able to play the original Spacewar! while visiting MIT in 1962 for a lecture on stars or some shit. At the time, I had not totally fallen victim to Lou Gehrig’s true legacy, ALS, and so was able to compete against other players. My motor skills were slowly falling by the wayside though, which caused me to lose each and every match. The nerds chided me endlessly for being such a bad player. “It’s not my fault, I have ALS!” I cried, but they wouldn’t listen. After absorbing several minutes of their taunts and abuse, I wet myself. I tried to explain it was just another symptom of ALS, but deep down, I knew that wasn’t the case.

Fuck Space War.

So there you have it, three Atari 2600 space games with varying levels of toleration. If you hadn’t noticed by the title, where will be more of these in the future, so be sure to tune in for more cosmic crackups on Tele-Games 2600! Goodnight America!