_Long ago in a land not to far from here, some friends and I were waiting to be seated at a Bob’s Big Boy burger joint after seeing a movie when we noticed a box in a corner of the room. It had a screen, a couple of knobs, and of course, a slot for taking quarters. It was labeled “PONG” and looked like some sort of game.
Of course it didn’t take long for my friends and I to try it out and after a few minutes, were totally addicted. This was the first of many introductions to a new past-time called “video gaming”, a hobby I still enjoy today.
_For all you readers under the age of, let’s say 40, imagine a world without electronic games of any kind involving a television screen. No Angry Birds, no World of Warcraft, no Battlefield or Call of Duty. No Play Station, Nintendo or Xbox or any other gaming system for that matter. That was pretty much the state of things back in the early 1970’s, prior to the invention of games like Pong. After the release of Pong, everything changed!
Arcades prior to the creation of Pong were populated with pinball machines. Within a few years, pinball would be pushed aside by video games as arcades evolved from adult hang-outs to kid-friendly Mecca’s. Game systems were in their infancy, as Magnavox and a few others were selling simple systems that could play very basic games. These would soon evolve into systems made by Atari, Coleco and Mattel just to name a few of the big players.
_But that discussion is for later. For now, Pong and the early days of stand-up arcade games is what this article is about, and one of the most controversial stand-up games from those early days was “Death Race”. Imagine the horror of seeing a blocky car run down stick figures!! Shocking, I know, and it lead to the “first ever organized protest of a video game”. The National Safety Council called it “sick and morbid”, and it was featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes and a few others.
If they had seen then what violent games look like now, they would have laughed at Death Race. Imagine stick figure violence compared to Battlefield or Call of Duty! The technology in the early 70’s was incapable of recreating realistic graphics, and we were happy with that back then. It was amazing to us then. Now, those graphics look super simplistic.
But then, as now, the game was the thing and those games were awesome and ground-breaking in their concepts. My next article will deal with how small time programmers started big companies by giving away “freeware”.
(Wikipedia was used for both Pong and Death Race)