ABOUT

Photo of William Hunter playing arcade video game TRON
Greetings, programs! Here’s hoping I don’t get zapped into the Grid

My name is William Hunter, and I run things here at The Dot Eaters, a website that chronicles the history and progression of video games from early pre-PONG systems up until the big video game crash of 1983-84.

My formative years were forged in the flames of 8-bit gaming systems of the late 70’s and early 80’s such as the Atari VCS (later renamed the 2600, but for me will always be the VCS), the ColecoVision, and early home computers like the venerable Commodore 64.  For over 15 years I’ve developed the site to tell the stories of these games, systems, individuals and companies; researching and writing an extensive textual history, hunting down relevant images, recording videos, and all the other sundry things that go into maintaining a website dedicated to a subject of such breadth as video games.

From what started as a personal passion, The Dot Eaters has become today a trusted source of information about the history of video games. Many books on that topic have referenced The Dot Eaters in their research. Moreover, College and University faculty regularly check the website to look for relevant content. The Dot Eaters has an extensive section about the history of video games, called Bitstory, which is illustrated with many videos and images. It also has a blog called Updates, in which I write about how retro video games continue to resonate in the industry and with players today.

Testimonials:

Video games always seem current, like a ‘new’ thing, but they actually have a history that stretches back over 50 years. The Dot Eaters is one of the best online compendiums of that history, and the site is a tremendous asset for anyone interested in understanding where games have been, where they are going, and what they mean.
Prof. Ethan Mollick, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
…the Dot Eaters. Okay, If you’re a 1980s gamer geek, you could easily spend an entire day at this website, which is a comprehensive history of video games, beginning in the years that preceeded Pong, and heading all the way up to the Vectrex/ Atari 7800 years. You know what it feels like? If Ken Burns did a documentary on video games, this material would be the companion book.
Wil Wheaton at WWdN.net:In Exile, Actor, Writer, Gamer
The Dot Eaters is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of videogames — or in the history of games in general. The site provides a wealth of information, images, anecdotes, and other trailheads for discovery that is without parallel anywhere on the web. William Hunter has created a wonderful source of inspiration and knowledge for artists, students, and educators alike!
Jeff Watson, Assistant Professor, Interactive Media and Games, USC School of Cinematic Arts
The Dot Eaters is always one of the first places I send my undergraduate students when we learn about video game history. This is because the site is accessible, informative, and insightful. It importantly engages the varied nuances of video game history while approaching that history in multiple ways; it is at once a history of technology, a history of individuals, a history of important works, an industrial history, and a personal history. And, accomplishing all of this, it is anything but dry. William Hunter’s prose has a sense of humor to it, and an awareness of the importance of video games to contemporary culture. Hunter utilizes the diversity of the Internet to the site’s advantage, pairing historical detail with images and videos that nicely complement the discussions of games and their creators. I’ve found The Dot Eaters to be an invaluable resource to both teach with and learn from.
Harrison Gish, Doctoral Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies,
University of California, Los Angeles

Works that have cited or referenced The Dot Eaters:

Books:

Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time
Bill Loguidice, Matt Barton
CRC Press, 2012

The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga
Jimmy Maher
MIT Press, 2018

Attract Mode: The Rise and Fall of Coin-Op Arcade Games
Jamie Lendino
Steel Gear Press, 2020

Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation
Steve Swink
Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2009

Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife
Raiford Guins
MIT Press Books, 2014

Videogames
James Newman
Taylor & Francis, 2012

Hollywood Gamers: Digital Convergence in the Film and Video Game Industries
Robert Alan Brookey
Indiana University Press, 2010

Boyhood in America: An Encyclopedia
Priscilla Ferguson Clement, Jacqueline S. Reinier
ABC-CLIO, 2001

The History of Video Games
Charlie Fish
White Owl, 2021

Anthrax: Bioterror as Fact and Fantasy
Philipp Sarasin
Harvard University Press, 2006

Encyclopedia of New Media
Steve Jones
SAGE Publications, 2003

Networking and Online Games: Understanding and Engineering Multiplayer Internet Games
Grenville Armitage, Mark Claypool, Philip Branch
The University of Michigan, 2006

Game On!: Gaming at the Library
Beth Gallaway
Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2009

Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse
David E. Brown
MIT Press, 2002

Electronic America
John W. Weier
Thompson Gale, 2007

Developing Online Games: An Insider’s Guide
Jessica Mulligan, Bridgette Patrovsky
New Riders, 2003

The Video Game Explosion: A History From Pong to Playstation and Beyond
Mark J. P. Wolf
Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008

Virtual Reality
Lisa Yount
Lucent Books, 2004

The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia
Chris Woodford
ABC-CLIO, 2005

