Classic Video Game Blog of Rants, Raves, News and Info

8 Bit Central - Retro Gaming Blog

Archive of Classic Video Game Blog Articles
Third Quarter 2014 - July, August, September

Check out the retro gaming info, odd relics, insane homebrews, and the perverse conclusions we've drawn in 2014!

September 2014 Retro Gaming Articles:

September 30, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Mobile games repackaged as arcade games inspire duplication not inspiration

The golden age of arcades was an amazing era to be a gamer. The games we loved weren't timeless classics. They were brand new and captured our attention and engaged us through innovative game mechanics and novelty that rained down awesomeness. No one knew that Pac-Man would be adored 30 years into the future. We just knew it was fun!

Stargate arcade game We were in awe when Stargate arrived as a sequel to Defender. The arrival of a new arcade game was always exciting. Over the years, I've played Spy Hunter on so many consoles and computers, I sometimes forget the original arcade game had a steering wheel!

There are still a handfull of retro arcades that cater to those games we loved in the 80s. Galloping Ghosts in IL and Robot City Games in NY keep retro gaming alive in arcade settings. Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheeses have integrated restaurants with arcade games, but have stuck with modern games. There's been a recent surge in Barcades which combine gaming and alcohol. Many of these barcades have focused on retro games.

While it's great fun to enter any arcade that focuses on retro games, we are familiar with most of the games and know that no "new" games will ever arrive. Even the arcade housing for Wreck It Ralph's Fix It Felix game was a facade for a flash game on a PC.

In the 80's, we all dropped enough quarters to fuel a fast growing gaming industry. Home game consoles began releasing arcade favorites to be played at home. In today's economy, no one talks about quarters or tokens. Most arcade games have bill-readers or swipe-card readers.

Bay Tek Games logo With insane passion for the arcade scene of the 80s, I rarely visited arcades as the 90s wore on and the advent of redemption games being the dominant "game" genre in arcades. Change is inevitable. It happens everywhere on a daily basis. Once you've found something awesome, it's hard to admit that one day it will change.

Flappy Bird Ships to Arcades via Bay Tek

Flappy Bird arcade game I rolled my eyes and groaned when I heard that Flappy Bird had been licensed for an arcade release. Bay Tek Games in Wisconsin will begin shipping units this month. I can't fault them - someone was bound to do it. An arcade in my area has a Doodle Jump game. Like Flappy Bird, The Doodler began as a mobile game and even found his way onto Nintendo's DS and 3DS before hitting arcades.

Part of what irks me about Flappy Bird coming to arcades is the game itself. I became quickly addicted to the Android version - for a few days - due to it's simplistic game play and savage difficulty. As a free game, I was happy to flap and marvel at my inability to crack a 2-digit score.

When that same game comes to arcades, suddenly I have to pay to play it and how about that difficulty. I'll laugh at myself when I fail miserably on the free version. However, if I'm swiping an arcade game card and paying to be humiliated in front of a 42" display - that's a different story. I fully admit I have not played the arcade version and the game may not be as ridiculously difficult as the mobile game.

There's a secondary irritation I have regarding both Flappy Bird and Doodle Jump. Both cabinets (perhaps "enclosure" is a better term) look like giant cell phones. I hope that this won't become the default form-factor for mobile games that are released into arcade settings. I say this because it sets a precedent to take popular mobile games and dump them into arcades for nothing more than financial gain - with a cute cell phone enclosure. Being able to play mobile games on a large display doesn't offset the fact that prior versions were free. I'd rather play an arcade game that's original - not a mobile port.

This is similar to Hollywood's trend toward sequels and remakes, rather than creating original stories. These are safe concepts that have a proven following. Check the last film you saw and do some research. Nearly 70% of all films released in the last decade or two are remakes of foreign films... with proven track records.

arcade In the early days of arcades and video game development, ingenuity ruled. Risks were taken. Crazy notions were developed into awesome games. Innovation was what would reward developers.

Today, we see too many proven successes duplicated over and over and over. Why be innovative, if you can repurpose something popular and dump it on the public? Arcades need less redemption booths and more innovative games that attract players. Ticket redemption and mobile ports won't benefit arcades in the long run. I think amazing games are the key to success. Perhaps this is why I'm not an economist.
September 29, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Maria is beached at the Open while Miley Rampages downtown seeking freshly cooked Power Glove lust

Here's another round of connecting 4 unrelated images to gaming in some manner or other. And why isn't there a Breaking Bad video game on every platform out there!?!

Maria Sharapovais off-court with Mario Maria Sharapova caught off-court at the beach. Is Mario showing off or giving her pointers?
Miley Cyrus is on a Rampage Miley Cyrus is a wrecking ball and she's on a Rampage.

We need a Breaking Bad video game We need a Breaking Bad video game.
Has the Power Glove become a prop? Once hailed as a revolutionary concept, the Nintendo Power Glove has become more of a novelty that was poorly thought out regarding game control. Lately it seems the Power Glove has become a fashion prop.

September 29, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Axent Wear's cat ear headphones are destined to succeed where other kickstarters fail- Game devs take note

Axent Wear headphones Axent Wear will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign for their unique (and pretty cool looking) headphones. Already there is a buzz about this product and plenty of anticipation on social networks. They have an established website as well as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts.

How many video game Kickstarter campaigns have you seen that look as though everything was thrown together the night before? Too Many!

Many campaigns don't even have an official URL when their Kickstarter launches and their social media accounts are nearly vacant. As with any new venture, you have to start somewhere, but that starting point should be far enough in advance to create buzz and anticipation. Axent Wear has done a great job in getting the word out.

Their social media posts began in May - 4 months prior to launching via KickStarter. This has given them time to build excitement about their headphones. They already have over 100,000 likes on Facebook!

Axent Wear headphones I've seen many independent social media posts by fans who are eager to back the Kickstarter and get a cool set of headphones. The comment sections of Axent Wear's sites are full of anticipation. They should have a very successful Kickstarter because the word is already out.

The amazing part is that most people have only seen these headphones and have no idea (outside the specs) for how they sound. Still there is a strong buzz about their unique design and cat-ear speakers. You can listen to your music or broadcast it! I love the look and the concept and the planned they've done should serve them well in terms of funding and bringing these headphones to market.

Imagine launching a campaign and watching it sit dormant for the first 15 days because no one knows about it. Every day of the Kickstarter campaign is vital to it's success. A strong surge at the beginning may spur more backers which has a cascading effect. It's a different story if you haven't spent any time marketing on social media. Those first few days that may be stagnant as you try to get folks familiar with your idea or product.

Similarity to Video Game Campaigns

I've seen several video game campaigns that launched without any social media! A few days later they realized that they didn't know too much about Twitter and how to reach out to people. A lot of folks seem to think that they can set up an account and curate several thousand followers overnight. It doesn't work that way.

I've written several posts about Kickstarter because I've seen many great ideas go un-funded because the creators didn't do any promotion outside of the month-long campaign on Kickstarter. Crowd funding is a great way to fund or offset the costs of a new video game that doesn't' fit into traditional channels. Small developers can't just make a PS4 game and get it onto the shelves at GameStop. Crowd funding can enable a developer to create a new SNES game or maybe a Colecovision or Vectrex game. Homebrew games for classic consoles are tremendous love letters to an era of gaming we adore.

We'd hate to miss out on an awesome NES games simply because the developer didn't promote it well. Great games are great games and the more the better. It's sad to think a great game can't come to fruition due to a poorly laid out plan. Developers are often not marketers and don't have the experience when it comes to building a following and raising interest. Campaigns like Axent Wear's should serve as a model for those setting out to fund and deliver an amazing Atari 2600 game!
September 28, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Jet Set Willy had an interesting security feature in a cassette-era that lacked color copying

Jet Set Willy tape insert The ZX Spectrum represents an epic era in video game development. It's existence brought on the video gaming equivalent of having the "keys to the castle". It was delivered in the UK around the same time Atari was getting a computer foothold in North America.

ZX Spectrum owners took to the machine with a rabid desire to mimic the games they loved. That little machine spurred a huge development wave as it was as adept at making games as it was at playing them!

Jet Set Willy cassette There were no limits, molds, barriers or ceilings. UK developers and tinkerers brought their creativity to video games in an era when there weren't many preconceptions fo what a game should be. Today, games feel like they were churned from the same template over and over. Speccy games were crazy cool - leaning towards the crazy side :)

Dan Whitehead's book, Speccy Nation, offers a wonderful look at the machine, it's games, and the era it touched irrevocably.
Jetset Willy's security screen Jet Set Willy, the 1984 sequel to Manic Miner, was created for the ZX Spectrum by Matthew Smith. These games helped define the platformer genre as Willy raced from room to room balancing precariously avoiding disaster.

Home consoles lured in the masses and showed them the wonder of video games. As computers began to take hold, developers realized that text files and spreadsheets lacked the allure of games. Games had to be a part of successful computer sales.

Jet Set Willy Security code matrix Computers were more expensive, but held several advantages. Most notably, computers had more memory and re-writable media. Many gamers will recall duplicating disks with their friends - a practice that was delightfully easy. But not all computers came with disk drives. Some could add them as peripherals, but they may have used cassettes as their storage medium.

Duplicating cassette tapes was hardly a challenge to most of us, and this led to rampant duplication of music... and games! Developers came up with a variety of clever stopgaps to slow down piracy, but I recently stumbled across this color coded scheme from Jet Set Wily.

One of our favorite retro gaming sites, Retro Yak, had a contest on their retro Yak Facebook page. They often have quick "name this game" contests and one in particular grabbed my attention. They posted the pic of this color matrix with the question, "What was this used for?"

I had no idea, but I had a feeling it was gong to be pretty cool. I cheated and looked in the comments to discover it was a code matrix used in Jet Set Willy to thwart game piracy! I love this because it is quite simple and fits the era wonderfully. Before playing the game, you have to enter a code that can only be solved via this color matrix. Enter the code, play the game. Enter is incorrectly twice and you had to re-load from the cassette. Ugh!

Obviously you needed the tape and the matrix to play the game. Sure, duplicating a cassette was simple and making a photocopy was simple... but the key to it's security was the color. Even a grayscale copy of the matrix would not enable you to input the correct code from your pirated cassette.

I remember the days of deciding if you wanted to buy a black & white printer or a color one. These days, nearly all printers are color by default. Thus replicating things in color isn't even a thought - you just do it. You may not have a color copier at home, like the slick one at work, but a camera or flatbed scanner will enable you to easily make a copy of any physical item in brilliant color.

This was NOT the case in the early 80's. We take color for granted today, but it was enough of a challenge in the era of Jet Set Willy's release that it was a viable way to slow piracy among the average population.

Just as sophisticated encryption algorithms can be broken, folks came up with work arounds, but a simple color matrix helped and was a cost-effective means for smaller game developers.
September 27, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Every time I try to identify a video game screen shot... “No, it's Becky”

I see a fair number of social media challenges in which someone on Twitter or Facebook will post a screen shot or a small element of a video game and ask their followers to guess which game it is.

Various Centipede screen shots from different consoles Sometimes it's out of curiosity while other times it's the challenge that piques my interest. Very often it's an obscure game and makes me want to play it. Other times, I see the screen shot and know exactly which game it is. But that's too easy. Sometimes the correct answer isn't just knowing it's Centipede, but what platform is it?

Despite the increased challenge, every so often I'm positive I have the answer... but I'm shot down. But I'm right! No, it's Becky.

Becky? Becky who?

I'd love to give a simple answer about Becky, but it involves a dirty little secret - a secret I'm not proud of. You may have seen our recent post about recent album releases by decades-old rock/metal bands.

I grew up loving Kiss (still do) and Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, etc... In recent years I'm delighted to see new studio albums by these artists and others! At the same time I've always had a penchant for pop. Part of that inclination for pop includes Taylor Swift. As irritating as some of her antics are, I like her music.

No, Its Becky Recently a Taylor Swift meme pic went viral. It shows a high school image of her with a claim that the pictured girl is named Becky and died mysteriously after snorting marijuana. Ignoring the oddity of snorting Pot, the image is clearly Swift. All commenters who state that it is Taylor Swift are met with the same calm reply: No, Its Becky.

No threats. No backlash. No swearing. Just a simple statement indicating that: No, Its Becky. Backdropped against the typical hysterical death threats that usually meet anyone with a differing opinion, the simplicity of the staunch "Becky story" support makes me smile; sometimes laugh out loud.

Often Ms. Swift turns to writing a petty angry song to answer such things. In a humorous turn, she posted a selfie to her social media in which she's wearing a shirt with "No, its Becky" stenciled across it! The paparazzi seemed to catch her out on the town in the same shirt.

No, Its Becky The selfie she posted was a mock up of her upcoming album cover.

It's nice to see someone take a humorous approach to Internet taunts. These things frequently degrade into madness. The way Swift's PR team decided to respond may also have launched a brief window of opportunity for some t-shirt sales. Check it out via Google - you can get your own "Becky" shirt if you act quickly.

Of course the internet can't just sit back with a chuckle. The base premise of the original viral post has been met with an even older Picard meme.

And regarding my ability to identify video games by screen shots... I'm usually wrong. :)
September 26, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Total Recall vs total failure- You only need 2 hands to play as Douglas Quaid on the NES

Total Recall start up screen on the NES This past week, a Florida woman seeking fame and fortune in all the wrong ways took the Net by storm with photos of her "surgically installed" third breast. Her idiocy was debunked after a few days, but the concept lingers... and the precedent was set in 1990 and reaffirmed in 2012.

1990's Schwarzenegger blockbuster, Total Recall, set the stage for 3-breasted women and launched debates about the necessity for 3-handed men. The role was for a character named Mary, but it was actually titled as The 3-breasted mutant hooker on Mars. These days, the concept is Earthbound and used as an attention-grabbing mechanism - destined to fail. In the 90's it needed a video game!

Total Failure

Jasmine Tridevil and her fake 3rd breast Tampa resident Jasmine Tridevil (alias) caused a brief stir with allegations of having had plastic surgery to create a 3rd breast. She was outted and her hopes of being on a reality TV show are gone.

Total Recall

Lycia Naff from Total Recall 1990 Kaitlyn Leeb from the 2012 Total Recall remake Kaitlyn Leeb from the 2012 Total Recall remake Lycia Naff played the three breasted woman in the original 1990 film. Kaitlyn Leeb reprised the role in the 2012 remake. (NSFW)

Arnold Schwarzenegger led the first film in 1990. It was later remade in 2012 with Colin Farrell. In the first film, Lycia Naff was cast as Mary. Although a somewhat minor character, her "wardrobe" garnered a lot of attention. Times had changed when the film was remade and Kaitlyn Leeb was billed as "the three breasted woman". Combine all this with our eroding modern sensibilities and this farce becomes a costume.

Total Recall start up screen on the NES

Total Recall Video Game for the NES

The first film was pretty good, but I didn't bother with the remake. However the 1990 flick arrived in an era of movie tie-in video games. A video game was released for several of the computers of the time, including the Commodore 64, Atari ST, and ZX Spectrum. This game was created by Ocean and was well received.

The popularity of Nintendo's NES was still strong and Total Recall was released there as well. However, the game was not well received mainly because it was a much different game. Created by Interplay, they took a different approach to it's storyline claiming a closer tie to the short story than the movie script.

In the first stage, you are looking for an opportunity to get to Mars. You'll wander the cityscape fending off thugs until you can secure your travel. The game is essentially a side scrolling beat-em-up. At the end of each level you must defeat a boss and figure out the trick to progressing. This involves a bit of frustration since the gimmicks to advancing are quite counterintuitive.

Total Recall for the NES is mostly a side scrolling beat-em-up with a stage where you pilot a ship. Jumping and punching will become second nature to you. For all the complaints, this isn't really a bad game. I think many folks were expecting a different story line and perhaps it's dissimilarities to Ocean's computer game threw some people off. Overall, it's not a bad game. Give it a try and then ask your girlfriend if she'd entertain some cosmetic surgery... Ah never mind.

Total Recall 1990
September 25, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Is Grandmaster Flash really getting mentioned in all those messages to the grandchildren?

This is pretty funny, but I'm not sure I believe it's really happening - lol.

GrandMaster Flash messages
September 24, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Touted as an enhancement, StreetPass Relays provide Mii data in low-traffic areas

Mii Plaza Logo I bought my son a 2DS last Christmas and picked one up for myself the following Spring. As I've mentioned before I loved the Game Boy line with the GB Advance being my favorite.

I wasn't a fan of the Nintendo DS and skipped it until I realized a DS Lite would enable me to play GBA games. However, the 2DS really piqued my interest.

StreetPass integration into the Mii Plaza games as well as many Nintendo and 3rd party titles intrigues me no end. The games played within the Plaza offer an interesting dynamic of attaining StreetPasses to assist with various goals across the 6 games. Regular games make use of StreetPass in similar ways by exchanging info or the ability to begin co-play.

Tomodachi Life blends StreetPass so well by melding wonderfully with the game itself. It feels like a natural extension of the game play. Each player manages an island and can export goods to others via StreetPass. Island residents have children who grow up and can "travel" to other islands via StreetPass. It creates a very compelling ecosystem that's a lot of fun to be part of.

