I'm old enough to have had a Magnavox Odyssey video game system when I was a kid. My brother owned one of those mini arcade cabinets from Coleco (Pac Man), and we'd take turns running the map, swallowing dots and chasing ghosts to beat each others' high score for hours.
I never had an Atari like my friend down the block, or a Commodore 64 (but my cousin did).
That's why spending time at the Video Game History Museum, plopped down smack in the middle of the show floor at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week in Los Angeles felt like coming home.
Enjoy these photos of some of video games' long history (sorry, Apple fans, there wasn't a Pippin on display), and I'll try not to feel too old.
This is one of the first arcade games I can remember playing. It was released in 1980 by Atari, and later licensed to Sega for European countries. The controls consist of a round ball that you spin with your palm to move a crosshair across the screen, and a button to fire laser beams at the missiles coming to destroy your city. It gets frantic as the missiles come in from all directions.
My very first exposure to video games came from my dad, who came home with a new TV in the early 1970s. This Magnavox television had a video game built right in — you’d plug the weird controllers with the one button and a radial dial on top into the set, and get to play one of three Pong variants, each with a slow or fast speed. It was crazy fun, at least until my neighbor got an Atari.
The Atari Mindlink was never released, though it was supposed to come out in 1984 for the Atari 2600. It was developed to read your head muscles (not actually your mind) and move stuff in the games developed for it, Bionic Breakthrough and Mind Maze. The games never even came out, either. Test players got headaches, apparently, moving their eyebrows around to play these uninteresting games.
I never had one of these pretty things, but I wish I had; it looks like it’s right out of a sci-fi movie. Bambino’s Superstar Football is way cooler than the one I had. I mean, just look at that thing: I want to play it in an egg chair.
My brother had the PacMan version of this amazing little Mini Arcade game and boy did we play the crap out of it. I still have sense memories of lying flat on my stomach and gripping the tiny little joystick in my hand as I anticipated every twist and turn of the never-changing map. The ghosts were my nemesis, the dots, my salvation. Apparently, Coleco sold 3 million units of these bad boys in 1982.
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
The kids playing this game last week at E3 all looked up and cheered when another old dude walked by and said, “That’s the best game, ever!” Put out for the arcade by Sega in 1989, it’s loosely based on the film of the same name and endorsed by MJ himself. This is still a pretty cool game.
Here’s the original wearable game controller, the Nintendo Power Glove. Made by Mattel and released for the Nintendo entertainment system in 1989, it was supposed to be the future of video gaming, much like 3D and VR are today. Nintendo pushed the peripheral in its 1989 film, The Wizard, giving us the best line ever: “I love the Power Glove. It's so bad!”
I didn’t even know this thing existed for real until last week, but given my own name, I sure wish I had. Released in 1985 as a novelty toy to save Nintendo from the video game crash of 1983, it only worked with two games and never really took off. It's still cute as all heck, though.
Sega Master System
Sega’s answer to the super successful Nintendo Entertainment System, the Master System came out in 1986. Even though it’s generally considered a better technical system than the NES, the Sega Master System didn’t quite overthrown Nintendo’s juggernaut, most likely due to mascots like Mario and Link. It did, however, become the basis for the handheld Game Gear, and saw the first release of Sega’s own popular mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, in 1991.
Virtua Cop 2
These fine young gentlemen are engaging in a round of Virtua Cop 2, a light-gun arcade game that moves the player’s characters through a predetermined route, asking you to shoot the bad guys as they appear, like a moving shooting gallery. There are still games in arcades to this day that play almost identically, just with better graphics and sound. These guys were having a blast, though.
Have you ever experienced that giddy feeling of good fortune when a slot machine starts pouring out quarters, or a winning poker hand lets you put your arms around a big pile of chips and pull them towards your side of the table? Dragon Coins, a combination arcade “coin-pusher” and casual RPG, recreates that feeling every time you play.
Dragon Coins by Sega Category: iOS Games Works With: iPhone and iPad Price: Free
It’s a dangerous precedent. Dragon Coins literally piles on the treasure when you’re on a roll, emulating the psychological appeal of casinos. As long as you are able to put the game down from time to time, or grind out low-level battles to earn extra experience, you probably won’t end up mortgaging your home or draining your kid’s college fund to pay for this game.
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 was undoubtedly a reason to buy a Sega Genesis back in 1992, but if you thought it was decent then, you should check it out the new remastered version for Android and iOS.
The title has been completely rebuilt for mobile devices, and it boasts exclusive new content including access to the mysterious Hidden Palace Zone and an all-new “Boss Attack mode,” plus improved graphics and audio.
SEGA has today announced its mobile games lineup for the coming months, with a number of notable new titles heading to Android and iOS.
Highlights include a revamped Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — which will be available on Android for the first time; Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed, and a rhythm franchise that originally made its debut on the Nintendo DS.
Sonic fan? Well now’s a great time to load up your iOS device with new Sonic games, because Sega has made each and every one just 99¢ for a limited time. That includes Sonic CD, Sonic The Hedgehog 4 episodes one and two, Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing, and the original Sonic The Hedgehog.
Basically, if it has Sonic in it, you won’t pay more than 99¢ for it.