Following the first appearance of arcade video games in 1971 and home video game systems in 1972, the commercial video game market was exuberant with fast-paced innovation and profit. New games, gaming systems, and technologies flooded into the market until around 1983, when sales of home game systems dropped, thousands of arcades closed, and major video game makers suffered steep losses or left the market altogether. In Before the Crash: Early Video Game History, editor Mark J. P. Wolf assembles essays that examine the fleeting golden age of video games, an era sometimes overlooked for older games’ lack of availability or their perceived "primitiveness" when compared to contemporary video games.
In twelve chapters, contributors consider much of what was going on during the pre-crash era: arcade games, home game consoles, home computer games, handheld games, and even early online games. The technologies of early video games are investigated, as well as the cultural context of the early period—from aesthetic, economic, industrial, and legal perspectives. Since the video game industry and culture got their start and found their form in this era, these years shaped much of what video games would come to be. This volume of early history, then, not only helps readers to understand the pre-crash era, but also reveals much about the present state of the industry.
Before the Crash will give readers a thorough overview of the early days of video games along with a sense of the optimism, enthusiasm, and excitement of those times. Students and teachers of media studies will enjoy this compelling volume.
About the Author
Table of Contents
Foreword Ed Rotberg vii
Introduction Mark J. P. Wolf 1
Video Games Caught Up in History: Accessibility, Teleological Distortion, and Other Methodological Issues Carl Therrien 9
What's Victoria Got To Do with It? Toward an Archaeology of Domestic Video Gaming Erkki Huhtamo 30
Ball-and-Paddle Consoles Leonard Herman 53
Channel F for Forgotten: The Fairchild Video Entertainment System Zach Whalen 60
The Video Game Industry Crash of 1977 Mark J. P. Wolf 81
A Question of Character: Transmediation, Abstraction, and Identification in Early Games Licensed from Movies Jessica Aldred 90
Every Which Way But…: Reading the Atari Catalog Sheila C. Murphy 105
One-Bit Wonders: Video Game Sound before the Crash Karen Collins 119
The Rise and Fall of Cinematronics Tim Skelly 138
Color-Cycled Space Fumes in the Pixel Particle Shockwave: The Technical Aesthetics of Defender and the Williams Arcade Platform, 1980-82 Brett Camper 168
Coin-Drop Capitalism: Economic Lessons from the Video Game Arcade Carly A. Kocurek 189
Early Online Gaming: BBSs and MUDs Staci Tucker 209
Appendix A Video Game History: Getting Things Straight Ralph H. Baer 225
Appendix B The Magnavox Co. v. Activision, Inc.: 1985 WL 9469 (N.D. Cal. 1985) Ross A. Dannenberg 234
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