Monthly Archives: February 2013

C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General

What C. Everett Koop Thought About Video Games

As the first “superstar” Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop held a lot of sway over public opinion when it came to health issues in the 1980′s.  With his passing on Monday at the age of 96, one figures he must have had some knowledge on the subject of longevity.

Koop took what was previously a relatively obscure governmental position and used his pulpit (pun intended; Koop was an evangelical Presbyterian), to push some important health issues into the fore, including critical education on the subject of the then burgeoning AIDS epidemic, as well as the lethality of smoking.  It’s hard to criticize a man who fought so tirelessly in his surgical career to correct infant birth defects, who then went on to evangelize against stigmatizing AIDS victims and the promotion of inherently dangerous products by the tobacco industry, but when it came to the topic of the effect of video games on children, Koop was dead wrong.

He addressed a conference of public-health workers at the University of Pittsburg in 1982 on the topic of family violence, and afterwards during a press conference he directly implicated video games as a main contributing factor of intrafamily violence, along with television and the poor economic conditions the country was facing at the time.  For video games, he said:

[children] are into the games body and soul – everything is zapping the enemy.  Children get to the point where when they see another child being molested by a third child, they just sit back.

It was the ever-popular “desensitized to violence” argument, and it flew in the face of reputable studies that refused to reinforce the idea that consumption of media can be said to be a main cause of real-life violence, either in adults or children.  Koop himself, of course, did not cite any evidence to back up his claim, and it seems wildly irresponsible for such a notable public figure, who relished the ability to effect dramatic changes on U.S. health issues, to so baldy present the public with a red-herring as to the causes of family violence.  Koop knew he could address any of the real factors: exposure to abuse as a child, alcohol abuse, an indifferent education system, personality disorders.  There’s a shopping list of societal ills that could have accompanied poor economic conditions as reasons for family violence.  Instead Koop decided to demonize video games as a causative factor.

His comments helped take America’s eye off the ball as to solving the real causes of societal violence in the country, and for that it should be considered a grave misdiagnosis in Koop’s career as “America’s Doctor”.

For more information on the history of video game violence, consult your local Dot Eaters article.

Dead Frogger

The Game Over Tinies

The Gashlycrumb Tinies is an infamous 1963 book written and illustrated by Edward Gorey.  In it 26 children, each one with a name that starts with the next letter of the alphabet, die from various causes, all put to rhyme.

Over at brentalfloss, they have adapted Gorey’s work as the Game Over Tinies, where various video game characters meet their demise in similar fashion.  It is a masterfully done tribute to both the original work and the dangerous lives of video game characters.  Here’s a sample:

 

blog_nolansaid

What Nolan Said: Innovation

Nolan Bushnell founded Atari in 1972, sold it to Warner Communications in 1976, and was eventually ushered out of the company in 1978.  The writing had been on the wall for awhile, for the man who had kept Atari alive by constantly innovating, by constantly swimming forward in a sea of ravenous competitors.  By then, Atari had gone from a company about innovating to a company about marketing past successes, and that attitude eventually helped sink the entire industry in 1983-84.  What Nolan Said:

Nolan Bushnell and quote

Nolan Bushnell and quote

Quote comes from a 2007 interview of Bushnell by Benj Edwards for Vintage Computing and Gaming.

Image is of Bushnell at the Campus Party Brasil Expo in Jan. 2013.  By Camila Cunha.

The dreaded Luthor

The Ad Game: Vanguard for Atari VCS/2600

Vanguard was an arcade game developed by “shadow” developer TOSE, and released in Japan by SNK in late 1981 and licensed for North America by Centuri.  It was an important intermediate step towards modern side-scrolling shoot-em-ups such as Gradius and R-Type, improving on a genre first formed by William’s seminal Defender.

Today in the Ad Game we feature a TV commercial for the Atari 2600 port of Vanguard:

Vanguard was definitely a great arcade game, and the 2600 version a spectacular port that demonstrates the amazing things Atari programmers were able to pull off with the platform as it matured.  This ad, however, doesn’t do any of that justice.For instance, who trades off the joystick to their buddies in the middle of a game?  Hard to keep your concentration and momentum going with some jerk begging for the joystick.  Just wait until he crashes, it won’t be long to wait.  Try shouting “The wall, the wall!” into his ear, that oughta speed up his destruction.One of the big innovations touted in Vanguard was the ability to shoot in four directions, but in the ad the shooting looks pretty spastic.  The key to any successful shooter is the precision of your shots, and here it looks like the gunner is having a seizure.Then, of course, we have the hulking Luthor, who’s sole responsibility is to defeat the Gond, the boss at the end of the round.  A man of few words, it is rumoured that Luthor once, when a kid refused to give up the joystick to him, stuffed the poor bastard’s hand completely into the cartridge slot.  We can only know his moods by his demented chuckling.Perhaps Luthor is related to Beavis?

Instant Video Game Collection. Only Half a Million Bucks.

But wait, look what else you get!

Got some discretionary spending money burning a hole in your pocket?  If so, you could buy this game collection on eBay.  It’s the culmination of 30 years of collecting, and as the seller mentions in the description, even though he has spent the last two months working eight hours a day to catalog what he has, he’s still not sure he’s covered everything!

The collection is composed of over 6850 games, over 330 game consoles, and 220 controllers.  He seems to be like me and doesn’t like to throw out packaging (who knows when you might need to sell this stuff on eBay?), so the vast majority of equipment comes boxed.  There’s also tonnes of promotional items such as game-related action figures and soundtracks, books and strategy guides.  Even arcade games are represented, with a collection of PCB boards available so you can finally come out of the dark alleys and play games legal on MAME.

As the sellers says, you could make yourself an instant video game museum with a one-time payment of only $500,000.  Start yours, today!

Thanks to @freemantim for the heads up.