Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back in my day, young whippersnapper...

In my post a few weeks back about the seven generations of home video game consoles, the second generation was dominated by the Atari 2600, the first platform for which I wrote games lo those many years ago. The end of the second generation is officially in 1984, brought down by the next dominant machine, the Nintendo Entertainment System, introduced in 1983 and well established in the market by a year later.

While young people will have no memory of Atari as a dominant cultural force, an era which ended about a quarter century ago, some of the people still creating bits of pop culture are older than the kids I see in class, and they are referencing the olden days in their art. The box artwork on the left is for the home version of Asteroids. Atari went with this font and package design all the way through the era from 1977 to the mid-80's. The box color would change from cartridge to cartridge, but the rest of the package had to have the Atari look and feel. Competitors such as Activision, Imagic and Mattel picked a design and stuck with it, though obviously designs different from the Atari packaging template.

The cartoon show The Venture Brothers, now in a break between its third season and its fourth, has released the third season on DVD and Blu-Ray, and who they are stealing from is obvious to anyone who remembers the era. I reviewed the third season last year, and lamented that the show was stuck in retelling the back story of all the characters, maybe a little too much. While I enjoyed the first two seasons more than the third, I do appreciate the truth in advertising of the packaging, as it references an important part of my youth, such as it was.

Other references to Atari's Golden Age have surfaced recently in the video game sub-culture, including these parody box covers for modern day hits Halo 3 and Bioshock. While I appreciate the joke, the nerd in me looks at the artwork on the box and thinks "There's no way you draw those pictures on an Atari 2600! Too many objects are sharing the same scan line! You can't change the laws of physics, and 76 machine cycles, two players, two missiles and a ball aren't going to be able to draw the stuff, especially in the middle of the screen where the action is happening!"

Being a nerd can ruin a good joke sometimes.


Karlacita! said...

Cool blast from the past!

My friend Laurence was an uber nerd who used to collect as much nerdaphernalia as possible from all sorts of loopy places.

One of his favorite nerd artifacts was a journal for notary publics from 1984. In it, there was a story about Vanessa Williams' loss of her Miss America title.

The focus of the story wasn't race or Guccione or American icons, but how horrified the editors were that Vanessa had seemingly ignored the power and majesty of the notarized document she had signed to get into the pageant. Egads! For shame!

You gotta luvz dem nerds!

dguzman said...

I still love you, Matty Boy.

Matty Boy said...

Very nice story, Karla. Years ago, I think it was in Herb Caen, there were a bunch of biology professors having a debate at the time of the release of Jurassic Park. After much discussion, it was agreed that it should be called Mesozoic Park, since it included creatures who thrived in all three of the periods, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, that comprise the Mesozoic Era, known colloquially as the Age of Dinosaurs.