Archive for the 'Video Arcades' Category

Pac-Man in the News, 1982

Most of the video, via Patrick Scott Patterson, is from a PM Magazine feature on the youngest kid competing in the “world’s largest Pac-Man tournament” at Milwaukee County Stadium, but there’s also some rare footage of workers assembling Pac-Man cabs at the Midway manufacturing plant. (It’s not actually the largest Pac-Man tournament; the “largest” refers to the size of the stadium screen on which onlookers watched the games.)

The kid qualifies for the tournament by beating his brother on the Atari 400/800 version of Pac-Man at the local computer/game shop. His dad makes an interesting point about early video games: not even the best players could beat them. You just saw how far you could get and how many points you could rack up. The save game feature, as I’ve said before, changed games and gamers forever.

Pool Hall with Pong Cabinet, 1973

Pool Pong 1973

SS Billiards in Hopkins, Minnesota. The gentleman on the right is playing Gottlieb’s 2001, released in 1971. Like Atari’s Middle Earth, the title cashes in on a popular cultural event, but the game itself slyly avoids any direct allusion to that event—and any resulting copyright infringement.

The 2001 artist is prolific Gordon Morison, who also worked on the Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) machine, Orbit (1971), and The Incredible Hulk (1979), among many others.

UPDATE: I’m pretty sure the sign on the wall reads: “Any games on machines at closing time will be forfeited”.

2001 BG 1971

2001 PF 1971-3

2001 PF 1971-2

(Original photo via; 2001 photos via and The Internet Pinball Database)

‘The Ultimate Early ’80s Arcade Tribute’

The footage comes from Patrick Scott Patterson, “the man who talks about video games for a living.” Patterson has amassed an impressive amount of historic arcade and gaming-related video on his YouTube channel.

It really is the best golden age arcade compilation I’ve seen. Music featured in the montage includes The Beepers’ “Video Fever” and “History Lesson” from the War Games soundtrack (two of my all-time favorites) and “Pac-Man Fever.”

Some of the video is from a 1981 news story I featured last year.

Thanks, Patrick!

Atari Adventure Family Entertainment Centers, 1983

Atari Adventure Disneyland

Atari Adventure Disneyland-2

Continuing my earlier post, above you see the entrance to the Atari Adventure location at the Disneyland Hotel. The photos are from Mice Chat. The exact year is unknown, but the Atari name is gone, so it’s after ’85. You can see the original ‘Atari Adventure’ signage at The Original Disneyland Hotel. At the same site, there’s a 1983 article about the opening of the game room.

Focus Atari 1983

“The room, which is dimly lit, is also plush. Deep red carpeting, brass railings and hundreds of tiny lights give it the look of Monte Carlo.” If that doesn’t sound awesome enough for you, Atari Adventure was on the marina of the Seaports of the Pacific attraction, partially submerged—it’s remembered as the underwater arcade. Hours? “Early in the morning to midnight, seven days a week.”

Below are several more photos—interiors, this time—of the Atari Adventure in Northwest Plaza Mall, St. Louis. The black and white is from the The Golden Age Arcade Historian, and the rest are from the Bill Poon Company, the architecture firm that designed the space. All are from 1983.

The Atari Adventure mission was supposed to include hands-on computer instruction, but it sounds like the Disneyland location was just a giant, dark, gnarly, submarine arcade.

Atari Adventure St. Louis-4

Atari Adventure St. Louis

Atari Adventure St. Louis-2

Atari Adventure St. Louis-3

Atari Video Adventure (1982 – 1990)

Great America Atari Adventure

Atari Video Adventure, “the premier showcase for the newest innovations in computer learning and video excitement,” was a multi-stage attraction at Marriott’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California. It opened in July 1982 and was completed in 1983. The photo is from a 1997 RePlay Magazine scan provided by Michael Current. (Current’s site is the most comprehensive web-based historical resource on Atari.) Here’s a description and walk-through, also via Current.

Atari Video Adventure

And here are some illustrations, probably concept art, from the Atari Museum.

Atari Adventure-1Atari Adventure-2Atari Adventure-3

I’m guessing the Hoth mural/scene is in the Computer Painting room. That looks like a trakball on the arm of the chair.

Atari Video Adventure was the first of several similar locations that opened across the U.S. in 1983. The others were called simply Atari Adventure. I’ll post some photos later this week.

Arcade Zen (1982)

Mercer Island Video Arcade, February 10, 1982. (Natalie Fobes/Seattle Times)


Youths flock to the Mercer Island Video Arcade after school. Some parents are unhappy about the arcade’s location and the time and money their children spend there.

Here’s what happened the very next month, from the March 25, 1982 edition of The Spokesman-Review.

Mercer Island 3-25-82

Step one: Blame new entertainment technologies for the failure of parents to raise their children responsibly.

Step two: Tax those new technologies, thereby exempting the failure of city officials to manage tax revenue responsibly.

It turned out that affluent Mercer Island had bigger problems.

(Photo via Seattle Washington Archive)

Arcade Zen (1983): Jr. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, and Kangaroo

Arcade 1983

Jr. Pac-Man came out in 1983. It was the 8th of 10 sequels. The maze was longer in Jr., and the screen scrolled to the left and right as you moved across it. That’s the edge of Super Pac-Man (1982, 3rd sequel) on the left.