StreetPass Light StreetPass has a way of reinvigorating my play-energy (is that a thing?). Even if I simply get a notification of another Street Fighter IV or Centipede Infestation player passing by, it refocuses me on that title with a desire to fire it up! And of course there is the ability to enhance game play via StreetPass added items/abilities.

How StreetPass Relays Help

In 2013 Nintendo announced the idea of relays for their StreetPass system by using the many Wi-Fi access points as relay stations. It was designed to increase Mii traffic to your 2/3DS. Rather than relying on passing another 2/3DS in real time, a Relay captures your data and stores it to be passed to the next 2/3ds that encounters the relay.

This storage scenario allows you to get multiple StreetPasses with a single relay encounter. I've gotten up to 10 at once. As some games use the storage slots for their own StreetPass data, you may not get as many Miis as you would expect.

Discovering Local StreetPass Relays

I live in a less populated area and real-time streetPasses are fairly rare. In a big city one can fill up all the slots on a 2-block jaunt for lunch. Not so in my area. To even out the stakes - and keep 2/3DS owners interested in gaming - Nintendo created StreetPass Relays that store StreetPass data and dispense it from a common area, called a relay. Thus I can go to the mall, strut past a relay and suddenly a slew of Miis invade my Plaza... so to speak.

3D Streets Of Rage for 3DS I wasn't familiar with StreetPass Relays at the outset and found it curious that I was getting so many StreetPasses. Once I knew about relays, my peculiar ways beckoned me to hone in on them. Armed with a map of the mall, a red sharpie, and my 2DS in hand - I began to walk from one end to the other. I eyed that small light waiting for it to turn green. When it did, I slathered a red "X" on my map and sat down to cear my new Miis from the Plaza gate. I then continued my journey until I had discovered 4 relays that instantly dumped Miis-O-Plenty.

I consulted Nintendo's website about such relays and discovered that my local Home Depot was on the list. I swung by for a plumbing gasket and walked out with 7 new Miis bopping around my Plaza. Cool!

I've found a lot of games I love on my 2DS, but I love that there are still some great retro offerings for it. I recently downloaded 3D Streets Of Rage and was stoked to discover it has a co-op mode for local play. This is another awesome feature of many 3DS games - the ability to share your game with another 3DS or play together via local wireless play.

Every time I play on my 2DS, I realize what an amazing experience Nintendo delivers via hardware and software. Some see a big future in mobile gaming on smart phones, but I hope that likely reality doesn't eclipse the awesomeness that Nintendo delivers!
September 23, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Disney launched it's Marvel-themed Infinity game to little fanfare at my local Toys R Us

I wasn't too impressed with the first Disney Infinity launch and less so with their Marvel release. Upon arriving at Toys R Us, again they had the Disney Infinity banner tied to several overturned shopping carts against the outside wall of the store. Classy! Inside the new figures occupied their own aisle, but it was empty and there was no buzz whatsoever.

The Disney Infinity 2.0 banner The irregularity with which they released 1.0 characters struck me as odd. Some have playsets with worlds to explore that are inline with the characters and then there are the orphaned characters like Jack Skellington... where's Sally!?! Disney is making the toybox area the highlight of the gaming experience. I'm fine with that, but they are sacrificing the worlds form which the characters originate in favor of a big mash-p in the toybox.

I get the toybox model, but I feel this game is not taking full advantage of the great characters Disney owns. mingling them in the toybox is fun, but for many of the characters the've released, that's the only way to play them. I feel too many characters are released without a playset that lets gamers enjoy them in their unique worlds.

Captain Marvel on the Disney Infinity 2.0 kiosk Captain Marvel on the Disney Infinity 2.0 kiosk.
The Disney Infinity aisle at Toys R Us The Disney Infinity aisle at Toys R Us.

September 23, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Pioneer’s converged LaserActive CLD-A100 laserdisc unit plays Genesis & TurboGrafX-16 games

George Lucas loved Laserdisc George Lucas held out for a very long time. I'd purchased the original Star Wars films on Laserdisc in the late 80s. When DVD rolled out I owned a player for 2 weeks before any movies were in the retail channel. That $500 box played CDs like a champ, but I wanted to see what wonders awaited me in the visual arena. George already knew.

Lucas would not allow his initial Star Wars trilogy to be released on DVD as the compression was high and he felt it was an inferior format to Laserdisc. He was right, but most folks were heavily invested in VHS tapes and hadn't heard of laserdisc. Upon discovering the format, they balked at flipping the disc. Peasants! ;)

As converged devices go, I'd heard of the Nuon and the Panasonic Q, but I was not familiar with Pioneer's foray into gaming with an instant library of great games! The Nuon was a proprietary device for which few games were created (check out Tempest 3K). Thus it was a laserdisc player that also played some games. Panasonic's Q played GameCube games in addition to DVDs which made it far more versatile especially since the Gamecube was not DVD capable. However, like many converged devices, the cost of both a GameCube and a DVD player was less than the Panasonic Q.

The Pioneer LaserActive CLD-A100 Laserdisc player

Pioneer LaserActive CLD-A100 Laserdisc player But that doesn't stop folks from trying. Growing up, I knew Pioneer as an audio company that made stereo components and speakers. They did a lot of other things too from cable TV, laserdisc and DVD to automotive CD players and plasma TVs. Their LaserActive device took the age-old idea of making a single unit do many things. It was released in September 1993 (North America).

Just as the Q could play the entire GameCube library, Pioneer must have wanted to up the ante and offer even more! Their CLD-A100 laserdisc player was their answer. Like all LD players it played 8" and 12" laserdiscs as well as 5" and 3" CDs. It also played video games. It played good games - lots of them! But how? They kind of took the same approach Coleco did with adding Atari 2600 compatibility with Expansion Module #1.

Pioneer LaserActive with both game packs This modular approach gave the LaserActive the ability to play Sega Genesis, Sega CD and TurboGrafX-16 games via 2 control packs! The LaserActive also played Mega LD discs that were identical to the movie discs, but contained code for a game (LD-ROM format). Few such games were created and the appeal of this system came from the control packs that afforded Sega and NEC games. But we wind up in another quandary.

Sure, this makes the laserActive sound appealing, but anyone with lots of Sega and NEC games already owned those systems. If one were upgrading their home movie options by retiring the VHS for an LD player, it may make sense. However, consumers weren't trained in this manner. How many of us would buy console video games to play on our Laserdisc player?

Pioneer LaserActive game - Space Berserker Pioneer may have thought they had a native advantage over other disc-based consoles like the CDi and 3DO in that laserdiscs could hold more data than the smaller CDs. Only about 20 LD-ROM games were released in North America for the LaserActive player. Many of those titles were also released in Japan. A facet we don't see in today's global console market is regional compatibility. LaserActive had no region lockouts.

The Price of Fun

None the less, like the Colecovision, the LaserActive offered the PAC-N10 for TurboGrafX-16 and the PAC-S10 for Genesis / Sega CD. Each pack came with a controller modeled after the one that came with the original console. They were branded with the LaserActive logo. From what I understand, original Genesis and TG-16 controllers can be used with the LaserActive. The 2 modules allowed for a lot of game play... if you could afford to. We should discuss costs.

The LaserActive player came to market at $970. The game packs providing NEC and Sega compatibility were about $600 each. As you can see this was a very expensive venture and you still didn't have any games to play! This reveals the downfall to many converged devices - the device costs more than it's individual components.

Collectors, on the other hand, benefit from such experimental devices. The LaserActive player lasted less than a year, being pulled in 1994. Limited durations like that make it a great find - especially with it's multi console game compatibility. If that weren't enough, the CLD-A100 also had a karaoke pack and 3D goggles! I'd love to have one of these now, but I'd be pretty mad in '94 if I spent that much money on an all-in-one gaming movie player.

LaserActive Game Titles - LD-ROM format

  1. 3-D MuseumSega, Goggles 1994
  2. Don Quixote, Sega
  3. Ghost Rush!, Sega
  4. Goku, Sega
  5. High Roller Battle, Sega 1993
  6. Hyperion, Sega 1994
  7. I Will: The Story of London, Sega 1993
  8. J.B. Harold - Blue Chicago Blues, Sega
  9. J.B. Harold - Manhattan Requiem, NEC
  10. Melon Brains, Sega 1994
  11. Myst[4], Sega, prototype
  12. Pyramid Patrol, Sega 1993
  13. Quiz Econosaurus, NEC 1993
  14. Road Prosecutor, Sega 1994
  15. Rocket Coaster, Sega 1993
  16. Space Berserker, Sega
  17. The Great Pyramid, Sega
  18. Triad Stone (aka Strahl), Sega 1994
  19. Vajra, NEC 1993
September 22, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The NES Club film is now “Nintendo Quest” and they are awesome well beyond their documentary

Nintendo Quest Upon hearing of the NES Club documentary film, I was excited. It's such a great premise - a challenge that borrows excitement from the likes of American Pickers and Pawn Stars, while centered on the Nintendo Entertainment System! Two friends - Jay & Rob - one a gamer, met a challenge from his friend, a filmmaker.

Could the gamer collect the entire US NES game library in 30 days with his own money and no internet purchases? Regardless of the outcome, a brilliant film concept was born. They recently secured a final title for the film - Nintendo Quest due out in 2015!

I backed the project on Kickstarter and was really stoked to see where this project would go. Like many kickstarter projects, they got the word out and then detailed the milestones they conquered, the gaming luminaries they interviewed and the places they visited to find ~700 carts. Neo

Along the way a funny thing happened.

I don't know if there's a proper term, but much the way Neo entered the Matrix (forget the 2 awful sequels), Rob & Jay have entered video gaming! Don't misunderstand me - they were obviously vibrant gamers prior to their Kickstarter, but these days they're everywhere! I think that's really cool!

Nintendo Quest t-shirt I've never followed anyone who became so ingrained, so quickly. They have their own podcast, they guest on other podcasts. I see their posts and comments all over social media. They've become such a large part of what I love about retro gaming and gaming in general.

They brought something to the gaming community and have made it a better place. They promised us (via Kickstarter) a cool documentary film, but during the whole process, they've given so much more. I'm anticipating a cool flick in Nintendo Quest, but I've enjoyed the ride very much.

There are a lot of folks who contribute greatly to retro gaming. I think part of the passion for old games lies in sharing in the community. Much love to those who've created a game, played a game and smiled when they picked up a joystick!
September 21, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Are you ready for the Big Bang Theory premier with your Astrosmash t-shirt?

The Big Bang Theory (TV show on CBS) does a nice job adding geekery to their sets and characters. From video games to comics, the geek-factor runs high. You see it in artifacts around their apartments and certainly in the clothing they wear.

Intellivision Astrosmash t-shirt The premiere of the 8th season is sending waves of Intellivision love throughout the Internet. One of my favorite space shooters, on Mattel's classic game console, was Astrosmash. I've spent many a night propped up in bed with my Intellivision Lives cart heating up my Nintendo DS.

Intellivision Lives for Nintendo DS It's also a great disc for the PS2 and a big CRT! But Astrosmash love has filled the Net.

Sheldon Cooper will apparently be wearing this screen-shot t-shirt on Monday's premiere. Go ahead... search for it. This shirt is everywhere! Even CBS is selling the Astrosmash t-shirt from it's online store.

I'm planning on watching the premiere and wish I had caught wind of this shirt long before now. I salute all of you who will be wearing one as you watch Leonard and Sheldon bicker. :)

Intellivision Lives for Nintendo DS This Fall, keep an eye out for the Intellivision Flashback console. It's much like the Atari Flashback consoles and has 60 games built-in the the miniature Intellivision look-a-like console. Gamers are already reporting in-store sightings of this new addition to atGames console collection.
September 21, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Bono's merry band received $100 million to demonstrate consumer ignorance regarding cloud storage

iPhone 6 launch with U2 Tim Cook and the Apple clan must have been wiggling in their seats with excitement over giving away U2's new album for free! They deftly inserted it into the libraries of it's iTunes customers. No payments. No transactions. No downloading! You wake up and the new U2 album is ready to be played. Sounds good right?

No. In fact, it has been labeled as a failure. Gaming industry take note!

As gamers, we are certainly headed toward a world in which buying a game will no longer require driving to a store. This is already in place and I've been buying games via console since owning a Wii - although I prefer a physical game disc.

However, it doesn't escape me that if my Wii fails... all those downloaded games are gone too! There are a lot of issues regarding digital sales and cloud storage. Some games are not locally stored on your device. You're purchase gives you access to these games - in the cloud.

Apple Removal Tool? We've been calling it the Delete Key... for decades!
You can access games on your computer, tablet, and phone, but what if your subscription lapses? All the games go away. Cloud storage is an emerging standard that clearly lacks standards, but the common denominator with the U2 release is that consumers don't understand the "cloud". Referring to a warehouse full of servers and storage devices as a "cloud" seems to steer us toward the heavens, not reality.

Apple / U2 Outrage

I'm not a huge U2 fan, but I thought this Apple stunt was pretty cool. I understand that some folks don't like U2 and have no interest in their music, regardless of price or intention. However, the internet outcry seems typical of the whiners who require a high-speed connection to ensure all their petty rants are heard.

You'd think that Bono had broken into their homes and left his band's CD on their coffee tables. There was a constant theme of invasion by those who didn't want free music. Um... read that legal stuff you agreed to (via checkbox) and then proceeded on to download Beyonce and One Direction. You don't own anything and the cloud isn't your private storage area!
cloud storage The rage seemed to be perceived as the entire internet shouting back, so Apple created a removal tool to facilitate the expulsion of U2 from devices. Wait! What? Yes, a removal tool. The rest of us call it the "delete" key and have used it for ages. Whiners of epic proportions couldn't be bothered to remove it themselves. They required a special tool - just for them - that would erase the free music files.

Much like the outcry over the recent hack that exposed numerous nude celerity selfies to the entire Web, the general public is slowly learning about cloud storage. It's not a fluffy thing in the sky. Even if you believe all your files do exist somewhere in the sky, you need to realize the rules and limitations of cloud storage.

On one hand, Apple probably should have offered the album as a free opt-in download, but actually inserting it into iTunes libraries and devices was pretty cool. Times have changed. The trolls are winning. Our visions is now guided by the loudest voices, not the wisest.

Steve Jobs designed products that people had not yet realized they needed. I hope his spirit lives on in Apple. The free U2 "in your face" delivery was a perfect way to inaugurate their new phone. And now we know why Twitter has a Mute feature. Hush, trolls.
September 20, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Musically, we spun our last retro gaming party reverse-retro w/ vintage bands' new tracks

Chiptune hardware I love finding a new chiptune band/artist I've never heard before. There's something really cool about the ability to turn vintage game consoles and computers into musical instruments. Chiptunes always blare at our gaming gatherings. Short of playing a CD, I've never been musically adept, but music has always played a big part of my life. Just hearing song lyric quickly evokes a specific memory from long ago.

I have vivid memories of buying my first LP - Kiss Destroyer - in a Giant Music store in Virginia. My allegiance to Kiss was strong - so much that I paid little attention to other bands. I only wanted Kiss albums. Fortunately, my musical tastes expanded and I discovered many bands that left a lasting impression on me.
Kiss Destroyer album
In the last several years, many of the bands I grew up with have released new studio albums! There have been more releases than I was aware of. I combed through some of my recent purchases (yes, I still buy CDs) and found a treasure trove of new albums by classic bands.

Selection Criteria

I thought a compilation of some of these awesome new tracks would be a fun curve for our next game night! I decided on a criteria for each selection. All bands must have formed during the 80s or earlier and each release had to be within the last five years. I titled it Reverse Retro.
Here are the details:

Reverse Retro

Founded Band Recent Album Song Title Released
1965 Scorpions Comeback Blackout 2012
1968 Black Sabbath 13 Loner 2013
1969 Judas Priest Redeemer of Souls Metalizer 2014
1969 ZZ Top La Futura I Don't Wanna Lose Lose You 2012
1970 Aerosmith Music From Another Dimension Oh Yeah 2012
1972 Van Halen A Different Kind of Truth She's The Woman 2012
1973 AC/DC Black Ice Rock 'N Roll Train 2008*
1973 Kiss Monster Eat Your Heart Out 2012
1973 The Pretenders Break Up the Concrete Boots Of Chinese Plastic 2008*
1974 Blondie Ghosts of Download Take It Back 2014
1976 The Cars Move Like This Keep On Knocking 2011
1981 Joan Jett & The Blackhearts Unvarnished TMI 2013
1983 Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part Two Make Some Noise 2011
1983 Megadeth Super Collider Built For War 2013
1984 Ace Frehley Space Invader Gimme A Feelin' 2014
1989 Marilyn Manson Born Villain No Reflection 2012
Reverse Retro Reverse Retro One facet to many of these albums is the band's desire to capture their vintage sound. Many of these albums have done this beautifully! Some of the bands, like Blondie have disbanded and regrouped at some point while others like the Scorpions re-recorded some of their classics and added some great cover songs.

