New from VIDEO Magazine, it's Electronic Games!
February 7, 2013 5:43 AM   Subscribe

NEW from VIDEO Magazine, arising out of its popular "Arcade Alley" column, it's ELECTRONIC GAMES Magazine!(page of PDF links) Brought to you by editors Frank Laney Jr. and Bill Kunkel, and filled with all the latest news on programmable home console games, computer games (with special coverage for the new ATARI 800 system), stand-alone electronic devices and arcade gaming.

In the premier issue on newsstands now:
  • Page 8: "Congratulations on the debut of your new magazine. As games designers, we are naturally pleased that there will be a magazine entirely devoted to the field of electronic gaming. Good Luck!
    -- The ActiVision Design Staff: Alan Miller, David Crane, Larry Kaplan, Bob Whitehead, Steve Cartright."
  • Pages 10-11: One of the infamous George Plimpton ads promoting the Intellivision over the Atari 2600. "Atari Casino. No Dealer. Intellivision Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack. You play cards with a shifty-eyed dealer."
  • Page 12: An article on David Crane's Freeway. "'That's where the San Diego Chicken came in,' says Activision spokesperson Diane Drosnes."
  • Page 14: "Atari confirms rumor; secret messages exist! Sources at Atari have confirmed one of arcading's most persistant wild stories. If a gamer sends the hero to a certain room in the VCS Adventure and performs a specific action, a secret message revealing the designer's name will appear on the screen."
  • Page 14: "There's quite a story behind the delay in the release of the VCS Asteroids cartridge. The version the company showed a year ago received such a frosty reception from those who got an advance peak that the designers went back to the drawing board. They developed a special process that puts twice as much program--8K vs. 4K--on the cartridge as was previously possible. It seems that Atari's wizards came up with a special bank-switch that flips back and forth between two 4K programs, fooling the VCS into reading them both..."
  • Page 16: "Those who were planning to give (Atari's standalone game system) COSMOS to someone this holiday season had better start looking for a substitute present. Although Atari lavished much advance publicity on its holographically enhanced stand-alone programmable, the company has shuttled it back to the design department for more work. Although the accomplishment of actually developing a commercially viable holographic process drew much admiration, the game itself received mixed reviews. The chief complaint: The holograms served as mere decoration and did not directly affect play."
  • Page 18: "Holiday Gift Guide for Gamers," features a chess computer, a calculator watch with a game mode, a satin jacket reading "SPACE INVADERS," and the new Merlin and Pocket Simon handheld electronic games, among other things.
  • Page 22: Introducing the new Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer! "Gamers who have felt shackled by the black and white output of the TRS-80 series can now fill the screen with green, blue, yellow, red, buff, cyan, magenta and orange."
  • Page 24: Q&A with the Game Doctor! "Q: Do video games damage television sets? A: No, no, a thousand times no!"
  • Page 25-28: A four-page ad for the Odyssey 2's classic game Quest for the Rings, a combination video and board game. "Ten rings of power lie hidden within the Dark Lands of the evil Ringmaster. In gloomy dungeons. Crystal caverns. Molten infernos. And mysterious shifting halls. Each posing its own challenge. And its own threat."
    "Each ring is guarded by the treacherous minions of evil that lurk within these halls of doom. Menacing Orcs and Firewraths. The loathsome Spydroth Tyrantulus. Doomwinged Bloodthirsts. And hiddeous (sic) firebreathing dragons."
  • Page 29: 15-year-old Atari VCS Space Invaders champion Frank Tetro Jr. gives game tips!
  • Page 31: An article on the rivalry currently heating up arcades, between Space Invaders and Asteroids.
  • Page 37: "The Player's Guide to Programmable Videogames." "Programmable" systems are consoles that can accept cartridges on which are coded new games you can play without buying a whole new unit, as opposed to all those units that only play Pong or other simple games. The age of those systems drew to a close with the recent release of the new Atari Video Computer System.
  • Page 39: "1981: Game of the Year: Superman." Although if you ask me, Adventure was robbed.
  • Page 40: The guide continues. Coverage of the state of the industry, covering the major companies. Atari, Activision, Phillips (who have taken over distributing the Odyssey2 from subsidary Magnavox), Mattel, and Zircon, who is reviving the Fairchild Channel F, the original programmable game console. Although the images in all these articles are obviously artist recreations, probably from the game companies' own promotional materials. If only someone could reliably take a picture of a video monitor, making some kind of "screen shot," it would advance the art of game magazines tremendously....
  • Page 49: Reviews of Quest for the Rings, and also Missile Command, Air-Sea Battle, Breakout (Atari), Kaboom, Tennis and Boxing (Activision) for the VCS, Auto Racing and Space Battle, for the Invellivision, UFO and Alien Invaders--Plus! for the Odyssey2, and... Video Whizball for the poor Channel F. Of the latter: "If you like explosions, you'll love UFO. There are at least three different ones, plus an occasional strange hybrid the machine concocts to take care of extraordinary occurrences[...]"
  • Page 58: Computer Playland is the magazine's computer software review column, covering among other games Star Raiders for the Atari 400 & 800, Empire of the Over-Mind from Avalon Hill, and Scott Adams' version of Lunar Lander.
  • Page 63: An arcade column covers Phoenix sequel Pleiades, Space Odyssey, the awesome Venture, and the even-more-awesome arcade version of Warlords. "Fantasy adventures, role-playing games, dragon-slaying and heroic quests have been hot media topics for over a year now. Just as 'Star Wars' launched the science fiction boom a few years back, films like 'Dragonslayer,' 'Knightriders', 'Excalibur' and even 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' are piquing nationwide interest in 'adventure' simulations."
  • Page 66: Joyce Worley contributes an article on the burdgening standalone game device scene, with reviews of several devices, including Dark Tower.
  • Page 70: An article on (dare we dream) buying your own arcade machine!
  • Page 73: "Within the next year, a sizable number of arcaders may be playing games on their very own IBM computers. The company, virtually synonymous with electronic brains to most folks, is finally going to produce machines for the home and small business markets. IBM plans three systems, ranging in price from $1,560 to $4,500. Gamers will most likely be interested in the low-end unit. Sold without monitor or cassette, it comes with 16K of memory. An additional 64K is available for slightly over $500. All the IBM personal computers are based on a 16-bit microprocessor, the 8088. This chip is faster than the ones used in most other home computers and will be able to handle significantly more complex programs. This could lead to the creation of some mighty complex games, particularly in the realm of fantasy adventures. How soon will games be produced for the IBM system? IBM will initially concentrate on business software. Once there's a sizable corps of owners, however, suppliers will undoubtedly begin pumping out entertainment software."
  • The issue wraps up with rundowns of football games and chess-playing devices, and "Arcade Spotlight," a general arcade news column.
  • The History of Videogames
  • The 1982 Arcade Awards
  • The Videogame Hall of Fame
  • How Videogames Are Made
  • The Players Guide to Electronic Science Fiction Games
  • All these columns, plus one devoted to electronic role-playing games, Passport to Adventure.
So watch for the second issue of Electronic Games
JANUARY 14 1982!

