Credit: Telstar Logistics / photo on flickrWhen I think of faux wood grain finish I think of two things: the dash of my fathers Buick Century and my Atari 2600. Compared to the modern design of todays gaming consoles, the Atari may seem archaic but in the 1980’s it was the pinnacle of home arcade systems. Its simple look and rudimentary controls introduced an entirely new, interactive way to play. Instead of building square houses with multi-colored Legos, you could blast your way through an asteroid field or swing through crocodile infested jungles. Sure, your limbs were square and your starship was a triangle but it had more buttons than an Etch-A-Sketch and it had sound. What more could you want?
Despite it’s early commercial success, Pac-Man (along with E.T the Extra Terrestrial) has been credited with the North American video game crash of 1983. Voted “worst coin op conversion” by Next Generation Magazine, Pac-Man was criticized for its inability to replicate the arcade equivalent. So why is it one of my favorites? I was nine years old, it was awesome and most critics are bitter douche bags.
Hey I’m an intergalactic triangle shooting my way out of an asteroid field. Pure 1980’s genius.Credit: www.atariage.com
Megamania With gameplay that included left, right and shoot, Megamania was all about the graphics. With flying hamburgers, steam irons and bow ties the only thing missing...the magic mushrooms.
Credit: wikipediaCredit: wikipediaCombat Invisible tanks and ricochet bullets made Combat one of the most fun and frustrating Atari two-player games. With 27 games in one, it made me hate my older brother 27 different ways. Combat actually came with the original Atari 2600, insuring sibling rivalry across an entire nation.
Frogger With an advertising budget of $10 million, Parker Bros. spent more on Frogger than Hollywood did marketing films. The result? An Atari classic and a really funny Seinfeld episode almost 20 years later.
With a recent cameo in Disney’s Wreck it Ralph, Q*bert may be unfamiliar to new audiences but is guaranteed to make most parents smile. After its release in 1982, Q*bert became one of the most merchandised arcade games, third only to Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. Appearing on everything from frisbees to sleeping bags Q*bert can still be found in episodes of The Simpsons, Futurama and Family Guy. Not bad for a swearing, orange, jumpy…thing.
Released by Activision in 1982, Pitfall rode the wave of Raiders of the Lost Ark popularity all the way to the bank (although the hero’s name was Pitfall Harry, we all pretended he was Indiana Jones). Filled with scorpions, tar pits, gold bars and bags of money, Pitfall went on to sell over four million copies. Even a young Jack Black was hooked.
The Atari 2600 version was the first official licensing of an arcade game and would quadruple the systems sales. Why? Within a year of its initial arcade release in 1978, Space Invaders caused a shortage of the Japanese 100 Yen coin. By 1982 it had grossed 2 billion in quarters, with a net profit of over 450 million. To put things in perspective, the highest grossing film at the time, Star Wars, grossed 486 million netting a profit of 175 million. Like all Atari games it was a poor rendition of the original but it was in your living room, on your TV and it was free. Star Wars couldn’t even do that…
So the next time you think that Call of Duty Black Ops II is the best game you’ve ever played, remember, an entire generation felt the same way about Pong. In 20 years, someone else will be writing about the simplicity of Xbox and the antique look of Nintendo. What will you be playing?Credit: Ian Muttoo / photo on flickr