The result of making this mix-disc for game night was awesome! Without seeing the song list, everyone guessed the artist while being astounded that the music was released in the last few years! We then began playing the whole CDs of each artist and arguing (loudly) as to which was most true to the early releases.

* We snuck in AC/DC and The Pretenders even though they released albums just outside our 5 year window. See... we're not complete hardasses. :)
September 19, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Point your 3DS at the Nintendo e-Shop for the Super Smash Bros demo!

Super Smash Bros demo for 3DS
September 19, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

5 years after Terminator Salvation, we found a great line of Terminator toys from ReAction Figures

Terminator games and movies In today's fast-paced entertainment market it seems that producers and retailers are too eager to force sequels into the market. We took a look at the Terminator films and games not long ago and were surprised at how much time passed between each film release.

Terminator movies, games and toys
...and the Sharknado 2 version of the pic via the Sharknado app. Several years ago I bought my son a Terminator HK toy ship. As he grew older he was more curious about the robotic action figure that accompanied the HK. He discovered a Terminator video game and began asking questions about time travel and the sequence of events laid out in the game. I love his inquisitiveness!

ReAction Figures logo We went online to flesh out the details and discovered another film due out next year - Terminator Genesys - complete with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It now seems that it will be a trilogy of new films coming in 2015, 2017 and 2018. My son was stoked and wanted to buy more Terminator toys. I explained that the ones we had were released when the last movie premiered in 2009.

We headed to our local Toys R Us where I was prepared to buy him an alternative since I was pretty sure there wouldn't be any Terminator toys on the shelves. I was wrong. We found a lone rack full of Terminator figures!

Terminator figures from ReAction Figures I asked a sales rep about the figures and it turns out they had just received them - what luck. They are made by ReAction Figures and featured several characters from the franchise.

This was one of those rare times when I was astounded we found what we were looking for. They were $9.99 each, so we chose a few and headed home for an epic cyborg battle!
September 18, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff keeps an Atari 2600 in her on-set trailer

Nothing like an attractive blonde who portrayed Starbuck, saying she loves her Atari 2600 to get an internet reaction. Katee Sackhoff's gender-bent character of the 1978 Starbuck was quite a contrast to the ladies-man character played by Dirk Benedict.

From TV and movies to video game voice-overs, she is known, and heard, by a lot of people who might fall into the hardcore sector of nerdcore. So, when she gave a Playboy interview and spoke of her love for her Atari 2600... well, the Net took interest :)

Katee Sackhoff & Atari 2600 She says she keeps an Atari VCS in her on-set trailer for those times she is bored and has a gaming urge. Interestingly, the interviewer wondered why she didn't have the compilation of Atari games for Xbox. She responded as a retro gaming purist stating it wasn't the same without a joystick. Apparently, her parents owned a restaurant with several arcade games, so she had a lot of experience as a kid.

It's nice to read an interview with someone who is unexpectedly into retro gaming and actually gets it. It's not a nostalgic trend for her. She grew up with it and still loves games... old games! Yay!
September 17, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Kickstart a new NES game that plays on original hardware & communicates w/ it's Mac/PC counterpart

Homebrew games for retro consoles are often labors of love. Some amazing person dedicates their time to creating something new for a console they loved dearly (and still do). Such projects are testaments to the great childhood memories so many of us have as a result of gaming.

New 8-Bit Heros Logo Joe Granato is heading up a Kickstarter campaign to create the NES game that he and a childhood friend "designed" on paper. Having grown up and amassed the skills to really create their Mystic Searches game, he has assembled a team to create it beginning with a Mystic Searches Kickstarter campaign.

But is it really a "homebrew" when there's a development team consisting of composers, artists, programmers, and writers working on the project? It sounds more like an indie game studio hellbent on creating an NES game. And that's a good thing because this project is promising a lot more than just a new NES game!

There will also be a documentary film on the game-development process that also showcases the 8-bit community and it's popularity today. Lastly, they plan to include some form of tutorial to pique gamer's interests in creating their own games for the NES!

The NES cart connects to the PC game to synchronize acievements

More Than "just an NES game"

There's a terrific twist to the gaming element of the project. They are creating a new original NES game that will be delivered on a traditional NES cartridge and fully playable on your old Nintendo Entertainment System.

They are also creating a modern version of the same game - playable on your Mac or PC. AND... these 2 versions communicate with each other via a USB cable. Thus, achievements made on the NES version cab be synchronized with the game on your computer! I'm sure this USB connection will facilitate other features - stay tuned.

That's the sort of innovation that really adds a very unique aspect to the game. Most Kickstarter campaigns are fairly singular in the offerings. Granato is offering 2 video games, a documentary film and an NES programming tutorial. My belief is they are in the process of honing their kickstarter page and getting as much info to potential backers as possible. There are some vague areas, but I believe they are committed to the project and further outlining their plans.

I wrote to Joe Granato with a few concerns and questions. A few minutes later I received a lengthy reply that answered my issues and led me to believe they are very serious about delivering a good product. It's always a good sign when the project leader responds quickly with solid answers. I was impressed with the info he provided. Naturally, one has to be wary of any crowd funded project, but getting quick resolutions to issues boosted my confidence.

Mystic Searches NES game In addition to their Kickstarter page, you can find info on their social meidia sites- Twitter and Facebook. Their website currently redirects to the KS page, but hopefully it will become it's own destination as the project progresses.

Check out their info online and see if you dig the NES-to-computer USB connection. We think it's pretty slick and look forward to seeing this game progress.
September 15, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Desperate to best Mt. Dew, Coke released SURGE in 1997. It's back! Retro brands take note

Coca-Cola's SURGE drink is back in 2014 Today's retro tale goes back to the soda pop days of the late 90's when Coke was keen on dethroning Pepsi's Mt. Dew and it's extreme sports appeal. It's weapon was a citrus drink with a kick - SURGE.

It was on the market for about 5 years until it was phased out in 2002 and 2003. Coke hoped SURGE would be it's Mt. Dew Killer. Alas, Doing the Dew was a force to be reckoned with.

Who says social media and grass roots campaigns are a waste? Did you drink SURGE in the 90's? The SURGE Movement on Facebook targeted Coke with a strong desire for their former beverage. From organized phone & letter-writing campaigns to a billboard near Coke's headquarters, this small group played a role in the rebirth of SURGE!

So, SURGE is back! Lets go to the local store and snag a can! Hold up - it's not that easy. Coke has taken a modern approach to distribution - via Amazon, in 12-packs of 16-oz. cans. That's right, you can order SURGE from Amazon along with that video game you've been dying to add to your collection and perhaps a book or two.

Coca-Cola's SURGE drink is back in 2014 As much as I find Amazon convenient, am I the only one who's shaken a soda and handed it to a friend? I can't imagine the result of opening a 16 oz SURGE after it's bounced around on a ground transport truck for a few days.

There's still another hurdle. Amazon is out of stock. This was a trial run of sorts and rumor has it that inventory ran out twice on the day it was released! I doubt Amazon's standard pre-order scenario will apply, but you can sign up to be alerted when it's available. You should do that because it also alerts Coke to consumer demand.
Ariel Rebel wearing a Cherry Coke shirt Ariel Rebel (NSFW) I've always been a huge Cherry Coke fan, so when I saw this pic of Ariel Rebel sporting a Cherry Coke shirt I had to include it! You can find more of Ariel on her Ariel Rebel website (NSFW) and on Twitter.

Coke is taking a pretty progressive approach to SURGE. Still a popular Norwegian drink (called URGE), Coke brought back the original 90s SURGE logo, used e-commerce (via Amazon) to handle distribution - along with a ton of stats. This is also the first time Coke has ever revived a beverage that was canceled.

Will Other Companies Follow Suit?

This scenario sets up a precedence - and alternative strategy - for brining back a brand or product. Think about all the snacks and toys we remember from our childhood that have vanished with time. Coke's use of amazon and limited release might prompt other companies to capitalize on strong retro trends and bring back some of our childhood favorites.

Granted Coke is a large multi-national company that has resources to pull off a reSURGEnce. However, It wouldn't surprise me if other companies begin seeing dollar signs after Coke's quick sell-through of the soda offered on Amazon.

Retro items of all kinds are more popular than ever and it seems as though Coke has proved it with SURGE. During it's limited run today, SURGE was Amazon's #1 selling item in "Grocery & Gourmet Food > Beverages". I think Coke is establishing a new sales model for quick limited releases.

More Retro Revival!

I hope other companies take note and begin bringing back retro favorites! In a world where customers are rabid for Intellivision, Coleco and Atari Flashback game consoles (not even real consoles) I see Coke as forging the way for others to reinvent. Consumers should also see the value in communicating with the brands they love. You never know what awesomeness might ensue! How about a video game tie-in? :)
September 14, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Why National Video Game Day should showcase gaming to everyone, including non-gamers

When kids reach an age of understanding they often ask their parents why there is no Children's Day. They've seen Mother's Day and Father's Day... so what gives? The answer is usually- "Every day is children's day!"

September 12 was National Video Game Day! But it's not a day only for gamers... it should be a day for everyone!

kids gaming For gamers, every day is Video Games Day! We love games and dedicate lots of time to playing, collecting, discovering, learning and playing even more. For many of us, large parts of our lives revolve around this amazing form of entertainment that can envelope us and take us to far away worlds where we can do almost anything!

Movies have the same ability to whisk us away on an amazing adventure, but a movie only lasts 2 hours. Video games offer the same sort of amazing adventures, but they're interactive. We become the lead character and often we can create our own adventure that can last days, weeks or a lifetime.

Some gamers beat a game in a matter of days while others can played the same game for years. I rarely turn down the opportunity to play Asteroids while other times I want to revisit the Wilikin Village in Skylanders. I can become immersed in either one in a matter of minutes. Gaming is very diverse and means different things to different people.
the gaming Industry is an island

The video Game Industry is an Island

Despite the enormous growth of the video game industry, those outside it don't always know a lot about it. Gaming info tends to stay within the gaming community. If you're not a gamer or don't follow the industry, you may not encounter much of it's excitement.

This is an area where we see gaming as an isolated island. If you wash ashore, it's wealth abounds, but if you don't make the effort to discover it, you may never unlock it's potential.

Not everyone goes to GameStop or the video game aisles in box-stores. When a new console or prominent game is released, we may see some advertising. Video games are rarely mentioned in the media after a major release subsides.

Look at e-Sports. It's growing in leaps and bounds and is selling out traditional sports stadiums to those who want to watch and be part of the live vibe. Still, e-Sports lives in relative obscurity.

Both Video Game Day (July 8) and National Video Game Day are great opportunities for this industry to reach out to those who don't play video games or only know it from a certain perspective. Alas, this is a very divided industry that lacks a singular voice or entity that will operate to benefit the industry as a whole.
video game megaphone

TV News Anchors and Other Non-gamers

Far too many tragic stories on the news are mistakenly tied to video games. Many news organizations sensationalize their reports to boost ratings and others are too lazy to do any investigative research. Even dedicated TV-news networks cater to popular opinion and deliver whatever seems to be trending to the lowest common denominator. Truth has long taken a backseat to ratings (aka- money).

The gaming industry needs to find a common voice that can rise above platform wars, title exclusivity and all the things that divide gaming. Such a voice should be taking advantage of popular and trending events like National Video Game Day to promote the awesomeness of video games.

Gaming Needs a Board or Organization... or some PR

Video games only make the news when there is a major consumer hardware/software release or a violent crime is attributed to them. That's a lot of negative publicity for an enormous industry that lacks a singular voice for self-promotion. So many areas of business have associations or organizations that act as a barometer for public opinion and work to lobby a better presence in the public's perception. I wish the gaming industry would set up a board or organization where members could help guide certain areas and perceptions.

Think of how different the game industry might be if the general public was more interested and engaged in their products. Even though gaming is growing epically, there are still a lot of influential folks who are omitted simply by the closed nature of the industry. There's no central place to get the pulse of gaming, thus the industry is slow to react to what the market is seeking.

I love games and the industry. I want more people to know why and to embrace gaming from Atari to tomorrow!

The Video Game industry needs a lobbying and PR firm

September 13, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Hazard is Freeman's Berzerk-influenced FPS game with fast play, amazing music and it's free

I've loved Berzerk ever since I heard it's attract-mode voice at my local arcade. creenshot of Stern's Berzerk for Atari 5200 It's seemingly simple play lured me into wanting to triumph over it's savage difficulty. It was a game I was quick to bring home when it was released for the Atari 2600. Later I purchased it for the Atari 5200 and 800 computer. It's a great game!

Alas, Berzerk is a game that stayed in the 80's. As compilation discs came to market, Defender, Robotron, Joust, Dig Dug, etc all began to appear - but no Berzerk. I can't recall it being re-released in it's arcade form or as a reboot. It may have been part of a sony or Microsoft download, but it hasn't been included the way other classics games from it's era have.

Adam Freeman's Hazard Game

Adam Freeman has a very succinct tagline to describe his game, Hazard. It's a love letter to Berzerk with just a dash of Tron.

Hazard Freeman's Hazard is a Quake-like first person shooter with wonderful styles plucked from the 80's. From amazing in-game music by Wolfgun to smooth action and tight control, it's a tough game to put down.

On top of this, Hazard is a free game that can be downloaded from Freeman's Indie DB page. Download a copy and give it a try. I'd say there's more than just a dash of Tron influence. When combined with it's Berzerk-ness, this indie game is an experience every retro gamer should experience!

Long live Berzerk!

The video below shows Hazard footage from Fork's Indie Bytes: Episode 23.

September 12, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Today is National Video Game Day!

September 12, 2014 is National Video Game Day! This is a great opportunity to get out there and share your love of video games! Gamers are a diverse group. Some yearn for the latest in technology, while others love the games they grew up with. Some of us buy insane video cards to get the best possible experience, while others love to play on the go with handheld consoles.

Share what you love about video games with someone! You might discover something amazing you never knew about!! :)
September 12, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Excavated Atari artifacts will soon be granted and auctioned by the City of Alamogordo

Truckloads of Atari product from a Texas warehouse were dumped in a landfill in alamogordo, New Mexico in 1983. This spawned urban legends that have taunted gamers for 3 decades. Insiders claimed to have known the truth while others fantasized about 5 million ET game cartridges sealed in the dessert.

Atari items excavated rom the New Mexico landfill On April 26, 2014 this urban Legend was verified by archeologists, historians and journalists along with a crowd of onlooking gamers. As excavators rumbled and the wind swirled dust, a shout from the scene indicated they'd found some Atari stuff - lots of it.

They found some hardware, but it was mostly games - and not just ET. They found over 30 different game titles for at least 2 Atari consoles. It was estimated, by James Heller, that 728,000 game cartridges were disposed of in the Alamogordo landfill. He was a manager at Atari and charged with finding an economical way of getting rid of the warehouse's excess in the early 1980's.

Atari fans around the world watched on social media wondering what it would take to get a piece of this history. When the digging machinery left and the documentary filmers had their footage, the landfill was left as it has been found - still holding over 700,000 Atari game cartridges.

Finders Keepers

The city of Alamogordo took control of the excavated items by nature of them being within it's city limits. It has been said that only about 1300 artifacts were removed from the site. Of these, 800 will be auctioned off by the city - soon! The rest will be granted to museums and other preservation entities.
The price of an ET game at J&R Music World in the 80s
800 sounds like a lot, but with global interest in this excavation and the huge legions of Atari fans, the price could go sky-high! Let's say that ET garnered $30 when it was released in 1982. With only 800 items, the price will easily triple or perhaps go even higher.

The Smithsonian Institution has reportedly shown interest in some of the Atari items which really puts their value in perspective. At various smithsonian museums I have touched a moon rock, walked through Sky Lab, stood beneath a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, seen King Tut's sarcophagus, and viewed priceless works of art. It's an interesting contrast of cultural values.

ET cop So, with 700,000 items awaiting extraction, it seems to me that Alamogordo has a lucrative future in selling Atari's historic legend. The local middle school needs a new roof? Send an excavator into the landfill. Main street needs to be repaved? Back to the landfill. I don't see the value in leaving so much of it in the ground. Obviously these items have value, so why not remove a more significant amount?

They could be planning to sell off artifacts every few years, although I doubt that's the case. I recall a few articles discussing the police chasing people out of the landfill back in the 80s. Now that almost everyone has GPS, I'd be curious to see Alamogordo's Police Blotter since April. I imagine a lot of people will try to sneak in for a piece of Atari history.

I would! :)
September 12, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Stuck in traffic? Fire up your car's wifi and DL a game for your new Nintendo 2DS

Auto seat-back video screen Have you ever been driving at night and seen a seat-back video screen in the car ahead of you... and tried to identify the movie they're watching? Have you ever seen someone playing a game on one of those vehicle displays? A friend of mine rigged on for his son to use on long trips. He put a PS3 in his truck since it would play DVDs and games! Smart thinking!

Lately, I'm seeing TV commercials for Chevy cars that feature in-car wifi. I'm sure there are an array of valid business applications, but it's being marketed to the lowest common denominator of folks who want to check Facebook and send a few Tweets.

Chevy wifi in the car Many states have laws to reduce the number of morons texting while driving. Accidents happen when driver's change radio stations, so now we're giving them the ability to update their Facebook status and search for funny cat videos?

Autonet router for your car The auto industry should also enable the passenger seat to convert into a Foosball table so the driver can challenge right-lane drivers to a game. The in-car wifi can be used to signal other drivers to pull close and engage in a 60 MPH foosball game. Corporate greed is fascinating.

Like most wifi routers, the ones being installed in cars create a local coverage area in the same way the router in your living room supports connections from the attic, basement and bedroom. So, as you cruise the city streets, your bubble of Internet coverage travels with you. The website says the range is about 150 feet around the vehicle. This will be helpful when you park near your campsite and can still use your tablet for Netflix around the campfire.

And won't it be fun when the city streets are clogged with cars all spewing their wifi into other cars, businesses and personal space. Each time I walk through the mall, my smartphone tries to connect to every store's wifi. So, it should be a lot of fun to see my phone go berserk trying to connect to every car that goes by while I'm dining out - enjoying the restaurant's wifi.

Chevy's wifi website indicates they are using Autonet routers to supply wifi to their vehicles. If it has to be, then I suppose one could pull over (as the driver) and download a few games for their new 2DS. GameStop is blowing them out at $99 the last few days of September.

GameStop sale on the Nintendo 2DS
September 11, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

What to Do When You See a Dog in a Hot Car - in 8-bit

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is always running various public awareness campaigns which are often quite edgy. Many will remember the campaigns involving nude celebrities. They're not afraid to push the limits to make a point.

During the Summer I was tipped off to this video that warns of leaving pets in hot cars - and does so with a retro 8-bit theme!

If it's warm and sunny, leave Fido at home. Even a cool sunny day can be deadly to a pet trapped in a car.
September 10, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Nintendo announces an NES-inspired 3DS XL - a GameStop exclusive available October 10

I edited this post after seeing images of the inside of this upcoming 3DS XL.

GameStop exclusive: NES-inspired 3DS XL People collect all sorts of things from coins to sneakers and beyond. I'm sure the guy with the rare coin collection laughs at a collection of sneakers, but who's to say which is better. "live and let live," I say.

I say this because I feel a need to own this NES-themed releases of the 3DS XL! :)

Today, Nintendo announced a new release of the 3DS XL on October 10. With the excitement over next year's "New" 3DS XL, this release will be a themed release of the existing hardware, but it will resemble the scheme of Nintendo's NES (Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1985).

NES-inspired Game Boy Advance SP I've seen several mods to various game consoles, with an NES theme, but this is something that I haven't seen too often from Nintendo themselves. After seeing the plain-looking inside of this model, I wish they'd looked to their NES-inspired Game Boy Advance SP when designing this 3DS XL.

In 2010, Nintendo Power magazine (V261) included an NES Wiimote skin that gives your Wiimote an NES-look. The NES was such a pivotal console in the history of gaming, I'm glad to see a handheld taking on it's retro goodness, if only visually.
September 10, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

September 10 is the day to rally against greedy cable companies who want to abolish net neutrality

Battle For The Net Large ISPs (Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner, and AT&T) want to create a new revenue stream by charging you more to deliver internet service. What they really want to do is create a "slow lane" and dump YOU into it unless you pay. These cable companies are renown for high prices and poor service and now they want to control the internet. It's pure corporate greed!

They don't own the internet or have any right to create classes of users by regulating data speeds based on their own greed.

Find out what you can do on Battle For The Net. Battle For The Net Already I've experienced this in the form of Comcast denying my login attempts to certain apps that stream TV & movies over the net. When I call their customer service to resolve the issue, they offer NO HELP. Its as if their customer service people are told to create circular conversations until the customer hangs up. It's the craziest thing. Usually they try to help.

They want to charge for both TV and Internet. They're probably trying to influence the FCC because they know TV and the Net will eventually meld in the coming years, so they want to be prepared to have a "reason" to keep revenue up.

I was certain this sort of behavior is why we have jails.
September 10, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The Starpath Supercharger added RAM to the Atari 2600 w/ enhanced games on cassette

Starpath Supercharger Asteroids seems like a simple enough game. Move your ship & shoot at rocks. It's that simplicity that made many video games immensely popular. It didn't look difficult. Drop a quarter. And another. The compulsion to keep playing was strong. When Asteroids was released for the Atari 2600, few gamers had any idea how hard it was to "fit" that simple-looking game into a 4K cartridge.

It took a programming technique called bank switching to enable a larger game to be playable in a smaller space. Code that were not needed by the processor were swapped out for others. This occurs frequently in asteroids allowing the game to play seamlessly for the player.

"If only we had more space," was the battle cry of early developers. In 1982, Starpath released the Supercharger for the Atari 2600. It connected via the cartridge slot and provided more RAM - a lot more! It added nearly 50 times the existing 128 bytes of RAM, bringing the total to about 6,000 bytes. It also had a cable that would attach to the headphone output on a standard cassette player. This allowed games stored on cassette tapes to be copied to the 2600 for play.

The device was compatible with all variations of the 2600 including the 2600 Jr, but it had issues with certain versions of the Atari 7800.

Starpath - formerly Arcadia Corp

Starpath started up in June of 1981 as Arcadia Corp and was out of business in 1983 by way of a buyout from Epyx. The name-change came from trademark issues around the Emerson Arcadia 2001 game console. Few games were released for the Supercharger and with cartridges being the sexy new way to deliver games, reverting to cassette - despite the premise of much better games - may not have made the Supercharger a must-have accessory.

Starpath Supercharger box Bundled with Phaser Patrol (a Star Raiders variation), the Supercharger had a good premise in boosting memory to deliver superior games, but the superiority wasn't so super as new consoles came on the scene. It wasn't long before better consoles hit the marketplace.

The Colecovision and 5200 both outpaced the capability of the Supercharger. Even more sophisticated games for the 2600 began to arrive that were of similar quality to the supercharged games.

The Supercharger wasn't a dud from a sales perspective, but it never expanded beyond Starpath-made games. The games were pretty good for the most part, but never gained 3rd party development.
Starpath Supercharger games

Starpath Supercharger Game List

I'd love to hear from anyone who bought a Supercharger in the early 80s and how it impacted your feeling toward the typical Atari carts. Were Supercharger games really better - worth the tape loading scenario? In today's landscape, would we play a super hi-res PS4 game if it had to load from a VHS tape? :)
September 9, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The Sega Dreamcast turns 15 today!

Released on the infamous date 9/9/99, the Dreamcast was Sega's final foray into gaming consoles. After a failed attempt with the Saturn console, Sega hoped the Dreamcast would leverage Sony's base of Playstation fans who were ready for a new console. It was well received, but only for a short time.

Sega Dreamcast is 15 years old
DreamCast 9/9/99
The Dreamcast had a lot of great games, but a year later, the PS2 arrived with the ability to play the original Playstation library and DVDs. It was the beginning of game consoles being "more" than just a game console. DVD was a solid format for movies and digital entertainment. Two years after the Dreamcast release, Nintendo released their first disc-based console, the GameCube, which also lacked DVD playback.

Check out our gallery of Sega Dreamcast images.
September 8, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Nintendo lets you tour the Louvre museum at home or play Galaga next to the Mona Lisa

Galaga screen on the Mona Lisa While randomly rustling through Nintendo's eShop on my 2DS I came across a download for a museum tour of the Louvre. It is titled, Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre. Was it a game of some sort - what was this oddity?

Being late to this party isn't a big deal since the Louvre isn't on the cusp of a going-out-of-business sale. But, back in mid-2012 Nintendo announced they were undertaking a project that would put their handheld game console at the center of the Louvre's museum guide plan.

This certainly doesn't sound like a "Nintendo" project - no plumbers, no dinosaurs, no jumping. The plan was twofold: create an interactive experience for those who would like a virtual tour of Paris' renown art museum from their living room and a "walking tour" to be used inside the Louvre.

3DS Guide: Louvre
Released Dec. 2013
eShop $19.99
As odd as this project sounds for a game developer, let's look at the timeline again. Less than a year after the release of the 3DS, Nintendo announces their hardware will support their custom application for touring the Louvre virtually or on-site. That lends a lot of credibility to Nintendo. Any developer could have taken on this project and dumped a tour onto a tablet. It's interesting that Nintendo was given the opportunity to incorporate both their 3DS and develop the tour to run on it.

At the Louvre in Paris, one can rent a 3DS and software. It should be noted that the Louvre is an immensely prestigious institution. They wouldn't let a game company dash out an audio/pic tour. The software offers multiple modes from a manual tour to a guided one that leads you through the museum. Often there are multiple images and descriptive audio to compliment each work. The software's sophistication is on par with someone who might otherwise hire a tour guide to experience the museum.

Using the 3DS in the Louvre The software itself is of particular interest as it is region free! Another facet is it's distribution. It has been available on Nintendo's eShop, but the cartridge version requires a trip to the Louvre's gift shop. The cart is only available on-site. I'm sure some enterprising vacationer, or local resident, will drop in and buy as many copies as possible for auction.

On the Auction Block

How will the cartridge be valued in auctions? It's rarity on cartridge is high, but is rivaled by the ease of digital download. It's not a game and may have limited appeal to gamers, but it contains a lot of fascinating info and is so unique to Nintendo and it's 2DS/3DS.

When looking at it's scarcity, due to distribution, it will be interesting to see where auction prices go considering it's content. If you could ride Yoshi through the museum, the cart might have an increased value, but as a guided tour, I couldn't begin to predict interest.

Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre screen But given the chance, I think I'd opt for yanking the tour and firing up some retro gaming in the Louvre. I'm a huge Galaga fan and promptly snagged a PAC-MAN & Galaga Dimensions cart for my 2DS. Given the opportunity to tour the Louvre, you'll find me and Mona playing Galaga. ;)
September 7, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Defining “Gamer” needn't include assholes who coincidentally own game consoles #Gamergate

I remember when Woodward and Bernstein broke Watergate wide open in '72. It was an exciting time in journalism. Scandals rarely went as high as the White House itself. Over time, Watergate became synonymous with scandal and the appending of "gate" to any other term is used to infer a scandalous tone.

Watergate is actually the namesake of a cluster of buildings in Washington, DC where the Democratic National Committee was headquartered. It was here that documents were stolen and phones were tapped ultimately resulting in Nixon's resignation. Today we've trivialized it by declaring "Sandwich-gate" when our lunch vanishes from the office refrigerator.

The Watergate complex in Washington DC Recently across many facets of the gaming industry, Gamergate has been used to reference an array of bad behaviors by those both inside and outside the gaming community at large. From trolls and random degenerates to game journalists and developers, the term has now infected gamers in general. I won't go into the gory details, but its easy to find a myriad of horrific articles on everything from lying and bullying to violence and death threats. It's a crazy world out there.

I felt compelled to chime in when I began reading articles stating the term "gamer" is dead... ruined. The crux of this statement goes back to the recently highlighted atrocious behavior of some awful people. Trolls who play video games have taken the anonymity of the internet as an excuse to say anything to anyone with regard for no one. For some reason, news outlets call these people "gamers" when their behavior is more aligned with cowardice. I think the definition of gamer needs some reexamination!

  • When people make racist comments about President Obama, we don't call them politicians.
  • When people rage against a band's latest album, we don't call them musicians.
  • When people refute global warming, we don't call them scientists.
  • When people disparage restaurants with online reviews, we don't call them chefs.

So, why are those who harass members and communities of the gaming industry referred to as "Gamers"?!? It seems to me that these objectionable bullies are simply, assholes.

Be A Gamer

Being a gamer has always been a "good" moniker, but I think it's definition is being wrongly simplified to make the video game industry the target of any desired negativity by the media - a scapegoat. Gamers aren't the cause of the problems we're seeing recently. These issues are being caused by assholes. Media outlets from CNN to bloggers need to understand the difference.

I'm not a gamer because I own a game console. I'm not a gamer because I've pushed a fire-button.

I'm a gamer because I love playing games. I enjoy the history of gaming and it's evolving technology. I'm fascinated by the industry and how it can produce such varied games and experiences. I admire the homebrew developers who continue to make amazing games for the Atari 2600, the Intellivision and other retro consoles.

You are not a gamer if you threaten a developer's family because you don't like the ending of the third game in a franchise. As a reminder: that threatening person, who longs for a different ending, is an asshole.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but that right doesn't entitle anyone to be threatening, violent or even mean. Influence the industry with your wallet not fabricated fear.
September 7, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Nintendo & Nerf should develop a 3DS case with Fleshlight© because some games are THAT good

This article is idiotic, of the tongue-in-cheek variety, and largely NSFW. Please read/click accordingly.

While there were several attempts in the 8-bit era to develop compelling adult video games, the ESRB's "Mature" rating seems relegated to violence and vague intercourse. PC gamers probably have the best-suited platform to cater to adult developers. As a console gamer, I've always seen a wide divide between gaming and adult content. When was the last time you saw an ESRB Adult rating on a box?

The initial uniqueness of the wireless Wiimote prompted an odd Wiimote sex toy (not Nintendo sanctioned). It isn't often that a company like Nintendo gets twisted into a physical product of that sort, but I think it needs to happen again.

When I was a kid, Nerf made balls - all sorts of balls. Today they are weaponized in a most peculiar fashion, but some of the mystery-foam they used to make balls, in my childhood, has been used to make some really great protective cases for Nintendo handhelds. I have Nerf Cases for both my DS Lite and 2DS. I love what they have done for Nintendo's portable consoles.

tablet nsfw Since Nerf seems to be an ever evolving company - from balls to dart guns to game cases - why not branch out to the adult industry and bring Nintendo along for the ride?

If you haven't heard of the Fleshlight, it's an expensive pocket-pussy (NSFW), masturbation device. But wait... They've fashioned a clamp so you can attach your Fleshlight to your iPad or other tablet, giving you the ability to consume data and masturbate.

Here's where Nerf comes in! They should create a 3DS case that allows one to attach their Fleshlight to their 3DS. Why, you ask?

Because some games are really THAT good! :) pocket-pussy pic
September 7, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Fashion trends come and go, but the Hilfiger Game Boy Color is forever (briefly in '99)

When is Nintendo's Pikachu-Yellow not a telltale indicator of a custom Pokemon Game Boy release? When It's a Tommy Hilfiger Game Boy release! Wait, what?

The Tommy Hilfiger Game Boy Color - 1999 I'm not very fashion-conscious. My primary goal when it comes to fashion is "don't leave home naked". Yeah, preventing public indecency charges is my style of dress. I do like the styles of Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, etc - but I can find similar looking garments at Sears and I'd rather spend my money on video games.

In the Summer of 1999, some retailers were running a Tommy Hilfiger promotion with Nintendo's Game Boy Color. It was an interesting promotion in that the Game Boy Color was not free (it was discounted to $57.50) and you were "eligible" for this discount through buying $50.00 (minimum) of Tommy Hilfiger brand items. If you liked the Hilfiger brand and wanted a Gameboy, it was a win-win sort of promo.

Interestingly, this model was identical to the Dandelion Yellow model and was simply branded with the Hilfiger name and logo. This limited edition branding was nicely screened onto the faceplate of the Game Boy rather than a sticker. Only 2 months later, Nintendo released another limited edition yellow Game Boy Color with a Pokemon theme.

Pikachu or Tommy? Yellow seems a odd color for the Hilfiger edition, but it's also a good contrasting color against the red, blue, black, and white Hilfiger logo. Stranger still is releasing the Hilfiger edition so close to the similarly colored Pokemon release that Fall.

I would have thought that Nintendo would want to reserve the yellow GBC for their IP, not let it coincide so closely with another promotion. It makes me think that there may have been a lot of behind-the-scenes interaction between Nintendo and Tommy.
The Tommy Hilfiger Game Boy Color - 1999
September 6, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Check out this retro gaming podcast I did with the folks at SciFiction

I was invited to discuss retro gaming on a podcast with SciFiction. You can listen to it via the link below.

retro gaming podcast I did with SciFiction

Listen to the retro gaming podcast:

Check Out Entertainment Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with SciFiction Radio on BlogTalkRadio
September 5, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Winning the game is about having the most fun

The more time you spend arguing the semantics, the less time you have to play. The less you play the less fun you have.

Play more - have more fun.

Winning the game should be about having the most fun ...and don't be a dick :)
September 5, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The DECO Cassette System predates multi-game arcade tech from Atari, Nintendo, and Sega

The rally cry of Realtors is "Location, location, location!" Ya gotta have a good spot - especially if you were operating an arcade in the early days of video games. Once you had gamers swarming your arcade on a regular basis, the next part of the puzzle was managing the floor.

Deco mascot But it's not that easy. It's a juggling routine of maximizing the ROI of your floor space by keeping games on the floor that attract enough customers. You need plenty of room for customers and cabinets. But not all games are big-earners like Pac-Man or Galaga. Patrons get tired of playing the same old games. Arcade games are bulky and expensive, so rotating games in and out of the floor was costly and time consuming.

Data East Corp came up with a solution that would allow multiple games to be played on one arcade cabinet. In 1980 they released their DECO Cassette System that employed a generic PCB, in an upright or cocktail style arcade cabinet, and used micro cassettes to load the ROM info.

Thus, one cabinet was capable of playing multiple games. But it's not as sexy as some of the multi-game cabinets that were menu driven and let the player select games on the fly (see list below).

Internal DECO cassette player and PCBs Deco (derived from Data East COrportaion) is a 3-board mechanism that included the cpu, audio/video, and micro cassette player. The internal PCBs handle generic features and store the ROM once it's loaded from the micro cassette (about 3 minutes).

Unlike later variants on this idea, it could only store one game and it would lose the ROM info if the machine was powered off or experienced a power failure. This necessitated a re-load from the cassette. The same scenario came into play if the operator wanted to change the cabinet's game - load the game from cassette.

Along with the packaged cassette, each DECO game came with a key/dongle that allowed the game to run. This was an anti-piracy measure in case anyone decided to simply duplicate the cassette.

It wouldn't be long before game cartridges would replace cassettes when other manufacturers came up with their own multi-fame solutions. Some of these game developers were already distributing games via carts for the home market, so it made sense to leverage that model. Many operators discovered that the cassettes were not as robust as one might like and wore out after 6 months of use. Similar complaints arose about the security dongles too.

Intro to the DECO cassette player Then there were the games themselves. We hear about Burger Time and Bump & Jump, but promises of many "top selling" titles were made, yet very few games were even released during the ~5-year run of the DECO Cassette System. About 47 games were created, but not all were released and some were released into single markets like Japan. Games like Burger Time were also released as dedicated cabinets, so an expensive micro cassette based system wasn't as attractive to operators as a proven upright cabinet.

It was a revolutionary concept for it's time, but the games that were released failed to bring in large crowds to the arcades. Here are some latter efforts at placing multiple games within a single arcade cabinet:

There are avid collectors who seek out DECO cabinets and cassettes, but that's a tricky machine to collect for. As operators complained about failing tapes only months after the original purchase... 30 years can be even more devastating to this analog media. Additionally, you need the security dongle to make the games function. Finding all of these separate components is no easy task when the cabinets have been dormant for decades.

Collecting for DECO requires a lot of components just to get a single game running. Of course video game collecting is a labor of love! For those without such tenacity, many of the DECO games can be enjoyed via emulation on MAME.

Here is a list of DECO Cassete System games (source- Atari Protos:

Intro to the DECO cassette player 1 - Highway Chase - 1980
2 - Sengoku Ninja Tai - 1980
3 - Manhattan - 1981
4 - Terranean - 1981
5 - Bumpoline - 1981
6 - Nebula - 1981
7 - Astro Fantasia - 1981
8 - The Tower - 1981
9 - Super Astro Fighter - 1981
10 - DS Telejan 4 Player - 1981
11 - Lock N Chase - 1981
12 - The DECO Kid / Flash Boy - 1981
13 - Pro Golf - 1981
14 - DS TeleJang (2 Player) - 1981
15 - Lucky Poker - 1981
16 - Treasure Island - 1982
17 - (unknown) - 1982?
18 - Explorer - 1982
19 - Disco No. 1 / Sweet Heart - 1982
20 - Tornado - 1982
21 - Mission X - 1982
22 - Pro Tennis - 1982
23 - Bobitto - 1982
24 - Tume-Go Kaisyou - 1982
25 - Angler Dangler / Fishing - 1982
26 - Burger Time - 1983
27 - Bump n Jump / Burnin Rubber - 1982
28 - Cluster Buster / Graplop - 1982
29 - Rootin Tootin / La Pa Pa - 1982
30 - Skater Gaiter - 1983
31 - Pro Bowling - 1983
32 - Night Star - 1983
33 - Pro Soccer - 1983
34 - Super Doubles Tennis - 1983
Intro to the DECO cassette player 35 - Banbolin - 1983
36 - Genesis - 1983
37 - Zeroize - 1983
38 - Scrum Try - 1984
39 - Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory - 1984
40 - Fighting Ice Hockey - 1984
41 - Oh Zumou - 1984
42 - Hello Gate Ball - 1984
43 - Yellow Cab - 1984
44 - Boulder Dash - 1985
45 - Tokyo Mie Sinryohjyo - 1984
46 - Tokyo Mie Sinryohjyo 2 - 1985
47 - Geinohijin Sikaku Siken - 1985
?? - Missile Sprinter - 1981
?? - Buramzon - 1981
September 4, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Raw Thrills' SnoCross arcade game incorporates social media QR codes, unlike Jarvis' Defender

When I go to an arcade, I want to play Donkey Kong, Millipede, Super Chexx Bubble Hockey, Galaga, Pac-Man and a few rounds of air hockey. In my area I can do all of these things, but I need to visit five different arcades in a 25 mile radius. These arcade staples of the 80's are now surrounded by claw, redemption and shaker games. Ugh!

Snocross arcade game from Raw Thrills Many of these locations, in addition to a few arcade classics from the 80s, offer some modern video games with large LCD screens and surround sound. Arcade games are still evolving as new technology and concepts come to market. Some establishments are installing "selfie mirrors" so you can take a selfie without a background full of bathroom stalls. Classy, eh? Social media is also taking an interesting stance.

At a local bowling alley I played a Stern Pinball game that periodically displayed the Stern website URL in it's LED display.

Snocross arcade game QR code One of our local arcades has 2 networked SnoCross games (8 can be connected) from Raw Thrills. SnoCross was released in 2013 and, at our local arcade, replaced their former H2Overdrive (2009) .

The SnoCross game features scantily-clad green-screened girls at the start and finish lines, but I noticed something at the end that I hadn't seen before. There was a QR code and Facebook logo!

I didn't share it from my phone while at the arcade since I wasn't certain of what would be posted. However, I did check it out at home to see how Raw Thrills was using this variation of social media. The QR Code led to a leaderboard page on the Raw Thrills website that contained some info about my score/time and would have listed the arcade's name and location had they input that info during the game's setup/install. Aside from that, there were several pages of leaderboard scores broken out by various aspects of the SnoCross game.

Put Some Integrity Behind That Social Media Link

Snocross arcade game from Raw Thrills I'm not sure how prevalent social media integration is with on-site arcade games. In theory, this could result in a lot of engagement between the arcade machine and player's social media sites. The problem is the awful looking page that displays as a result of accessing the QR Code.

Why would anyone want to share a plain black & white page on which their "High Score" is buried in a mountain of text!?! Part of the wow-factor of social media is the integration of relevant imagery with compelling text!

The Raw Thrills website is stylized and looks good. However, the info sent from the arcade machines goes into a database that outputs the info to a web-based form accessible via the website. Most of these forms are very plain looking - for a reason.

By outputting only the raw info (as seen on the Raw Thrills leaderboard pages) it is easier for web developers to implement the look & feel (via CSS) of the hosting website. While the main Raw Thrills site uses CSS to maintain a consistent look & feel, they've ignored these database driven leaderboard pages... which look like crap. When was the last time you shared crap on one of you social media sites?

In my opinion, Raw Thrills is wasting the potential of displaying QR codes on arcade game screens, like SnoCross, when the resulting Facebook or Twitter post, derived from the Code, is poorly formatted and not at all representative of the excitement of the game! Why not include a pic of the cabinet or a screen shot? It's a cool game with plenty of interesting visuals. Why ignore that when trying to get players to promote the game on their social networks? A coloring book is pretty boring until you buy crayons!

Some onus is on the arcade operator. The arcade operator can also benefit from the integration of social media in arcade games. If you look at the screen shot of the SnoCross leaderboard, you'll see that some locations are called out by name and location. If Raw Thrills put an ounce of pizzas into their leaderboard page, it would also benefit the arcade operator by displaying their name and location.

Children playing Defender on the video games stamp for the Celebrate the Century series

The Eugene Jarvis connection

In keeping with our retro gaming genre, we threw in Eugene Jarvis' name in the title of this article. Rightly, I've never seen a social media QR code after finishing a game of Defender or Robotron. Obviously, today's internet technology was non-existent in the consumer sector in the early 80's. As time marches on so does technology. Today we have more than enough means to link SnoCross to network games to each other for head-to-head and to other destinations.

As I was looking for SnoCross info, I discovered that Eugene Jarvis is one of the original founders of Raw Thrills in 2001. I love discoveries like this because it points to the ties between the golden age of the early 80s and modern gaming. They aren't that far removed, proving that good game design can traverse time and improve as technology allows. Folks are still learning new techniques for coding Atari 2600 hombrew games, so it makes sense that there is a correlation between retro gaming and the games we play today.

Another tidbit I picked up is that Jarvis' Defender was depicted on a US postage stamp commemorating video games as part of the "Celebrate The Century - 1980s" series. I never understood stamp collecting until today. :)
September 3, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Come on everybody... listen to Chubby Checker sing about Atari's Dig Dug

I tend to forget how successful Atari was in the Golden Age of arcades and the introduction of home computers and game consoles. Obviously when people use your corporate identity as a verb, you've made a big impact! But on the financial side, Atari was the fastest-growing company in the US. We don't think of game companies in that sense today. All CEOs have 9-figure incomes today, so despite gaming's huge growth, there is a new standard for success.

Recently sweeping the Net is a rare recording of Chubby Checker singing a song that was to be used in a 1983 comercial for Namco's Dig Dug arcade game, released by Atari in the US. Checker is best known for his 1958 cover of "The Twist".

Chubby Checker sings about Atari's Dig Dug
As reported by Polygon, Checker's recording was not used when the commercial was released, but matt Osbourne - son of Don Osborne, Vice President of Marketing in ATARI's Coin-op division - recently found the tape and generously shared it on SoundCloud.

The Dig Dug commercial won a Clio Award in 1983 and it has been speculated that Checker's track went unused in an effort to target a younger demographic that inhabited the arcades of the early 80s. When looking over the history of video games, this is certainly one of those stories that makes me smile. I lived through that era, but it would have been amazing to be employed in Sunnyvale back then. :)
September 3, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

So, it took stolen nude celebrity selfies to reveal the weakness of cloud storage?!?

Selfies reveal the weakness of cloud storage I love video games, music and movies. You might say I'm somewhat of an entertainment junkie. My media collections began with cartridges, vinyl, and Beta tapes which evolved into a lot of shiny discs - even some laser discs. With a strong command of the alphabet I could nimbly find any game, song, or flick in a matter of seconds. I liked that - a lot!

Any time - yes, any time - of day or night I can entertain myself with a game, song or movie. Nearly all of my entertainment consumption occurred at home. This was partially due to my entertainment hardware also being at home. On the other hand I had an Atari Lynx, Sony Walkman (later a Discman)... and well, I don't have a need to watch a movie at the park or on a camping trip.

The bottom line is that I am perfectly content to leave my home without bringing all of my games, music and movies with me. Somewhere in the annals of time, mankind was led to believe that we needed to have all of our media with us at ALL times. "Nonsense," I said!

The iPod emerged. Suddenly, mankind was unable to leave the house with a Kiss CD and a Judas Priest CD (I went back and also grabbed a Black Sabbath CD). We needed everything. We needed it ALL. What if I suddenly needed to listen to The Scorpions or Motley Crue... right?

A storm in cloud storage The iPod made it easy for consumers to "bring it all" due to it's large storage capacity within a small device. Aren't you glad Steve Jobs wasn't into RVs - we'd all be driving around with all of our furniture and food! So, anyway... Movies and games are another story. They are much larger files that can not financially be "stored" on a portable device.

How many different places outside your home do you want to watch a movie on a very small screen? Do you need a Kindle with 400 "books" for that 5-day vacation? I'll bet 2 paperbacks would suffice.

I'm ignoring adhesion to a timeline as I rant and rave, but by the time tablets came about, we were all connected via cellular and wifi. thus we simply needed an access mechanism and a server farm (aka the cloud). These days, counting "re-tweets" and "likes" is the currency of self-worth and everyone has lost their minds.

I know What's Mine! Physical Media

My media collection began on analog media, but the shift to digital didn't remove the physical aspect of the former. Actually, I really liked the durability of digital media. A scratch can ruin a vinyl record, but a scratch on a CD can be buffed aout and the sound quality remains constant. I grew up in a house full of books and book shelves. Storage has never perplexed me. Buy more shelves. From albums, tapes, game carts, and laser discs - I was accustomed to having full shelves.

Then, the iPod mentality was forced on movies and games. We should have everything available to us everywhere. Suddenly we are pleased by streaming services that routinely drop 100s of titles each month from their roster and cloud storage that has less security than a screen door.

I can watch Toxic Avenger anytime I want in the comfort of my home. How long will streaming services offer Troma films... who knows? I like owning what I buy. I'm slowly getting used to Nintendo's e-shop and the idea of never having anything physical to store on a shelf. But where is all this stuff stored? In a variety of places. Remote storage is in its infancy and there are no standards. It's a free-for-all of corporate greed.

Cloud storage is presented as all things wonderful wrapped in a fluffy cloud. The reality is a warehouse full of servers. Even I am wooed by the notion of media being available on any platform. I'm enthused by viewing on the TV, phone or tablet, but the reality is that I have no desire to watch movies or play games on tiny screens. In my travels a few CDs and a book are just fine. The tech is alluring, but the practical application doesn't enhance my life, it requires me to alter my ways. Entertainment technology should embrace me, not force me into a new paradigm.

Be Conscious of Your Technology

Do you think the Keebler Elves store their prized cookie recipes at a "$15 per month" storage facility? Does the NSA guard their inner secrets at a porn-ridden server farm? Nothing of value should be outside your control. Even if you choose to back up your precious documents to a cloud service, don't assume there's any security.

Would you be surprised if I told you that all your cloud-stored media (movies, music, games and documents) have all been stolen hundreds of times over? What? How can that be? No one told me.

No one told you because you are invisible compared to wealthy A-list celebrities. Hackers take what they want in droves because the don't really "take" anything - nothing is missing. There's no home invasion here. They take copies of your awesome movies, music, games and homemade porn. You're not a celebrity and you're not naked. Thus stealing from you is innocuous and undetected (not reported by server farm admins).

Yes, It took stolen nude celebrity selfies to prompt Apple to look into cloud security issues while the FBI was prompted to knock on doors. They wouldn't do that for you. You're not famous and don't possess enough money or clout to matter. This whole rant leads up to my hesitation for game purchasing to go to the digital download model. It seems the way of the future, but I'm leery of buying games only to have a "cloud storage" company file for bankruptcy as my digital files are sold at auction as the server farm is dismantled.

I'd be super stoked if high capacity game carts came into vogue :) #RetroGaming

Video games sold as subscriptions remove physical media and the security of ownership

September 2, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

This amazing Pac-Man homebrew will make you reevaluate the capability of the Atari 2600

We've heard so many stories about game development in the early 80s with insanely tight deadlines and lone developer efforts to create amazing games. Many of the Atari 2600 games I grew up with spawned from this formula and I loved every one of them. Some of their biggest sellers wee rush-jobs. As a gamer in those days.. who knew anything better was possible?

These days, homebrew developers are still discovering innovative ways to squeeze more fun out of 4K! I've played many homebrews that are "improvements" to beloved originals, but never have I heard sounds like these emanate from an Atari 2600! The sound is astounding!

After watching the video below, I was convinced the audio was overlaid from another source. No disrespect to the developer - the sound is really THAT good. You'll find more info about Pac-Man_4k on AtariAge along with a bin file you can download and play in an emulator like Stella.

When I fired up Pac-Man_4k in Stella, I could barely play the game. I had a stupefied smile on my face and was fiddling with the controls to see how tightly the audio held. It's really hard to believe this is coming from a 4K Atari 2600 game. I included my screenshot to assuage my own disbelief :)

Homebrew efforts like Pac-Man-4K make me wonder how differently the console wars of the 80s would have been if this level of quality was the standard on the Atari 2600. Nearly every year a new console came to market with a feature or two that leapfrogged the competition. I wonder if those competitors could have kept up with Atari if they delivered games like this Pac-Man homebrew? :)
September 1, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

NFC was built-in to the Wii U, but the 3DS Amiibo update adds it with a retail quirk... or two

I adore my 2DS and some of the retro inspired titles released for it like Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions and Centipede Infestation. At the same time this odd little slate-console breathed new life into my DS copies of Space Invaders, Atari's Greatest Hits and Intelivision Lives, among others. You can bend retro to fit any console! But Nintendo's 3DS will soon have a new upgrade (~2015) in the form of the 3DS LL.

Wii U with built-in NFC I'm a big fan of Activision's Skylanders, but was disappointed by Disney's Infinity. Each game system has it's pros & cons, but overall coaxing consumers to buy additional RFID figures has proven to be a profitable venture. Nintendo incorporated it's own NFC (Near field communication) technology into it's Wii U Gamepad. This makes the Gamepad act similarly to Activision's Portal and Disney's Base. However, Nintendo's implementation makes it's figures compatible with many different games rather than one genre.

What about the 3DS? With the success of the 3DS, it would be hard for Nintendo to release the Amiibo characters and ignore their handheld console. It turns out they have a solution to the 3DS XL's lack of NFC support. Meet the 3DS LL - yes, a new model of the 3D handheld that incorporates NFC... and a few other updates.