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Electronic Games is also preserved at the Internet Archive.
posted by JHarris (37 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
A mistake. On the bulletpoint for page 49, "of the latter" refers to UFO, not Video Whizball. Of course a full errata will be published next issue.
posted by JHarris at 5:51 AM on February 7, 2013

so much for working today
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:52 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had an Odyssey 2.

I had Quest for the Rings, which in 1979, at $50, was considered insanely expensive.

It was awesome to play when I was 10, before we got the Apple ][+ and I discovered Wizardry.
posted by mephron at 5:53 AM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

mephron, I desperately want to play those old Odyssey 2 video board games as they were published back then.
posted by JHarris at 5:54 AM on February 7, 2013

April 83 page 12: Marshfield, MA bans all commercial video games. Violators are fined $200.
posted by stbalbach at 5:55 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

oh and I'm sorry for this but I have to do it:


posted by JHarris at 5:58 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, it's my childhood in PDF form. I vividly remember how obsessed I was with finding the easter egg in "Adventure" for the 2600. Then that first issue came out, and that picture on page 14 said "Say the magic word and learn ADVENTURE's secret!" And dumb little 10-year-old me thought that was a clue and that there was a hidden microphone in the console, and so I spent the better part of the day saying various words into the 2600, trying to unlock it.
posted by jbickers at 6:00 AM on February 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

jbickers, just want to say how much I appreciate your obit post for Kunkel back in 2011 (second link above). I still think there are precious few game magazines that are the equal to good ol' EG -- and I was only in first grade when it came out.
posted by JHarris at 6:03 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

October 83 - wins points from me by announcing that somebody, anybody, has solved The Riddle of the Sphinx, however, it loses an immense amount of points for calling the Atari 2600 cartridge game called 'Sorcerer' by Mythicon - one of the worst games for Atari ever made, "Pretty good".
posted by chambers at 6:07 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pages 10-11: One of the infamous George Plimpton ads promoting the Intellivision over the Atari 2600.

Oh, good! This gives me another excuse to share one of the most underrated games of the era, George Plimpton's Video Falconry. Never forget!

