Category Archives: classic game

Blood flows black and white on the highway this halloween.

For Halloween night, let me point to the first game to foster protest over video game violence, Exidy’s 1976 Death Race.

In the game you drive a vehicle around a play field, chasing stick figures who flee randomly in all directions to avoid becoming a hood ornament.  If and when you strike one, the victim screams and turns into a grave marker, complete with cross.  If you have a buddy with you with a handy quarter, you can both mow down “gremlins”, as they were described in the game cabinet text, simultaneously.

Even though with 1976 black and white graphics things are barely sketched out for you, the game brought a firestorm of controversy, which only helped to increase sales for Exidy.  They moved over 1,000 units of the game, their best-selling up to that point.

If you dare, read the history of the game the National Safety Council branded as “sick, sick sick”, here at The Dot Eaters.

The Roots of Activision

These days, although one of the most prolific game developers and publishers around, Activision is probably best known as the company behind the Call of Duty series. Starting as an entry into the WWII-shooter sweepstakes that was all the rage in the early 2000′s, the games moved into a more modern setting with, yes, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games that have become a license to print money in recent years.  A lot of people now deride Activision as simply resting on its laurels, content to spin money from what are essentially the same games released year after year with each new incarnation of the Modern Warfare series.

The company had a much more nobel and creative beginning.  Founded in 1979 by former Atari programmers who wrote some of the first games for that illustrious company, its raison d’être was to give creative license and proper accreditation to those the founders thought the most important to the success of any game platform: the people creating the games.  That, and to make some of the very best games for what was then the leading console, the Atari VCS/2600.

Throwing the astounding creativity of those early days into sharp relief compared to the moribund Activision of today is the Activision Anthology, a collection of wondrous 8-bit games now released for IOS devices.  The seemingly made-for-touch-devices Kaboom! is included free, with 45 other gems such as Pitfall!, Barnstorming and Enduro available as an in-app purchase for $6.99.  Another purchase tier lets you buy the games in 11 game bundles, each for $2.99.  They feature multiple control schemes, to help you acclimatize from rubber Atari joystick to touch screen.  There is also a lot of historical documentation included, such as original artwork, manuals and tips from the original programmers.

Those longing for the days when creativity was the watchword of the video game industry instead of a fossilized memory can gorge themselves on the best of the best with the Activision Anthology.  For more information on the company and the games that helped build the foundation of the industry, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Jerry Lawson, of Channel F Fame, Dies at 71

Word is coming out that Jerry Lawson has died. He is known as the inventor of the Channel F home video game console for Fairchild Instrument, and with it introduced the concept of the “programmable” console, or one that takes game cartridges. Before the Channel F, users had to be resigned to playing the games that were built into their video game units. With the console Lawson designed, they could have, at least theoretically, an endless number of games to play.

For more information on the Channel F, consult your local The Dot Eaters article here.

Video Games Invade the Smithsonian

Roger Ebert may have famously said that video games cannot be art, but the good people at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. know better.

They will be opening a new exhibit called The Art of Video Games, running from March 16th to September 30th, 2012.    In order to choose which games get inducted, the Smithsonian is currently requesting that the public vote for their choices.  The site currently has an online voting system active, allowing people to vote for 80 games across a pool of 240, across 5 gaming eras from the early Atari days to modern consoles.

It’s not a bad selection of games, although there’s always some puzzling omissions with these things.  But remember, it is an art museum, so they’re looking for visually impressive or beautiful games, not just ones of historical significance.  This might explain some of the choices they made.

Go vote for your favourites here.

BurgerTime Remake

The Interwebs has been a-twitter the past week or so.  It could be that the retro-nerds have suffered a blood-sugar level crash, because the kerfuffle has been over the revelation that BurgerTime is getting the extreme makeover: retro edition.

The original BurgerTime was a highly memorable arcade game from Data East, released in 1982.  Bally/Midway licensed the game for North America the same year.  It concerns the culinary exploits of chef Peter Pepper, who must climb up and down the ladders of a giant scaffold, assembling giant hamburgers, piece by piece, while avoiding such deadly condiments as cheese slices and pickles, as well as the hamburger’s natural enemy, the hot dog.  To hold off these frightening foodstuffs, Pepper is armed with just that: a pepper shaker that will stun enemies, as well as delightfully season them.

Word first came about the new version via discovery of an ill-timed ESRB listing of the game on their website, circumventing any official statement of the game by its developer, MonkeyPaw Games.  And now, IGN has released gameplay footage of BurgerTime HD, taken during a hands-on session with the game at GDC: 2011.  The remake retains the basic gameplay mechanics of the original, while giving the whole package a dramatic graphical overhaul.  Pepper now creates his gastronomical masterpieces while running around a circular, 3D platform that reminds me of the 3D chess set from the original Star Trek TV show. The game also adds new hazards for Pepper to avoid, such as flaming grills, as well as some new antagonists, including carrots and apple cores to appease the health-food nuts.

The game will be available for Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii, although no release date has been given yet.  Below is the the IGN footage on YouTube, as well as our own look at how the original BurgerTime evolved over various platforms during its heyday.