The Failed Circle Pad Pro

Circle Pad Pro - Nintendo 3DS Accessory Remember the add-on circle pad that strapped onto the 3DS? A few games took advantage of it with more to come... right? I held off on buying a 3DS until that odd add-on was incorporated into the design itself. Never happened (and I wound up getting a 2DS). The 3DS XL came along and offered a bigger screen, but no sign of the additional circle pad. My recollection is that games could take advantage of it, but didn't require it (I could be wrong).

Along with a faster CPU, added shoulder buttons, 3D improvement, and auto brightness adjustments, the 3DS LL features a C-stick. Above the traditional A,B,X,Y buttons lies this mysterious new control element. Sounds cool. I like having more control, but Nintendo may find themselves in another "naming" bind.

I'm surprised that so many consumers thought the Wii U was an accessory for the Wii, but it demonstrated how careful one must be when marketing a new product. Currently called the New 3DS LL, it seems like another naming nightmare that offers more confusion than solutions. So... how does the 3DS LL differ from it's predecessor that sometimes has an XL tacked on? There are plenty of stories about the details, but we're interested in the retail divide created by this new 3DS model.

3DS LL Retail Quirk

The 3DS LL will play all your existing games, but the addition of the C-stick lets it take on a more sophisticated game that the former 3DS will not handle. Thus there will be two kinds of games in the "3DS" section.
  1. Games that play on All models of the 3DS family (including the 2DS)
  2. Games that Only work on the 3DS LL model
3DS LL 3DS games will work fine with the LL, just as they do on the 2DS. However, games designed for the new features of LL will not work. Got it?

It seems that Nintendo may be setting themselves up for another rocky road when consumers try to navigate the game aisle and figure out which new games they can (or can not) play. Gamers will easily figure it out, but parents do a lot of shopping for their kids and they are not always as savvy as their kids when it comes to video games. Perhaps everyone should simply go out and buy a 3DS LL when it comes out in 2015.

August 2014 Retro Gaming Articles:

August 31, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Not everyone is psyched about "Kids" tablets

A Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 Kids Tablet seen at my local Toys R Us...

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for kids I've found a pretty good array of retro inspired games in Google's Play Store. But as a retro gamer, it seems that we are still on a "waiting list" for emulators that will allow us to play a wider array of ROMS on tablets. This in turn pushes me away from tablets as gaming platforms despite the surge in mobile gaming. The world is finally becoming aware that video games are not kid's toys - many demographics love gaming! Still there are many products that are unnecessarily aimed at kids. Buy an iPad, not a kiddie-tablet.

I have a Galaxy Note which is the cellular phablet version of this tablet. I dig the phone, but the pic above proves you just can't please everyone.

I assure you I did not change the device's name - seen above - but I'm not a fan of "kid's" electronics. At first glance, these kiddie-tablets seem like a good match for kids, but they out-grow them too soon. Everything about kiddie electronics screams "Toddler". What happens when your child ages? It will happen sooner than you think!

Maybe you're the sort of parent that can't share of has to check your Facebook account for Likes every ten minutes. In that case you may want to shift focus and spend more time with your kids... via educational content on your tablet. If your child is so young that you fear they might damage your more expensive device... maybe your child is still too young for any electronic device.

Having a tablet for the family seems a much better option as it will cater to both parents and kids alike. Buy an iPad for the family and watch your kids grow into it's full potential. This seems a better choice than a cartoon-themed tablet that will be ignored sooner than you think simply because is looks like it's for little kids. FYI- Little kids want to be big kids :)
August 31, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Summer vacation is a great time to teach Retro Gaming!

When the final school bell rings, in late June, a swarm of kids erupt from schools with their heads full of gleeful cravings. Some go to camp. Some go on family vacations. Some chill out at home. I'll bet many of them play video games.

teaching retro gaming But very few kids think about the learning/teaching culture of the classroom. Summer is a time to run wild and be free! I remember those days and how much I looked forward to playing video games. I sort of relived that feeling with my son this Summer. We had a blast playing everything from Atari 2600 to PS3 and a few local-play games on our Nintendo 2DS'.

I always assume that the newest system will prevail and the others will lie dormant. Not true! We always find a few retro games that become the go-to favorites. In July Robotron: 2084 on the Atari 7800 was the winner and in August it was Missile Command on the Atari 800. We also dug into Terminator Salvation on the PS3 and Smashing Drive on the Gamecube.

Despite the allure of the newest Gen-8 game consoles, my son loves retro games. I think we assume kids will think 8-bit games are lame by comparison. Try a compilation disc like Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection that offers a range of older games on a modern platform. It has a lot of games from Vectorman and Altered Beast to three versions of Streets Of Rage.

I'm a huge fan of spreading retro gaming via kids because they are the most open-minded to games in general. Too often kids fall into the trap of playing the latest greatest games on retail shelves because they are promoted on TV, social media and word-of-mouth. Break that mold! inspire a kid to play an 8-bit game and experience some of gaming's history via a joystick.

Video gaming runs deeper than just the latest consoles and games. Help spread the manic joy of retro gaming! The future of retro gaming is yours to share
August 9, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Summer vacation - part II

I'm taking a few weeks to vacation with my son. The site will probably be somewhat quite until we've played every game we own, hit every arcade in the area and feasted on ice cream after rounds of mini golf.

When Player 2 is here, everything else takes a back seat.
If there's a kid in your life - your own or otherwise - take some time to introduce him/her to retro Gaming. Even hardcore kids with 8th gen hardware seem happy to take a break from insane load-times and laden hard drives to dive into the fast passed frenzy of 8 bit games!
August 8, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The 1993 Nintendo Character Guide formalizes Yoshi and lays out proper promotional use

Yoshi: The Nintendo Character Guide Blake Harris, author of Console Wars, had some interesting tweets regarding the backstory on some of Nintendo's most iconic characters. From The Nintendo Character Guide (©1992) published in 1993. News sweeping the Internet is Yoshi's full name. First appearing in Super Mario World (1990), the SNES pack-in game, Yoshi was a side kick to Mario, but would become a recurring character ultimately holding his own game titles.

Your best pal may have been called Mikey, but his parents probably named him Michael. The same apparently holds true for Yoshi whose formal name is actually: T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas! Who knew?

Aside from learning his full name, the Character Guide itself is an interesting item. It sounds like a special publication from Nintendo Power Magazine that would hold encyclopedic info about Nintendo characters across all of their licensed games. However this publication was not made for fans. It's actually a business tool for marketing departments who wish to use Nintendo logos and characters in ads, promotions, etc...

Most companies have a similar publication or set of guidelines as to how their logos and other copyrighted assets are displayed. These guides often include appropriate sizes, aspect ratios, Pantone/CMYK colors, and font faces with size and style attributes. Setting such standards keeps the company logos uniform and doesn't confuse customers in the marketplace.

Yoshi: The Nintendo Character Guide Nintendo has a very strong brand from it's logos to it's characters. When we see Mario in any context, we know it's Nintendo's Mario. We don't confuse him with other plumbers. The reason for this are guides that companies, like Nintendo, use to maintain conformity where ever their brand is displayed.

If you ever saw a CocaCola logo in a blue font on a pink background, you'd likely stop and wonder if it was really part of the Coke brand we all know so well. Brand continuity becomes increasingly important as your company grows in size. Both Coke and Nintendo are globally recognized companies. Part of becoming a global company is customers knowing and recognizing your products. If they love your product, they'll want to buy it. If they can't find it because every ad or display looks different, your product tends not to sell as well.

I'm not sure how rare this Character Guide may be, but it certainly shows a lot of insight into Nintendo and how they regulate and tend their brands. I love that Yoshi has a full name, but the real gold is in how Nintendo has created such a powerful brand around the world.
August 7, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

If technology couldn't deliver Pam “Baywatch” Anderson game, why wait only to release V.I.P.?

Warning: this post is rampant with unsubstantiated speculation. Other sites call this "opinion"...

Pamela Anderson (Canadian-born actress) soared to fame, after a Playboy appearance, via TV's Home Improvement (1991-1993) sit-com where she was the Tool Time Girl. This led to Baywatch (1992-1997) which was very popular in markets around the globe. I didn't know that her later show V.I.P was contorted into a video game for Sony's Playstation & PS2, Nintendo's Game Boy Color, and a PAL release for the Game Boy Advance.

V.I.P. video game for PlayStation Reluctantly, I'll admit I watched a lot of Baywatch. However, in the late 1990s, I did not watch V.I.P. (1998-2002) past the first few episodes. It wasn't a very compelling show and Anderson lacked the former "flare" she had while scampering around the beach performing CPR in a swimsuit. When I discovered that Baywatch had a pinball game by Sega and a board game, I had to assume that the absence of a video game came down to technology and timing.

My theory is that the detail needed to develop a proper Baywatch game simply didn't exist at it's height of popularity, before it's initial run concluded. Although it was also popular in syndication through 2001, video games based on movies and TV are typically released during the initial broadcasting. Even in 1997 when Baywatch ended, the PlayStation and Saturn were the likely candidates to host such a boob-bouncing beach frolic (OK, it could be about lifeguard rescues). The N64 may have been inside Nintendo's circle of family values - face it, Baywatch was without any values ;)

It's possible that a Baywatch game may have been attempted prior to the Playstation's release in Sept 1995. What could put an end - or long legal delay - to such a project? The Hoff. See how David's head is the largest element of Sega's Pinball table? He'd have to be the focal point of any video game... and no one is going to buy a Baywatch game with his hairy chest front & center. Look at the V.I.P. box art - it's all Pam! There is no logical reason not to deliver a Baywatch video game to the drooling masses - myself included - unless there was some extenuating circumstance.

V.I.P. video game for PS2

Pamela Anderson in V.I.P.

All the while I'm sure Pamela Anderson was considered a wonderful focal point for a video game. As Sony's PlayStation took hold with gamers, we began to see a new reality in graphics capability. Many gamers point to Lara Croft who's PS1 sex appeal pales by today's standards, but it was likely good enough to bring Pam's next endeavor to gamers - V.I.P. The game was released in 2001 for the Playstation.
V.I.P. video game for Game Boy Color
While the V.I.P. game also made it onto the PS2, the original Playstation game was pretty dreadful. It involved two kinds of play - fighting bad guys and target practice in the form of shooting the bad guys. The fighting aspect was achieved via mimicking on-screen button sequences on the controller. The shooting is monotonous and was achieved by moving a target around the screen.

They certainly try to make these V.I.P. box covers enticing, so who's idea was it to slather The Hoff's mug onto the center of Sega's Baywatch pinball table? ignoring that fault, the table deftly show's enough of his buxom co-stars to make me want a Baywatch video game. Check out the inset LED display that offered in-game animations! Isn't that enough to make someone realize we all needed a Baywatch video game? At the same time that orange display also aided with diagnostic results and accounting.

Sega's Baywatch pinball machine From my lay perspective... Baywatch would probably sell well today on a PS4 or Xbone - despite the lapse since it was in syndication! :)
August 6, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

The Coolest cooler may enhance your retro gaming man cave more than your camping trip

The Coolest cooler To really add an inspirational edge to the traditional beach cooler you really have to think outside the box. If left to me, improving on the average Igloo brand cooler would likely end with a custom paint job and a shrug. I enjoy a chilled beverage, but that doesn't bring out the needed aspirations that will reinvent the traditional cooler.

Ryan Grepper started a kickstarter for his cooler reinvention called the Coolest. It does all the things your standard cooler does, but it goes a lot farther than that... as long as you're an outdoor fanatic. Along with keeping your drinks cold, it has a built-in blender for mix-drinks and smoothies that also lets it's power source charge your cell phone so you can port your music to the Coolest's blueTooth speaker.

If you're out after dark, internal LEDs let you easily grab the right beverage from inside. With oversized wheels, The Coolest easily travels from one place to another. It's built-in tie-down bungies let you strap your gear to it's top and it becomes a dolly! Sounds great!

...but I'm an Indoor Guy

retro cooler I own a tent, but I'm not much of a camper. I'm a gamer. So, I'm thinking that the Coolest could easily add a lot of amenities to your man cave or game room. Rather than fending off mosquitoes, stay inside, play some classic games and snag chilled beverages from your Coolest cooler. Want a mixed drink? Don't shlep to the kitchen, just fire up the Coolest's built-in blender!

I admire Ryan's zeal for creating a device that makes it easier to enjoy the great outdoors, but if I have cold beer, a blender, music and an assortment of food... I'm pretty sure I'd rather be playing Wizard of Wor or Berzerk than camping!

I love what he's created. I simply want to point out that his feature-laden cooler can improve your indoor experience just as much as a camping trip. Sure, you can add a mini-fridge to your game room, but the Coolest can be placed anywhere and easily moved. I see a place for it indoors and out. The Kickstarter campaign asked for $50,000 and is still going after attracting in excess of $8 million!

The Coolest is not for everyone, but it's pretty cool and might take the heat off a furious game of 4-player Warlords. Bring the best of the kitchen to your man cave via the Coolest!
August 5, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Bella made a splash at the TMNT premiere, but we can't forget the awesomeness of the Battletoads!

Battletoads logo The latest film release of the Teenage MUtan Ninja Turtles has many taking a retrospective look at the Turtles. From the beloved cartoon of the late 1980s, the films and a myriad of toys They've been heroes with adored endurance!

Of course this films release has been a love/hate issue with fans who've grown up with the various animated series and films. We looked at TMNT games & films a while ago and moved on... to Toads!

The Battletoads weren't rivals of the TMNT's (nor a crossover of any sort), but rather they were a game-centric attempt at rivaling the popularity of the Turtles franchise. I've always associated Battletoads with the NES release in 1991 even though it was ported to several consoles and eventually came to arcades in '94... and a terrible cartoon.

Graphically, Battletoads was pretty advanced for an NES game. When you look at it's timeline, 1991 was the year the SNES arrived on retail shelves while the Genesis and TurboGrafX already had a 2-year head start in the fourth-gen market. Ordinarily, such a game would have gone to the SNES alone, but the large base of NES owners and the quality of the game made it a success on the NES first. It wouldn't hi the Super NES until 1993.

Battletoads arcade game It's difficulty is likely a leading factor in it's popularity on both the NES and arcade. The arcade game has 6 difficulty levels and was defaulted to 4, with six being the hardest. Much the way Contra gave recognition to those who could progress deep into the game, some finishing it, Battletoads held a similar niche. I was unaware of the number of platforms it was ported to.

Battletoads Double Dragon for NES On the nintendo side, the Game Boy saw a release and the tie-in game with Double Dragon was released on both NES & SNES. A version was canceled for the Game Boy Advance. Sega Genesis had Battletoads as did it's Game Gear. On the computer side, I believe the Amiga was the only cpu sporting BattleToads.

Then there's the Battletoads' evil nemesis the Dark Queen. In 1991, the idea of a female "bad guy" in a major game title was fairly rare. The Dark Queen's 8-bit sex appeal probably helped propel her evilness to a wider audience as well. She was Nintendo Power's villain of the year in 1991 and 1993.

In the arcade game, she is shown at several times the size of the Toads. Is this to demonstrate her prowess or does this size better detail her pixelated dominatrix outfit? On top of that was her psychotic lust for power. She was a force to be reckoned with - she was big evil! :)

The Battletoads are an awesome candidate for a modern reboot!
I've commented on a few games that were released on consoles prior to arcade releases - Electronic Arts' BattleToads is another example. An interesting aspect is the 3-player model with a complete set-up for each of the three players. The service manual references a switch that enables 2 or 3-player modes. In 2-player mode, players select their character, on a 3-player cabinet, each setup is specific to a particular character - similar to Rampage.

Bella Thorne at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie premiere Bella Thorne Bella Thorne at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie premiere in a TMNT t-shirt.
The game reached significant status on Nintendo consoles, but their family values may have held back some of the graphic violence. EA's licensing of the game from Rare solved that and was indeed more violent and displayed more bloody gore.

This boost in violence had an associated dip switch on the PCB where your could activate "Blood-Free Mode". Additionally, each character had unique abilities and signature moves.

Doesn't this sort of fan-girl turnout make you think that the Toads need a reboot? Lets get Battletoads updated on modern consoles and into the hands of the next generation. It's a game that has earned a chance to return to today's more powerful consoles... with an alternate 8-bit version! :)

Battletoads - Sega Genesis
August 4, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Is it odd that Archie Andrews dies the same month they Release Riverdale Rescue on Android?

I've loved Archie Comics since I was a kid. There's something wholesome and good about those Riverdale kids. No one ever robs Pop' s malt shop to support their Meth habit - they're good kids.

I've never been a fan of parallel story arcs involving the same characters. I know the Archie Comics Co. wanted to shake things up, but killing Archie struck me as too much of a shake.

Weve been building up to this moment since we launched LIFE WITH ARCHIE five years ago, and knew that any book that was telling the story of Archies life as an adult had to also show his final moment, said Archie Comics Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater.

Even the parallel world's in the TV show Fringe was annoying. Despite following the story, I often had to stop and recall if this was the Good Olivia or the bad Olivia Dunham.