(Also, awesome post!)
posted by The Deej at 6:10 AM on February 7, 2013

I mentioned this in jbickers' thread as well, but Bill Kunkel's Confessions of the Game Doctor (out of print, but used copies turn up here and there) is a wonderful memoir about the founding of Electronic Games Magazine and games journalism in general.
posted by griphus at 6:28 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is something that triggers dopamine production in my body whenever I think about Electronic Games magazine, or growing up with Atari. I still have a nearly complete collection of the magazines in my basement. In one of the issues, somewhere, there is a letter from a tweenage me.
posted by pashdown at 6:34 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, man. 14-year-old me loves this.

I mean, c'mon. Right off the bat, CRUSH, CRUMBLE, AND CHOMP, the greatest kaiju video game of all time (yes, better than Rampage and its misbegotten spawn). Add to that a letter to the editor wondering why Space Invaders for the Atari 800 isn't written in BASIC (and an editor response touting PASCAL as the gaming language wave of the future!), the 4-page Quest for the Ring spread[1], an ad for the Atari 800 that proves my parents may have been certifiably insane[2], the detailed list of up-and-coming stuff for all of the major gaming platforms... *AND* it was 83 pages long, much of it ACTUAL CONTENT. Most 80+ page magazines now are ads and filler[3].

I miss being 14.

[1] I had the only Odyssey2 in my neighborhood, and had (and may STILL have) QftR and Conquest of the World. I did envy the one kid that had an Intellivision, but *he* didn't have a way to learn assembly language at home.

[2] $800 for a 48k machine? Add to that the $450 I know they dropped for an 810 disk drive, god knows how much for the 850 serial adapter, and an Epson MX-80 printer...

[3] Yes, I know. In some ways, this magazine is ALL ADS. Just like Saturday morning cartoons were back then. I don't care. :)

posted by hanov3r at 7:10 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ads back then were the only way we had of learning about new stuff.

I dunno what ads are for these days. I don't really see any.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:25 AM on February 7, 2013

One of the infamous George Plimpton ads promoting the Intellivision

Man, someday it would be great to get an inside explanation for those. In retrospect they seem way more incongruous even than they must have looked at the time, like the kind of thing you wouldn't believe if you saw it as a joke in a fictional version of the '80s. As if you could've turned the page a few years later and all of a sudden be reading "I'm John McPhee for the TurboGrafx 16." What the hell were they possibly thinking?
posted by RogerB at 7:54 AM on February 7, 2013

I mean, seriously, imagine:

"Hello. I'm Gore Vidal. Today I'd like to talk to you about a revolutionary little device called the Atari Lynx."

"Be like Joyce Carol Oates, and only play genuine Jaguar games."

"What kept Salman Rushdie happy in hiding? Neo-Geo. Don't tell the Ayatollah!"
posted by RogerB at 8:13 AM on February 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

"This is Zsa Zsa and, dahlink, you absolutely must get yourself an FM Towns Marty. I wouldn't be caught dead without one!"
posted by griphus at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Wink Martindale here to tell you how my life is more satisfying, fulfilling, and pantsless, now that I have opened my heart and given myself over to The Leather Goddesses of Phobos"
posted by chambers at 8:38 AM on February 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love how ad copy for games is written back then, basically: "It's hard! Really really hard! You probably won't complete this game, sucka!"

I know I had a couple of these with the covers basically shorn off as if they were the only nudie magazines on a submarine. There was no endless viewing of gameplay videos on YouTube; you had to stare at the pictures on the page until the sprites moved.

"Nothing's More Fun Than Having a Tapeworm" -- a ha ha! Classic advertising psychology, associating a parasite with your product which is also named after the same parasite!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:46 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bill Kunkel, who died in 2011, was a very well know sf fan (and fan artist) -- among other things -- and "Frank Laney, Jr" was the pseudonym of Arnie Katz, also a prominent sf fan. The use of "Laney" was a fannish in-joke, working off the name of Francis Tower Laney, a fan of the 40s who famously gafiated (from gafia, or Getting Away From It All) from fandom in 1946 after publishing a screed titled, Ah, Sweet Idiocy. Arnie, at least, is still active... I get e-mailings of his publications fairly frequently.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:27 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

God I loved this magazine. I subscribed to it just in time for it to get cancelled and replaced with Video, the magazine for people who enjoy talking about cables. This archive is wonderful!
posted by Legomancer at 10:29 AM on February 7, 2013

I subscribed to it just in time for it to get cancelled and replaced with Video, the magazine for people who enjoy talking about cables.

