Unusual Games from the Golden Age of the Video Arcade
This list is the second in a series that examines coin-op video games. It's difficult to explain to a young gamer just how big a deal the arcade used to be. To them, an arcade is a sort of Chuck E Cheese experience: a few video games but mostly carnival type machines that give out tickets you can trade in for cheap prizes. Although the word "arcade" has been around for a long time, there was a brief period in the late 70s and early 80s when it became literally synonymous with the term "video games" and these years have come to be known as "The Golden Age of the Video Arcade". Historians still argue over exactly when it began and ended. Some say it started in 1971 with the release of "Computer Space"; some say it was 1978 with the release of "Space Invaders"; still others say it was 1979 when "Asteroids" made its debut. Some say it ended in 1983 with the great video game crash (that would eventually destroy Atari); others say it ended in 1986 with the release of the 3rd gen Nintendo Entertainment System. I prefer the shorter 78-83 time frame, with seven years leading up to the Golden Age and seven years of fade-out. For this list, however, I'm using the longest definition in order to cast a broader net.
One of the interesting things about a new technology is that, at first, nobody really knows what to do with it. You might see that it has great potential but tried and true methods have yet to be developed. Video games were no exception and, as an artistic tech, unusual games are inevitable. What makes a game unusual? Sometimes it's bizarre game play, or maybe the game has an odd history, or perhaps it features some weird hardware. This list examines some of the unusual games of the era.
Let me set the stage with a little history. In the beginning there were really only two video games: Video Tennis (which would eventually evolve into what became popularly known as "Pong"), and Spacewar! The first video gamers were engineers inside University computer labs and tech companies. Eventually some of them realized there was commercial potential for these games. Oddly, home gaming and coin-op gaming began at the same time, but there was never much of a contest in terms of game-play and graphics. Home games simply could not compete with a coin-op machine that came with a computer programmed solely for the game at hand. As a result, arcade games would dominate over platforms for fifteen years or so. It wasn't until games like "Pitfall" and "River Raid" (from then rebel Activision) on late 2nd gen systems, and certainly by early 3rd gen NES games like "Super Mario Bros." and "The Legend of Zelda", that gamers began gravitating out of the arcades and into their homes. This, however, is still in the future. Video Tennis/Ping Pong became the staple game of 1st gen home systems such as the Magnavox Odyssey. Two versions of Spacewar! competed to be the first coin-op game. Technically the winner was Galaxy Game but only one (very popular) machine was originally released. Therefore, the real winner was....
- [+] Dice rolls