Life With Archie Life With Archie cover in which Archie Andrews dies saving his friend. Find out more at Archie comics.
Riverdale Rescue mobile game Mobile game Riverdale Rescue, seems an odd title for a new game who's launch coincides with the death of the main character, Archie Andrews, in a parallel story.

Archie and his pals need YOU to help rescue Riverdale! Play as Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie and dozens of favorite classic comic-book characters. Personalize, decorate, make Riverdale your own - while creating new relationships and completing fun quests and interesting tasks. Loaded with original artwork and comic content you can't find anywhere else - the whole family is sure to love this fun-filled city building sim. Help save Riverdale while helping yourself to heaps of Fun! Oh and of course, don't forget - you get to help Archie choose: Betty or Veronica!

The mobile game is available on iOS and Android and feels like a mix of Tomodachi Life and Clash of Clans... set in Riverdale.

A lot of this is to break free from the 50's era feel that Archie has been carrying for quite a while. Personally, I'd have brought him forward to 1983 in a pixelated infinite runner featuring Archie trying to outrun Mr. Lodge who wised up to Archie's desires for Veronica.
August 3, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Instagram introduced us to smart phone image filters, but Retrospec nailed the settings

Retrospecs logo If you haven't been able to tweak Instagram's filters to generate exactly what you want, perhaps you need a better app! :) Seeking that yellowish-green Game Boy style or maybe you want the pixelated beauty of an Atari 2600. Sounds like you need to try John Parker's iOS app, RetroSpecs.

Retrospec lets you transform your pictures into the style and quality of computers and game consoles from decades ago. Take color-depth and pixel counts to new retro gaming lows! With Retrospec, you can shoot a pic with your smart phone or apply it's amazing filters to your existing photos.

Why sift through confusing menus when you know you want to replicate the look of the Colecovision or Commodore 64. Dial in those settings instantly, add dithering and post it online!

Arianna Grande Available computer & game console emulation:
While this app is tremendous fun, there's a serious side that deserves a lot of recognition. We've become accustomed to 8-bit art styles and easily identify pixelated images as "that retro game" style. I included John's list of console and computer emulation filters because this isn't an app that generates "more" or "fewer" pixels. It delivers a graphic style on par with each of the listed systems. It was necessary to match specs with each computer and console in order to achieve each individual style.

The results are quick and simple, which is a tribute to the knowledge that must have gone into development of this app! Enjoy it, but appreciate it's awesomeness.

Sure, you can make your own in PhotoShop (see below), but that's a hassle (highly inaccurate) and you have to know the specs of each system. Retrospec removes the guesswork in a convenient app that will hopefully expand to offer more console/computer styles.

pixelated image of the Atari landfill dig in New Mexico I will confess to being an Android user (hey, when's the Android version coming out?) but I had a friend install it so we could check out all the features and individualized outputs based on each computer and console. This is a really creative app with retro flair and best of all it works quite well.
August 2, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

There's no single solution to engaging kids with math, science & tech ...and retro gaming

I've read the stats & arguments and I think its important to encourage girls to pursue their interests in technology. Furthermore I think it's important to encourage boys as well. All kids need such encouragement! I think part of the solution is exposure. Most kids are exposed to teachers each day, but may not really know what their own parents do for a living.

Thomas the electrical engineer Ask a kid what an engineer does and you'll likely hear something about trains. That answer is correct, but kids should also know about electrical engineers, structural engineers, and that not all engineers do the same things. Not many kids will tell you they want to be a biochemist or an architect. Often this is because they haven't been exposed to these careers - they don't necessarily know such opportunities exist!

When my 9-year-old told me he hated math, I gave him a brief explanation of how math plays a big role in designing video games. He loves making things and the idea of making his own video games is very enticing to him. At the same time I don't want to preclude him from becoming a botanist or a journalist. Kids will grow up to competently choose a career, but I think it's helpful if they know more about the kinds of jobs that exist outside their friends and family.

Everything Comes Back to Retro Gaming

Look at how diverse we are as gamers. When I tell someone that I'm a retro gamer, they may assume I've played some Atari 2600 or Intellivision games. They probably don't know that I love the simplistic beauty of vector graphics in arcade games like Asteroids and Star Castle or those on the Vectrex home console. Just when you think you've narrowed gaming down to a single niche, like retro gaming, you discover the breadth of diversity within that one niche.

Donkey Kong A kid who enjoys Sly Cooper or Ratchet and Clank may very well be enchanted by Pitfall or Adventure on the 2600, but never had the opportunity to play them. Conversely, before I bought Donkey Kong Country Returns for his Wii, my son and I played Donkey Kong on the 2600, 7800, NES, and at our local arcade.

I wanted him to see where DKCR came from, understand the differences between the consoles on which it was released, and experience it in different ways. BTW- he was blown away by DKCR, but still loves DK Jr. :)

Learn to Code/Program

I've seen several websites geared toward teaching programming. Tutorials aimed at kids range from HTML and JavaScript to Python and simple mobile apps. No one is expecting their 5-year-old to make the next must-have app, but exposure to the tools and techniques are invaluable to young minds that will grow up to be the future of the workforce.

When a kid creates a piece of art or completes a puzzle, they're elevated to a feeling of pride and achievement. That feeling seems tenfold when they achieve a computer-oriented goal. As kids see parents working on computers, they want to excel there too.

Here area few sites offering coding/tech tutorials:
Explore some of these sites and the ones they will link you ou to. There is a wealth of online knowledge to help you or your kids explore programming of all sorts.

Nintendo Girl's Club

When I heard about the Nintendo Girl's Club on YouTube, I was curious to see if it tied in with the initiative to bring tech to girls. Please keep in mind that those who develop and code games began by playing games, so it's logical to equate attracting girls to Nintendo products as part of the effort. On the other hand, this Girls Club could be a bright pink sales pitch.

Jorgie Porter- presenter on the Nintendo Girl's Club The articles about Nintendo's efforts to reach girls have ranged from deranged outrage to gender stereotyping. A casual glance reveals enough pastels to choke a unicorn, but if you only watch their intro video, you won't see the whole picture. Nintendo wants to introduce it's products to a wider range of customers which means they are trying to reach more non-gamers.

They have a few different presenters in their videos. Some appeal to the Barbie-girl while others take a more technical approach. It seems that Nintendo is making an effort to appeal to a wide group rather than a single-pronged approach that would be less balanced.

You can't please all the people, but some detractors have forgotten that if you're not part of the solution, you're probably part of the problem. Among all the angry reviews of Nintendo Girl's Club, that I read, there weren't any suggestions. It was the typical onslaught of "You're doing it wrong!"

Some may have been angry that primary presenter Jorgie Porter is an actress/model with a resume somewhat outside Nintendo's typical fare. I credit Nintendo for having different hosts/presenters that represent different elements of gaming. There is no single solution to engaging girls with tech, but where many folks try one approach, Nintendo made a good effort to broaden their appeal to different viewers.

Our Conclusion

As I said at the outset, there is no single solution to attract kids to technology. I think it's imperative to do so, but there are many ways to accomplish it. Rather than debating which is the one perfect solution, I think we need to realize the diversity of kids in the marketplace and understand that everyone learns differently and is inspired by different things.

Parents shouldn't force their kids to like math or science. They should ensure that kids are exposed to these things in a positive manner. Teachers do the best the can in crowded classrooms, but parents know their children best and should play an active role in relating science, math and technology to the everyday things their kids enjoy.

We send our kids to school to learn, but often we forget how much they learn at home by simply observing and interacting with siblings and parents. Make that interaction count!
August 1, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Flappy Birds Family returns, with 2-player mode, exclusively on Amazon's Fire TV

When Flappy Bird first hit the mobile market, it was a frustrating game where a double-digit score was rather impressive. It's difficulty and simplicity took the world by storm. Our frustration was actually love-in-disguise. Everyone seemed to need (crave) this game... and then the clones invaded and everything was "Flappy".

After a few peculiar tweets in mid-February 2014, the developer decided to pull the game from online distribution citing "user obsession" as the reason. This struck the internet community of Flappy fans as odd since he was making insane amounts of money from the advertising - no, really insane amounts - and the game was very popular.

Flappy Birds Family for Amazon Fire Regardless of that odd saga, the app is back! Sort of... I saw a story on Polygon stating Flappy Bird was back, free of charge and had a 2-player mode! Cool! I rushed past the details, loudly yelling, "Gimme!" and clicked the download link on my Android phone.

The Amazon App opened - to my surprise - and offered to download the app. Hell yeah - I pressed the button! A pop-up window said it wasn't compatible with my device. What?!? I'm pretty good about keeping the OS and apps current.

Then I realized the issue. It wasn't compatible with my device or any other for that matter. It was a release exclusively for Amazon's Fire TV. Then my head began filling with conspiracy theories that frightened me a little bit...

New Features in Flappy Birds Family

Flappy Birds Family for Amazon Fire Assuming you bought a Fire TV game box from Amazon, you'll find that Flappy Birds Family has a 2-player versus mode and new obstacles. If simply navigating through the pipes wasn't enough, new obstacles, like ghosts, have been added.

Just as the Ouya took the ease of mobile game development and aimed it back to the living room TV, the Fire TV requires no tapping or finger swiping. In the case of this suspicious release of Flappy Birds Family, you play it with a controller/remote which demands button pressing - which could be construed as tapping. But the control scheme is different on the Fire TV as opposed to your phone.

One can only assume Flappy Bird will eventually show up in the customary sales channels for mobile phones, but this whole scenario makes me wonder about the sales figures and install-base of Fire TV. You can now play Flappy Bird on a variety of retro consoles including the Atari 2600 and Vectrex - are we all going to buy Amazon's Fire TV to rekindle our awkward love/hate affair with .Gear's Flappy Bird?

Tie will tell. Let the madness ensue!
August 1, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Gunn confirms Peter Gill's GOTG starship, The Milano, is named after 80's crush: Alyssa

Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster 2014 It was hard to exist in the 80's without having somewhat of a crush on Alyssa Milano. Unlike so many child stars she managed to grow up without cocaine scandals and all the usual trappings of Hollywood kids. She even transitioned her career from kiddie roles to movie and TV opportunities that she still pursues today.

She doesn't appear or voice any characters in the Guardians fo the Galaxy film, but rather she's the namesake of Peter Quill's (Star Lord's) starship. Director of GOTG, James Gunn, recently confirmed that Star Lord's ship - The Milano - is a reference to Alyssa Milano having been a childhood crush of the character. Many websites have speculated that this is to tie his character to an iconic star of the 80s as a time-reference. Um... yeah, OK.

If I were to speculate... I'd say Star Lord isn't the only one with a crush on Alyssa Milano. I'm surprised they didn't work in a cameo for her.

James Gunn Tweet about GOTG and Alyssa Milano
Peter Quill's ship, The Milano: GOTG I'm sure we'll be besieged with the requisite Guardians of the Galaxy video game - likely part of Disney's Infinity game franchise. Perhaps Milano can voice a character in the game. After all, she voiced Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn in the 2009 Ghostbusters game.

I'm not a fan of the Infinity game. To me it's sort of confusing to release some characters for use with playsets while others are orphaned from themed game-play. they can only be used in the toybox mode. I understand the allure of the Toybox, but why are only a handfull of characters given an actual "game" as opposed to wandering the toybox?

I think it strengthens the characters to play them in exclusive themed game worlds and then combine different characters in the toybox. Releasing characters without a playset kind of robs the player of the expectation of a game-world created just for a particular group of characters. It would be much more fun to play a Nightmare Before Christmas themed playset game and then introduce Jack Skellington to Mrs. Incredible in the Toybox!

Anyway... Guardians of the Galaxy looks pretty good and Alyssa Milano looks pretty good these days too.

July 2014 Retro Gaming Articles:

July 31, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Competing w/ Sinclair's Speccy in the mid-80s, Tangerine's Oric still has a vibrant homebrew community

Oric-1 logo Sometimes it's the randomness of retro gaming that makes it far more exciting than simply "playing old games". Too often the term "old games" comes up as a derisive term without an understanding of how diverse gaming was as it evolved decades ago. To think that there are only 3 major hardware players these days pales against the console wars and and diversity of the early days.

Today I received a tweet about a new game for the Oric, called Oricium, by Defense Force Games. I'd heard of Tangerine due to their namesake originating from another successful fruit-named company... Apple. I didn't know much about the Oric line, but I liked the game video I watched and wanted to find out more about both the computer and Oricium.

Oric-1 computer In 1983 the Oric-1, sold in the UK and France, was based on a 6502A CPU and came in 16K or 48K RAM configurations. This matched the models available via Sinclair's ZX Spectrum and slightly undercut the price. As I understan it, part of Tangerine's mission was to get a product into the retail channel. "Good ideas" are swell , but having a physical product gave companies the leverage to move forward and grow. It was a fast paced time in the home computer market - if you couldn't prove yourself in the marketplace, you'd fail.

Alas, The Oric was short-lived even as updated models were released and news of an IBM-compatible computer were announced. The company changed ownership and ultimately was out of business in late 1987.

Getting back to the randomness of being a retro gamer... Shortly after seeing the tweet about this new homebrew game, Oricium, I watched the game-play video (below) and read up on some of the modern techniques used in developing this game running on a 30-year-old defunct computer. Next, I found myself seeking an Oric emulator for my Mac.

For those of us at 8-Bit Central, this is part of the joy of retro gaming. No sooner had I seen the Oricium tweet, I was checking out ROMs on an emulator for a classic computer I knew very little about. Such wonderful diversions are a big part of what makes "Playing old games" a lot more fun than many modern gamers may think. There's a very engaging learning-element to exploring areas of retro gaming that we're not very familiar with!
July 30, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

You have to love an awful movie with an equally awful tie-in game: Sharknado

sharknado If you caught last year's TV movie Sharknado on Syfy Channel, you got a taste of what is likely to become a yearly release franchise to kick off Shark Week with a bang laugh. In this idiotic film, sharks get embroiled in a water spout and soon after have the ability to invade downtown Los Angeles where ever there is water. Up hills. Down hills. Sharks sharks everywhere!

In the technology age, it's not enough to simply swap coasts, for the sequel, and have shark-infested tornadoes in the Big Apple. Naw, you need an app and a mobile game! This year's release (officially making this an anual event) comes with an app to make shark-bite selfies and an infinite runner game where you play 90210-alum Ian Ziering running and jumping down a New York City street filled with power-ups and sharks.

As for an app... since our society seems self-absorbed with selfies, you can download the attack themed selfie app, Go Shark Yourself. You can use the front or facing camera to snap a shot that becomes superimposed in your choice of shark motifs. I like this app... I hope it still works around Christmas.

Sharknado App: Go Shark Yourself

The Go Shark Yourself app - for Android & iOS - will walk you through the process of converting your camera into a Sharknado-making selfie machine with the ability to share across your social networks.

sharknado - Go Shark Yourself app

Sharknado Mobile Game

The Sharknado mobile game seems to be limited to iOS, but it hasn't received much positive attention and was released only a few days ago, so it may have been a rush job to get it out in time for premiere night. After all, who wants to play a Sharknado game the day after the premiere? Right? Maybe... I don't know.

sharknado - iOS game

Sharknado on DVD

The first movie is available on DVD and I would asume that the sequel will try to cash-in in a similar manner.

sharknado The original Sharknado TV movie debuted July 11, 2013.
sharknado 2 The sequel, Sharknado 2, debuted a year later on July 30, 2014.

July 30, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Van Damme, Julia, Minogue, Wen: the Street Fighter movie will be 20 years old in December

Just a few years after we did the Loco-Motion with Kylie Minogue, she became Cammy in a cast of characters pulled straight out of video game history. Street Fighter (Dec. 1994) came to cinemas and was greeted with poor reviews and a straight-to-DVD life span. But the title lives in infamy!

Street Fighter movie turns 20 The passion for Street Fighter always emanated from the Capcom video game, not Hollywood's adaptation. The arcade game was released in August 1987 bringing a new genre and play-style to arcades. It's sequel (Street Fighter II - Feb 1991) solidified Capcom's game as an ongoing franchise that would take it to multiple platforms and tie-in products. The fighting genre became huge and the notion of co-op play became commonplace. Suddenly, gamers played simultaneously - side by side- rather than waiting for the other player to crash/fail/die.

years later, Capcom's characters are still favored by cosplayers who will don their persona over a weekend convention. Capcom themselves, released a 25th anniversary film I Am Street Fighter which can be seen on YouTube. The film is told through the words of fans and spans the franchise from it's beginning to the international tournaments of today's networked world. There's a lot of passion our there for an arcade game that started out years ago.

We could have waited until December to unfurl this post, but we have no patience for things like waiting. And the real amazingness behind Street Fighter is rooted in the CRTs that still display those beloved characters, so the flick takes a backseat to the arcade game. Check out the 25th anniversary flick on YouTube, Ogle Kylie as Cammy and ask your local arcade operator if they've heard of Street Fighter... you may have to mention it doesn't have a claw or spit out redemption tickets.
July 29, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

GameStop e-mailed me to say my video game collection is valued at $103

Much like personalized emails that open up with "Dear Pete" as opposed to a generic "Dear Friend", I can see that GameStop is trying to deliver a personal message in this mailing. Alas, their valuation of my game collection is likely based on the few games I've bothered registering with their Power Up Rewards program or possibly it's based on recent purchases. Who knows?