The original Pac-Man (1980) revolutionized the industry because it was designed to appeal to all ages and sexes. Donkey Kong (1981) completed the democratization process, at least in terms of game play—the “story” was pure male fantasy, then and now the modus operandi of the gaming industry. Kangaroo (1982) is one of the many descendants of Donkey Kong.

The young lady here appears to be afflicted with that arcade-specific malady known as being out of quarters. I’d guess that only about 50% of my time in arcades was spent playing.

(Photo via eBay)

All Denim, All the Time: Jordache Ad (Circa 1987)

Jordache Ad

Despite the Pac-Man machines, I put the ad at around ’86 or ’87, when acid wash/stone wash and zippers hit it big with the sort of yuppies-in-training who wore Jordache.

The arcade background is curious, at first glance. Pac-Man (1980) and Ms. Pac-Man (1981) were old news by this time, and the rich kids hung out at arcades only to be seen by other rich kids. They didn’t want to get their hands dirty playing the games, and when they did stoop to put in a quarter, some arcade rat would smack his coin into the corner of the marquee and talk smack until the screen said `Game Over’.

Ultimately, the ad defines the arcade environment as a social advancement opportunity instead of a place of amusement and competition, and to this end it features a video game Jordache’s non-gaming clients would recognize. That game was, and still is, Pac-Man.

Miller’s Outpost would virtually abandon designer jeans shortly after this to concentrate on its home brand, Anchor Blue, and Levi’s.

(Image via The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit)

TV News Story, 1981: `Video Games Are Colonizing the Planet’

A really interesting early example of the arguments for and against video games, and some good arcade footage to go with it.

Ronnie Lamm, President of the Middle Country PTA Council in Long Island, received national attention at the time for convincing the residents of Brookhaven to issue a 6-month moratorium on the issuance of game permits. If she’d had her way, video games would have been banned completely.

I found some good stories on her “crusade” at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 22, 1982) and two issues of the Spokesman-Review (January 16, 1982 and June 8, 1982). She calls the games “definitely addictive” and “not wholesome,” and says the proliferation of arcades leads to an increase in robbery and drug trafficking.

In the video, she laments that when kids go to the store to pick up something for school, they drop the leftover change into a game instead of bringing it home. Her solution: get rid of the games.

Another parent complains that his son took money in advance from his paper route to play games. His solution: take away the kid’s paper route.

One of the managers and part owners of Foosball World, soft-spoken Diane Lacicero, dispatches them easily with a small dose of common sense: “You can’t expect the game room to be at fault because they [parents] don’t have the control that they should have.”

I’m not all that convinced that arcades kept kids away from drugs and other nasty habits, or that they “discharge” violent feelings, but they sure did give us a place to be with others our own age in a non-school environment. They were little communities, with a special set of rules, and we had to learn how to function within them.

Kids have nowhere to go anymore partly because of people like Ronnie Lam. As a society, we no longer raise our children as adults-in-training, giving them the independence they need to learn how to act independently and handle tough situations. Instead, we’re raising them to be codependent, inflated, and entitled.

(Video via kamenliter/YouTube)

Atari Headquarters and Nolan Bushnell, 1975

Atari HQ 1975

Atari HQ 1975-2

Atari Acorn 1975

Atari Keenan 1975

Atari Bushnell 1975

I found this gold at The Golden Age Arcade Historian, a new blog “dedicated to the history of arcade video games from the bronze and golden ages (1971 – 1984).” The photos are from one or more 1975 Play Meter magazines. Puppy Pong—you can see the edge of the poster to the right of the “intriguing portal”—refers to a cutesy table top version of Pong.

Speaking of Pong, Al Alcorn designed it. Not a bad accomplishment to put on your resume. The second guy is Joe Keenan (check the old school Pepsi can on his desk), who became president of Atari through a twist of irony. From Mental Floss:

Pinball distributors in the 1970s demanded exclusive deals for products before they would sign contracts. This would have impeded Nolan Bushnell’s ambitious plans to establish an entire industry. To get around the exclusivity requirements, Bushnell and his neighbor, Joe Keenan, secretly formed a second company that would “compete” against Atari, selling slightly modified Atari games to other distributors. They called it Kee Games. Ironically, Atari would later run into management trouble, while Kee Games continued operating smoothly and successfully. As a result, Joe Keenan was brought to Atari and promoted to president of the company.

Nolan Bushnell (third guy pictured) was, of course, the co-founder of and mastermind behind Atari. He looks kind of like a union boss in this photo. I feel like there’s a lit cigar perched on a 10-pound orange ashtray just off camera.

And here’s a February, 1973 Boston Herald article about Atari and the release of Pong.

Atari Boston Herald 1975

Keith Smith, who writes The Golden Age blog, notes that Syzygy (an awful name thankfully scrapped because a hippie candle company was using it) had incorporated under the name Atari in 1972. (The article incorrectly refers to Atari co-founder Ted Dabney as Fred Dabney.)

I love how Bushnell describes the business: “leisure applications of technology.” He hoped that people would “stop for a game… and become hooked into dropping coin after coin into the slot…” I’d say things worked out pretty well for the leisure applications, slotted to become an $82 billion industry by 2017.




Donate Button

Join 1,103 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: