As an archivist, my ethical duty is to maintain those objects of intrinsic value to future generations. I’ve often found that others assume my profession is focused on facts and figures, the hard data from which a census or otherwise lifeless historical record can be drawn. Such data will inform one on how a people survived. As important as this data is, it cannot tell you how a people dreamed. [more inside]
History Respawned is a show where historians consider historical video games - like Papers Please, Diablo III, Assassin's Creed Unity and Wolfenstein: The New Order - with host Bob Whitaker, a history PhD and professor from Dallas, Texas.
London to Amsterdam, Saint Petersburg and Tokyo to New York, well known historical paintings of city scenes around the world superimposed on to Google Street View by Halley Docherty (whose username is shystone on Reddit) | Google Street View Paintings by Raul Moyado Sandoval that he calls Metapanoramas | Also Paintings as Google Street View Maps via Lileks' wonderful Lint. [more inside]
Type:Rider is an exploration of the history of typography, from cave paintings to the modern day, in which you play a colon (which navigates something like a motorcycle) traversing a landscape composed of various fonts. [more inside]
Memory Insufficient is a free webzine edited by Zoya Street dedicated to articles about computer games and history. The first issue is called Women's Histories in Games [pdf], with a feature on female pirates. Asian Histories in Games [pdf] is the second issue, the feature being about ken, the Japanese game known as rock, paper, scissors in English. The upcoming issue will be devoted histories of gender and sexual diversity in games. [via Flash of Steel]
In the new game Avant-Garde, you play an up-and-coming artist in 19th century Paris, a contemporary of Manet and Bouguereau. Carve and sell allegorical statue groups! Get snubbed by Napoleon III! Subsidize Gustave Courbet's drinking! Compose and promulgate your own aesthetic manifesto!
"Some remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities of several kinds, scarce or never seen by any man now living."
Musæum Clausum is a catalog of invented books, pictures and antiquities written by 17th Century Englishman Sir Thomas Browne. It is a fantastical and witty meditation on the ravages of time on literature and other works of man. The Musæum Clausum is perhaps the finest example of the invented, or invisible, library, a genre which seems to have originated with Rabelais. The genre has been of special interest to Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog (older posts), where he has written about the invisible libraries of writers such as Charles Dickens, Neil Gaiman, H. P. Lovecraft and invisible libraries in video games. The natural medium for invisible libraries might be pictures, and Musæum Clausum inspired a suite of etchings by Erik Desmazieres.
Got a few hours to kill and want to spend a little time in gaming history? Don't have anything else to do until 2013? Check out Anacreon: Reconstruction 4021 (wiki) (previously), one of the earliest 4X games ever made, dating to 1987-88. The original version was DOS-based, but the creator, George Moromisato, released a Windows version in 2004 which has significant updates. [more inside]
Stephen Totilo of Kotaku tries to determine the correct chronology for all the games in the Super Mario canon.
Atari, the first successful arcade video game company, would have been 40 years old today. The blog Arcade Heroes takes the opportunity to look back over 40 years of arcade gaming (from Atari and other companies) with flyers and video. Part 1 (1970s & 80s) - Part 2 (1990s to present). (WARNING: huge pages ahead with lots of flash videos.)
The Valve Employee Handbook [PDF]. An oral history of computer gaming, with Sid Meier (Civillisation I - V, Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon) and Ralph Baer (Pong, the Simon platform), from Vice TV's Motherboard. Also: interviews with classic computer game programmers: Eugene Jarvis (Robotron: 2084, Defender), Jeff Minter (Gridrunner, Revenge Of The Mutant Camels, Gridrunner, Llamatron) and many more, together with the Giant List of Classic Game Programmers. (Previously, a decade ago).
Leisure Suit Larry is a series of adventure games written by Al Lowe and published by Sierra from 1987 to 2009. The main character, whose full name is Larry Laffer, is a balding, dorky, double entendre-speaking, leisure suit-wearing (but still somewhat lovable) "loser" in his 40s. The games follow him as he spends much of his life trying (usually unsuccessfully) to seduce attractive women. [more inside]
National Characters is a long, multi-part essay about how computer games deal with the concept of nations and turns it into a game mechanic. The author, Troy Goodfellow of strategy gaming blog Flash of Steel, focuses on how the fourteen indistinguishable national factions of the original Sid Meier's Civilization have been treated by different games through the years. [more inside]
Accuracy takes power: one man's 3GHz quest to build a perfect SNES emulator. The author of the SNES emulator bsnes talks about the difficulties in creating emulators that accurately simulate classic game consoles, and why it will take lifetimes to generate enough computer power to perfectly recreate the most modern consoles.
"no holds barred, no avenue in Toytown left untraveled, no chamber in the Castle Colorforms, unexplored..."
"From 1965 to 1971, we played together, inventing one thing or another.... But, like the bride of Bluebeard, there was one door I was not allowed to enter. That was the door marked “Colorforms”. That alone was off limits. Harry had invented Colorforms, the vinyl plastic pieces that stuck to a shiny surface. And he was convinced that there was no idea or application involving Colorforms, nor could there be, that he had not thought up already.... [H]e would entertain no further discussion on the subject. The very mention of “stick-ons” was off limits. The door to Colorforms was shut and bolted. Until 6 years later, through a curious set of circumstances, I broke it down once and forever." The Colorforms Years is Mel Birnkrant's illustrated history of two decades of ups and downs working with Colorforms, the first plastic-based creative toy and one of the first toys promoted in television commercials. [more inside]
Educational gamesmaker Preloaded has recently made two strategy games for English TV station Channel 4. 1066 is a mix of tactics, insult-typing, bowmanship, rhythm-game and narration by Ian Holm. Trafalgar Origins is all Napoleonic high seas derringdo all the time, as you sail your English ship in real time against the damnable French and Spanish. Whether you want to hoist the sails or call your opponent a stench weasel, they are fun little games which have the added bonus of teaching you about British history. Both games can be played solo or multiplayer. [via Rock Paper Shotgun, where they like those games quite a lot]
On a snowy Valentine's Day weekend in Michigan Sid Meier creates a game in 48 hours called Escape from Zombie Hotel! He's there to judge a 48 hour game design contest at his alma mater, University of Michigan but decides to also work on a game alongside the student teams. He also talks about his career, focusing on his early days. This is the third installment of motherboard.tv's Oral History of Gaming series. The first profiles Ralph Baer, the inventor of the first home gaming console, and the second is about Eric Zimmerman, designer of Sissyfight. Sadly, the awesome-looking Escape from Zombie Hotel has note been released, but the oher games designed during the contest are available here. [via Rock Paper Shotgun]
The History of Computing Project is a collaborative effort to record and publish the history of the computer and its roots. The site includes a chronological timeline, biographies of computing pioneers, a look at computing hardware through the years, as well as software and games. [more inside]
Stoolball is the medieval ancestor of cricket and baseball. First mentioned in print in 1671, it was reputedly played by milkmaids, who used their bare hands as bats. The game is still played today in some parts of south-east England, but luckily with frying pan-shaped contraptions instead. An important rule is that not following the spirit of the game will get you sent off the pitch. Here are some pictures of games in progress, along with other medieval bat-and-ball games such as Nipsy and Knur & Spell. Or, if you don't like ball games, try another medieval sport, dwile flonking (play online in flash).
Chess has a long, if somewhat shrouded, history, with beautiful chess pieces found dating from the 5th century. It has spawned hundreds of fascinating stories, and many interesting names for moves. For the last five decades, the history of chess and computers have been intertwined in many ways. Chess continues to adapt to a new age, with controversies around computer-assisted cheating, attempts to sex-up chess books, thousands of variants, and an amazing online database that can search through recorded games for the last 200 years.
The Dot Eaters. A dauntingly comprehensive history of video games, beginning with proto-PONG and Spacewar!. If it's difficult to navigate through Captain O's prize matrix, use the handy timeline/scape (the dates don't work, so don't try). It's an interesting site, for sure, but if it doesn't pique your interest maybe the links page will, since it's the largest I've ever seen. In just minutes I found the First Church of Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros fanfiction (@), and a great Robotron shrine. Plus, this noise (wav).
The Online Guide to Traditional games has a short history with pictures of many games that were in existence prior to 1900 and are still played today. Some, like Mancala, much prior to 1900. Also collected by the same author are the rules for many of the games.
A Brief History of Game: A nine-part review of the major highlights in rpg history. Other interesting if generally unrelated pieces on the history of gaming, pen & paper or otherwise: "Where Have All the Demons Gone?", discussing the history of Magic the Gathering; A somewhat flippant piece by GameSpy; and some obligatory RPG theory regarding the historical popularity of various styles of RPG.
If you're bored with the kind of chess grandpappy taught you, know there are well over 1,000 other ways to do it. Play chess on a Moebius strip, with hexagons, or like Monopoly. Or play Chaturanga, chess's earliest ancestor. And if you don't have the time to, say, build your own 3-D Star Trek chessboard, there are also variations playable with a standard chess set.
Perhaps it says something about the intellectual sophistication of ancient cultures that some of the most entertaining games in existence are thousands of years old: backgammon, Go, mancala... The now-ubiquitous chess is a relative newcomer, dating back merely 1400 years. One wonders whether Boggle or Monopoly will withstand the test of time so well.
A massive archive of Commodore 64 game covers. An extensive archive of C64 magazine Zapp64 covers, features, reviews and editorials. SLAY radio (C64 remixes - very cheesy).
The Elliot Avedon Museum and Archive of Games. Board games from a thirteenth-century 'Book of Games', Inuit games, card games, row games, puzzles, ethnographical papers on games, etc.
A different kind of game at Streetplay - stickball, hopscotch, galleries, and street games worldwide.
A different kind of game at Streetplay - stickball, hopscotch, galleries, and street games worldwide.
Playing cards from around the world. Spanish cards, Swiss cards, Finnish cards, Israeli cards and Japanese cards, for example. Just a small part of the collection at the Elliot Avedon Museum and Archive of Games at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.
If you're a fan of Interactive Fiction then you'll certainly be familiar with Andrew Plotkin the author of some of the best works in the genre, including Spider in Web and So Far. Only Macintosh users, however, will remember his phenomenol early-90s puzzle game, System's Twilight, "An Abstract Fairytale." I recently played it again, and am astounded that such an early piece of work contains such a fully realized fantasy world (literally, it's abstract) and such goddamn hard puzzles. Download it and experience some gaming history, and a damn good time.
Every once in a while I get a bad case of 8-bit nostalgia, and I remember fondly my many hours of joy with my Nintendo Entertainment System. One of the most fun games on the NES had to be Tetris, and this history of the game is a neat read. TSR's NES Archive is another cool site dealing with the NES. Of course, the original Legend of Zelda is the best game of all time, but that's another thread entirely.