There's an absolutely hilarious line in Kunkel's memoir to exactly this point and I cannot for the life of me remember it. I'll look it up when I get home.
posted by griphus at 10:31 AM on February 7, 2013

Bill Kunkel's Confessions of the Game Doctor (out of print, but used copies turn up here and there)

For, like, over a hundred least on all the sites I've checked. SAD FACE.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:06 AM on February 7, 2013

I picked up a copy on for like ten bucks two years ago. Assuming Kunkel's death did not electrify the world to his prose and send the book skyrocketing in price like a Picasso painting, I think those insane prices just mean the only people selling it right now are companies that use automated pricing engines -- check what the other guy is selling it for, add a dollar -- that don't have a stopping point.
posted by griphus at 11:16 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

My birthday's coming up, so if anyone was thinking about getting me a satin Space Invaders jacket, now would be a good time.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:40 AM on February 7, 2013

If they'd gotten William Gibson to plug Virtual Boy, it still would have been a retina-searing nightmare.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:25 PM on February 7, 2013

pashdown: I still have a nearly complete collection of the magazines in my basement.

Ya know, the Internet Archive's collection of EG isn't complete. You'd be doing the world a favor if you offered to let them scan those in.

Man, someday it would be great to get an inside explanation for [George Plimpton's Intelllivision ads].

The missing information was that, before 1983, video games were surprisingly, amazingly mainstream. Lots of people, of all ages, played them. Then in 1983 the whole country, almost at once, started thinking they were kind of dorky and dropped them, causing the great game crash.

And while, in terms of raw profitability the game industry has made back the difference, public perception of video gaming has never recovered. Maybe video gaming was really just a huge fad, or maybe something else happened that burst the bubble -- maybe gaming evolved in the wrong direction, or other things happened in the culture that wrecked gaming for everyone. But before 1983, it didn't seem all that strange that Plimpton (who after all played a character called "Space Cowboy" in a Roger Corman movie) would promote the Intellivision in print and on TV.
posted by JHarris at 12:54 PM on February 7, 2013

(Of course, also, part of the point of the ads was the incongruity of George Plimpton saying how much better the Intellivision was.)
posted by JHarris at 12:57 PM on February 7, 2013

(BTW, a bit bulleted list may not have been the best way to present this post, as it turned the meat of the post into a big block of text. I tried to find ways to inject some blank lines into it but nothing worked. If anyone knows how to space out a bulleted list in a way that's compatible with Metafilter's posting system, I'd appreciate the knowledge.)
posted by JHarris at 1:02 PM on February 7, 2013

(who after all played a character called "Space Cowboy" in a Roger Corman movie)

You're thinking of George Peppard, but Plimpton actually might've been an improvement in Battle Beyond the Stars (written by John Sayles!).
posted by RogerB at 1:03 PM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Argh, you're right. I always get actors with similar names and initials mixed up, probably a quirk of the way I remember names.
posted by JHarris at 1:51 PM on February 7, 2013

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The full Digital Press Magazine Library has extensive PDF archives of a couple dozen different titles, including Video Games (notable for a roster of cartoonists that included Matt Howarth, John Holmstrom and a pre-Neat Stuff Peter Bagge), and the amazing JoyStik (whose design aesthetic was a direct ancestor of the Wired house style).

I still have close-to-full-runs of at least a half-dozen of these titles in storage. Really need to dig those out at some point.
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 5:05 PM on February 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

JoyStik is great, yes. I toyed with making this a EG/JoyStik post, but figured to keep it more narrowly defined. A JoyStik post will make it out of my brain someday though. It's even more amazing when you realize it was made, itself, with pre-computer processes.
posted by JHarris at 5:39 PM on February 7, 2013

Reading through the second issue, I found a computer glossary that defines terms like "CPU" and "Interpreter," and I was struck, not by how obsolete it was, but by how relevant it still was. Like 80% of it is still valid! Two terms have fallen out of use ("Auxiliary Storage" is mostly just hard disk space these days, "interface" is more how you interact with the OS rather than how you computer connects with peripherals, and hardly anyone uses modems anymore.) The rest of it is mostly applicable now -- and is stuff my Dad still doesn't know, judging by how often I have to explain the difference between disk space and memory to him.
posted by JHarris at 10:10 PM on February 7, 2013

Does anyone else remember this? I recall that shortly before the end of the mag they started a column where some kind of curmudgeon type who supposedly hated video games would try out a game and gripe about it. One of the games he played was "Kangaroo". It seemed like a pretty transparent attempt to gin up some "controversy" and seemed about as real as the "Ed Anger" columns in the Weekly World News. But I don't see any trace of it in those scans. Am I thinking of a different magazine? Are they just not in the scanned issues? Am I just gaslighting myself?
posted by Legomancer at 5:57 AM on February 13, 2013

I might remember something vaguely. It's been a while, and I haven't worked my way up to that point in the archive yet.
posted by JHarris at 1:30 PM on February 13, 2013

Confessions of the Game Doctor for $20 on
posted by griphus at 8:34 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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