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October 2012 Retro Gaming Article


October 18, 2012 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

ICHEG acquires 250+ rare Atari drawings to be part of the Atari Arcade Design Collection

When exploring the history of gaming, digital archeologists (if there is such a profession) typically unearth dusty relics from long dormant warehouses as well as attics and basements around the world. Arcade cabinets and home gaming consoles are rescued from these undesirable locations with enough regularity to fuel a vibrant retro gaming community. Along with these treasures come marquees, PCBs, game cartridges and promotional items from flyers to service manuals. Many wind up at flea markets and yard sales, but gaming's rich history exists in these places mainly in final physical form. What about all the development tools, drawings and concepts that predate releases to the public? How many flea markets sell arcade schematics or concept art? Hmmm... none?

As casual gamers or hardened retro fanatics, we sometimes forget the development process that ensued for months or years prior to our dropping quarters into coin-slots or nestling a cart into an Atari 2600. I'm sure there are troves of CAD schematics and concept art for every arcade cabinet I've ever professed my love for.

As luck would have it, The International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) has acquired over 250 original concept drawings and designs for Atari arcade games produced between 1974 and 1989.

Atari Arcade Design Collection - courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

Many of these industrial and artistic pieces show the great detail that went into perfecting the general shape and size of an arcade cabinet based on game mechanics and number of players. When arcades fell into decline, Atari was very interested in delivering cabinets that allowed 2 players to comfortably play at a single cabinet. Great care was taken in determining everything from sizing & dimensions, the best angle for the video display and positioning of the speaker(s). A lot of preliminary planning and design went into getting optimal specifications.

Atari Arcade Design Collection - courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York Many of us have fond memories of Atari arcade games from childhood and all the fun they provided. I hadn't thought too much about it, but would Asteroids have been as amazing if the monitor were improperly angled and caught glare from ceiling lights? Or what if the control panel was too high for you to comfortably play?

A lot of physical factors go into the overall enjoyment of an arcade game that have little to do with the actual game play. I'm sure the diversity between uprights and cocktail designs played a role in a title's success or failure. Cocktail configs always had room for a slice of pizza and a soda :)

The goal of ICHEG is to preserve these Atari drawings and mechanicals for historical reference and public display. An exhibit is planned for 2013 at the Boardwalk Arcade exhibit at the National Museum of Play.

Situated at The Strong, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games collects, studies, and interprets video games and other electronic games and related materials and the ways in which electronic games are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other. At 37,000 items and growing, ICHEG holds the largest and most comprehensive public collection of its kind in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

Proving that gamers are gamers whether they are into pixels or boards, I was tipped off to this Atari goodness by Kim at The Game Aisle who develops, reviews and craves board games. Check out her site and expand your gaming horizons :)

- Images courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York

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