Raspberry Pi Retro Gaming
Mark Frauenfelder, Ryan Bates
Apress, 2019

Magazines:

Edge
Issue 99, July 2001
Future Publishing

Documentary Films and TV Series:

The Artists: The Untold Stories of the Pioneers Behind the Pixels
Written & Directed by Peter Mishara
CBC Original, 2018

Websites:

11 Times Video Games Led to Lawsuits
Rudie Obias
Mental Floss, 2014

Gamasutra – Breaking Down Breakout: System and Level Design for Breakout-Style Games
Mark Nelson
Informa PLC, 2007

Intellivision: Gone But Not Forgotten
Cal Jeffrey
Techspot, 2021

The Digital Antiquarian Volume 5: 1983
Jimmy Maher, 2015

Academic Papers & Journals

Violence in E-Rated Video Games
Kimberly M. Thompson, Kevin Haninger – Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University
The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001

Thinking of the Children: The Failure of Violent Video Game Laws
Gregory Kenyota
Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal, Fordham University School of Law, 2008

Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law
Vanderbilt University, School of Law
The University of California, 2005

Biologically Inspired Artificial Intelligence for Computer Games
Darryl Charles, Colin Fyfe, Daniel Livingstone, Stephen McGlinchey
Medical Information Science Reference, 2008

Business Models and Strategies in the Video Game Industry: An Analysis of Activison-Blizzard and Electronic Arts
Ruri Lee
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2013

The Arrival of an Information Culture Society
Shoji Ishitsuka
Tokyo University of Information Sciences, Faculty of Informatics, Department of Information and Culture, 2007

Video Game Music: Where It Came From, How It Is Being Used Today, and Where It Is Heading Tomorrow
Michael Cerrati
Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technical Law, 2006

A Historical Overview of Games and the Spatial Sciences within the Learning Environment
Ben Johnston, William Cartwright
Taylor & Francis, 2000

Computer Game Aesthetics and Media Studies
Rune Klevjer, University of Bergen
Paper presented at the 15th Nordic Conference on Media and Communication Research, Reykjavik, 2001

If You Fail, Try, Try Again: The Fate of New Legislation Curbing Minor’s Access to Violent and Sexually Explicit Video Games
Russell Morse
Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, 2006

Where did the idea of the website come from?

The beginnings of the The Dot Eaters came from a combination of my penchant for playing and collecting the classic video games I grew up on, and my viewing of Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet, a fantastic 1998 PBS documentary hosted by Robert X. Cringely. These events caused me to wonder about the history of these great games that I was recapturing from my youth. When I poked around the Internet, I found a couple of sites that dealt in the history of these games, but not really in the breadth of detail that I was looking for. So I decided to create my own website. That’s how it started.  But what keeps me at it, aside from the comments I receive from you, Dear Reader, is the idea of the ever-expanding gulf between what was a videogame then and what is a videogame today, along with my personal experiences while crossing that chasm.

How did you get into video gaming?

Reading the Sears Christmas Wish Book to tatters was one of my childhood rituals that I think most of us can identify with. My life as a gamer started this way. I was scoping through the Wish Book one day while riding home in the car with my mom and, in the most casual voice I could muster, posed the idea that perhaps I could get the Atari game here on this page?  She replied with: “Well, maybe,” which was about a thousand times more positive of a response than what I was expecting. That Christmas, so probably in 1980, I got my Atari VCS. To make a long story short, after a couple of years I sold the Atari for about a 50 percent loss. Then I bought a ColecoVision, again sold that for a hefty loss and bought a Commodore VIC-20. Next came the vaunted C-64 before moving to the Amiga. Then I built my own gaming PC’s for years upon years before the day I lined up on a cold November morning outside of Best Buy with a couple hundred other maniacs on the launch day of the revolutionary Nintendo Wii in 2006.  Along the way, I decided to start chronicling the history of the industry I was partaking in.

Enough about video games!  We want more about you!

Ah, thanks for asking.  Since starting the site to do that in 1998, an incredible amount of change has happened; in the online medium I was telling these stories in, the video game industry itself and in my own personal life. I now live in Toronto with a wonderful wife and two great kids, developing The Dot Eaters on my trusty Mac. It looks a bit different than the model of Macintosh computers that came out the year the site first went online…

Original iMac, a personal computer by Apple 1998
This baby helped Steve Jobs turn Apple around

I hope you’ll enjoy the website!  Eventually I plan to progress the Bitstory section into the “modern” era of gaming, so if you have a system or game you’d like profiled, feel free to drop me a line from the Contact Us page.  For now, do come back soon to check out the latest blog posts and articles.

William