Regardless, I got a chuckle out of the subject on their email: "Your Game Collection is Worth Up to $103.50". A quick calculation revealed that GameStop would be willing to pay me mere pocket-change per game!

GameStop email about game trade-ins I love the used game market as it affords me a larger array of titles than I would ordinarily purchase at full retail pricing. The drawback is that those low used prices come at the expense of folks who don't place much value on their games. If you paid $60 dollars for a title, why would it be worth less than half, only a few months later?

I have never traded in any of my games to anyone - GameStop or otherwise. The math simply doesn't add up. Their profit goals quickly rob me of my game's real value. I've long thought that much of the used market is fueled by kids who will cannibalize their game collection to buy the latest $60 game... which will be in the discount bin in under six months. If you keep your old games, you can go back to them years later and hopefully achieve a better return on the investment than $4 from a retailer's trade-in program.

GameStop recently stated that less than half of their customers know that they accept trade-ins. GameStop president Tony Bartel, told VentureBeat, "Believe it or not, only 40 percent of the people who walk into a GameStop store today know that we accept trades of games." If true, that's a staggering statistic considering I'm always assaulted with their top-5 talking points every time I go to a GameStop.

I wish GameStop had more respect for their used game market and would have higher thresholds for the condition of traded games. Nearly every disc I've purchased has been badly scratched and most of the time the original case and manual have been discarded. I try to buy used Games from Newbury Comics since they won't resell scratched, damaged or incomplete games. GameStop seems far more focused on making a buck than delivering a quality product or customer experience.
July 28, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

My infatuation w/ Nintendo's 3DS Tomodachi Life increases as I collect CRTs, Virtual Boys & NES consoles

Celebrity Miis for Tomodachi Life From flight simulators to pet care games and even EA's long running series of Sims games, I've never had any interest in this genre. I have no problem pretending I'm flying a spaceship, invading a village or any of the myriad of scenarios that video games can immerse us in.

I'll happily be the leader of a squadron of intergalactic battleships, but I have no desire to be the Mayor of a small town... or island... until now.

My son was visiting for Summer vacation so I had lined up several games that we could play via local-play on our 2DS's. We always play a lot of mini-golf, build sandcastles, endure epically long Monopoly games and have bike races, but a fair amount of our time centers on video games from my youth and his.

We're both pretty new to the 2DS, so I thought it would be fun to interact via StreetPass and try some of the local-play options in it's game library. From Super Street Fighter IV to Ridge Racer and Mario Kart, we had a blast whipping out our 2DS' and engaging in a brawl or a race... not to mention checking for StreetPasses.

Tomodachi Island There were a lot of ads for Tomodachi Life. It was being touted as the end-all-be-all of handheld gaming. Knowing little about it, I equated it to one of those Sims-type games that I had no interest in. Additionally, I'd heard the outrage from the LGBT community who started a #MiiQuality campaign to let Nintendo know that there are wider varieties of relationships in the real world than depicted in the game. This made my curiosity about the title grow a bit more.

When I discovered there was a demo of it on the e-Shop, my tune changed. After launching the demo, I was quickly hooked! Looking over my shoulder, my son could no longer take it and he too downloaded the demo. The ability to connect locally and share both Mii characters and various items we'd collected made this a really fun game outside of all the options you have in managing your island and it's residents.

Celebrity Miis for Tomodachi Life Shawn White & Shaq - celebrity miis

Imaginary Mayor

You manage a small island of residents, much like a mayor. Part of the fun is populating the island... well, not in that way. We'll discuss mii sex later. You can import miis from your Plaza, create them from scratch, use a photo or photograph a celebrity mii QR code. You can create QR codes of your miis as well. in choosing emotional factors of your mii islanders, consider that this probably determines which ones will date, marry and have kids.

Obviously everything is pre-determined as the game is coded to a game cart, but it's fun to unlock items and see where the game will take you. You might even learn a few life lessons along the way.

This is probably one of the most creative uses of StreetPass I've seen to date from choosing your island's name to it's chief export. Your island can choose to export an item. As you encounter other Tomodachi Life players you exchange exports via StretPass. As your island residents begin dating and getting married, they'll soon have children - in a very Nintendo family-friendly manner.

These kids quickly grow up and you can choose to let them travel to other islands - another clever use of StreetPass. It also takes advantage of SpotPass by delivering custom items to one of the island's stores.

Tomodachi Gets a Little Retro

At various points you can award a gift to your islanders in a variety of ways. In terms of gifts you can bestow them their very own 3DS XL or Wii U game console. All my islanders get those, but the islanders will reward yo with items - typically by winning a mini game you play with them. So far, I've won an NES, old CRT TV, GameBoy, Virtual Boy and SuperScope. I love that they included some retro Nintendo items - particularly the Virtual Boy!
July 27, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade is an eclectic adventure into the past w/ lots of innovation

Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade sign From the street, the "L" shaped building housing Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade features a large courtyard with a good-size carousel, a bouncy house and several 1-person coin-op kiddie ride-ons.

Large overhead rolling doors open the arcade to the outdoor courtyard making it very inviting. My son & I ventured in to find a very unique arcade run by folks who love arcades and showcased plenty of inovations to keep it fun! With steampunk stylings, you'll find a great deal of things to play, explore and marvel at.

On my first visit to any arcade, I long for the 80's when arcades were packed with video games and pinball tables with their flashing marquees and brilliantly noisy attract modes. Alas, these days, such faire are few and far between. However, Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade offers a similar, but unique feel. It has a few of my faves like Millipede and Pac-Man along with a 2-player sit-in Final Lap 2 (Namco 1990).

The real gems in this arcade are the older machines/games that pre-date my arcade days of the 80's. Some border on carnival fixtures while others are purely mechanical - no electricity needed.

Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade logo
Millipede and Pac-Man Side -by-side, they have Millipede and Pac-Man. I took a close-up because this isn't a game I see very often in any arcade these days.
Millipede and Pac-Man Millipede and Pac-Man.

Mini Wheel arcade ride This mini Wheel arcade ride features one slow moving chair that sort of emulates a ferris wheel for those under 60 pounds.
New Frontier mechanical arcade shooter We marveled at this New Frontier mechanical arcade shooter. Purely mechanical, one coin gave you 10 shots at 5 targets in this wild west shooter. This sort of machine wold likely have been in penny arcades of the mid 1920's. It's an interesting size at only 15" wide.

pay-per-minute Atari 2600 in the arcade When was the last time you went to an arcade and were able to play Atari 2600 carts on a big TV? This pay-per-minute Atari 2600 was set up in the arcade with a stash of about 20 games behind the counter. The instructions say you get 3 minutes per token. Each token turns on the TV and you can add more when the time expires to continue playing. However, the 2600 has no pause, so drop those tokens quick if you don't want to lose a life after 3 minutes! :)
pay-per-minute Atari 2600 in the arcade This is the sort of innovation that makes indie arcades a lot of fun. I liked the custom coin-op they had controlling the TV and counting down the time.

Sports Zone mechanical pinball I liked this Sports Zone mechanical pinball machine. It uses a rubber bouncy-ball, requires no electricity and gives you the ball in a drop-box when you finish. It looks like an old vintage machine, but I don't know it's true age.
Grip Test measuring game This Grip Test machine really takes me back to days gone by. :)

Homemade Flash hands steampunk inspired arcade game Homemade Flash Hands is a steampunk inspired arcade game. This is a work of art and it's delightfully functional. Simple instructions make for a game that's fun and inventive.
Grip Test measuring game Flash Hands' level/score appear in tubes and the remaining lives are shown by a needle on an analog gauge. Waving your hands over the light as it flashes changes it's color. Very clever!

Love Tester arcade game Love Tester is such a vintage classic from carnivals and fairs and penny arcades. Awesome!
Namco's World Kicks arcade game World Kicks (Namco / Japan 2000). I love the idea of a video game that encourages you to kick something. Every kid who walked by gave on of the balls a kick!

Feed Big Bertha arcade game Feed Big Bertha arcade game.

There's not a lot of info on Wackenhammer's website, so you will want to check out Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade on Facebook. Many of the attractions are geared toward little kids, but my son (age 9) and I spent an hour or 2 here having a great time. From things to gawk at and marvel over to games that make us drop quarters like crazy, Wackenhammer's Clockwork Arcade is definitely worth a visit if you're on Cape Cod, MA!
July 26, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Rarely can you save more than $90 when shopping retail for video games

Lately, Toys R Us has been having clearance sales that are right up my alley. Too often I'll drop in to find clearance bins full of One Direction dolls, horrible DVDs, and odd plush characters I've never heard of. Lately, I've been finding Skylanders accessories and video games at insanely low prices. The games weren't exactly A-list titles, but I found a few that I'd try for a few bucks each.

Today's savings at TRU:
I only bought 7 items and still saved a lot!
Receipt from Toys R Us clearance sale Today, I found a Skylanders Battle Arena display stand for $4. There was also a bin of PS3, DS and 3DS games ranging from 75¢ to $3. Last week I bought 2 Skylanders castle casses and a 3DS pack including a car charger, ear bud headphones and 2 styluses for $4 each! I rarely buy video games at TRU, but their clearance bins have been phenomenal the last few weeks.
July 25, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Recovered games from the Atari landfill in Alamogordo, NM on display at San Diego Comic Con

A small sampling of Atari artifacts excavated from the infamous landfill in New Mexico were on display at the San Diego Comic Con. On April 26, 2014 a small crew entered the landfill with the intent to unearth untold items disposed from an Atari warehouse in 1983. With the documentary due out in the Fall of 2014, it was fun to find this pic from SDCC14.

Atari landfill display at SDCC14 The documentary, Atari: Game Over, is being released by Microsoft's Xbox Studios and should be out this Fall (2014).

You'll find more info about the Atari excavation on our Atari Landfill Dig Summary that features a list of recovered titles, images and info about the Atari Legend.
July 24, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

GDL Entertainment melds video gaming into events, creating shared experiences w/ face-to-face fun

GDL Entertainment event pic Over the years, I've encountered quite a few businesses that will integrate video games into your party. From customized buses full of game consoles & flatscreens to networked PCs engaged in a common game, the various business models fascinate me.

As a retro gamer, if I were to hire a company to add games to my event, I'd want a truck load of vintage arcade cabs and enough 25-year-old game consoles to constitute a museum exhibit. :)

But none of the companies I found offered retro gaming. They'll bring a ton of Microsoft hardware and games, but I want a truckload of vintage arcade cabs at my shindig. I don't want to play Halo on a flatscreen. I want Missile Command, Defender, Berzerk... and the chaotic beauty of flashing marquees and attract mode sounds!

GDL Entertainment Isn't Like Those Other Companies

GDL Entertainment logo I recently came across the GDL Entertainment website. They tout a software and hardware library spanning decades of videogame classics and customized events! Their Twitter bio says they span from "Xbox One to Atari." I had to investigate the Atari connection!

A few e-mails later I was Skyping with GDL Entertainment owner Chris Hatala. He has a lot of passion and enthusiasm for video games and loves bringing that feeling to his clients through customized events. From birthday parties to lavish fundraisers, his company will customize the gaming experience to meet the client's needs. Part of his experience comes from working on large-scale events like international Street Fighter events spanning 10 countries with 600+ players. That makes a birthday party seem like a cakewalk!

Chris' passion and experience plays into his success at bringing gaming to events that aren't necessarily game-centric. Birthday parties sometimes feature video games, but not always in an organized & structured manner. And... how often have you attended a corporate function that offered video games? I'd love to attend a corporate event that offered something as diverse as video games. Next time your company does a team building exercise, remind them that 4-player Warlords is a better option than a climbing wall and trust-falls.

I remember the career days we were forced into during high school. They paraded the typical dentist, lawyer and accountant opportunities without mentioning that melding arcade games with a corporate event can become a lucrative career. No one wanted to mention that you can earn a living doing something you really love.

GDL Entertainment event pic An interesting part of my conversation with Chris was his support of face-to-face gaming. Despite a strong background in networked gaming events across many borders, he is in favor of bringing people together face-to-face via gaming. I've never liked the idea of yelling into a headset as opposed to having friends over to play in my living room.

From his website- "I've witnessed firsthand how social videogaming brings inclusiveness, camaraderie, and electrifying experiences to any group."

The GDL Entertainment website is focused on bringing video games to events - not necessarily "gaming events". The idea that Chris can blend video games into fundraisers and corporate events - not typically associated with gaming - certainly speaks to the popularity and pervasiveness of video games in our culture today. For those who think video games are "silly distractions for kids", you should know that GDL Entertainment is registered with ISES (International Special Events Society). They take your fun very seriously.

If you're looking to add an edge to your party or event, video games may be the perfect ingredient. GDL Entertainment can provide a professional component to your event that will engage and energize your guests - young and old alike!
July 24, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Fortunately for Connect-Four aficionados, robots don't have dicks

I came across a Facebook post from Polygon about an MIT student, Patrick McCabe, who built a robot that plays Connect Four, Milton Bradley's dot-connecting game. My son and I sometimes play the SpongeBob version of this MB classic and I always likened it to tic-tac-toe in that it should always end in a draw.

I'm sure there is a mathematical perspective to the game and it's strategies. Without that, a robot wouldn't be a very formidable opponent. With a 2051 micro processor, UP Mini 3D printer and a Cypress PSOC 5LP kit he managed to create a bot that will likely kick your ass at Connect Four.

I've always been fascinated by numbers and mathematics, but to show my true nature... What I loved most about this project was the odd cartoon (shown below) that immediately followed the Polygon post.

Connect Four robot

This cartoon immediately followd the Connect Four robot article in my Facebook feed...

Connect Four cartoon - Wrong Hole
July 23, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Version 4 of prominent multi-platform Atari 2600 emulator, Stella, releases w/ significant updates

Atari emulator, Stella logo When it comes to emulating the Atari 2600, Stella has been a favorite for a long time. As an open source project, Stella is continually improved and ported to more platforms. Version 4 brings native hardware acceleration support for Windows (Direct3D) and Linux/OSX (OpenGL). Additionally, full screen modes use the desktop resolution!

You can find a listing of all the updates on the official Stella emulator website.

The Importance of Emulation

Many retro gamers balk at the use of emulators in favor of playing classic games on original equipment. In the case of Stella, many of us would rather play on a 2600! We agree to an extent. We'd rather "insert a cartridge" than "load a file", but either way emulators are not just a cheap way to avoid using original consoles and games.

Not all games are released on actual cartridges and others are so rare/expensive, that owning the cart is fairly unrealistic. Think about all the awesome homebrew games that have been created for the Atari 2600. While some are placed on cartridges and come in an authentic box with a manual, many wonderful games exist only as a computer file. Every collector who's heard of rare games like Chase the Chuck Wagon should have the opportunity to experience it's game play. Why deny yourself as a gaming purist? Enjoy all the games the platform has to offer.

The other noteworthy facet of emulators is the ways in which they help preserve retro gaming itself. All those dusty consoles sitting on folding tables at yard sales aren't getting any younger and computer technology is marching forward. Emulators, like Stella, that get development attention and offer frequent releases, enable gamers to continue to experience many game titles otherwise unobtainable. At the same time, updates to Stella keep it functioning on current computer operating systems.

Those of us that saw the superiority of the Betamax has little choice as VHS dominated and later when VCRs disappeared from retail shelves. However, the movies we loved were released to other platforms like DVD. Similarly, the technology behind emulation enables gamers to continue to play classic games!

As a kid, I owned about 30 2600 games. Today I have substantially expanded my game cart collection. However, there are still many titles I don't own and others I will never own. I love my Atari 2600, but I also love being able to experience it's entire game library. Emulation lets me do that and ensure that my favorite games will be playable as computer technology changes and improves.
July 22, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Atari CEO believes fast-food makeovers of iconic games is a “brand exposure” strategy

Denny's Atari-styled website header I've loved Atari since purchasing a 2600 console in the late seventies. I'd discovered the joy of Space Invaders in a local bowling alley and was delighted when it was later released on the Atari 2600.

Atari logo made up of bacon In those days "Atari" was synonymous with "video games". The Nolan Bushnell company that I loved ceased shortly after my first Atari purchase. However, the company forged ahead in many incarnations under various leaders. Their retro IPs have always been a high point. Beloved by many, the Atari brand is as recognizable today as it was in the 70's.

However, Atari seems farther from it's roots than ever. They've released reboots of their elder iconic arcade titles for the web, mobile platforms and classic collections on Sony & Microsoft consoles. Such efforts retain some of the original "magic" while keeping the Atari brand alive in the retail environment.

I wouldn't suggest they continually repackage Asteroids as a revenue stream, but it wouldn't hurt to be in the public's mind... right? However, re-skinning it as Hashteroids for a Denny's fast-food hash brown tie-in seems a frivolous waste and dilution of a valuable IP.

In 2011 they rebooted Yar's Revenge as an online game. It was met with a lot of criticism, but I liked the update and was happy to see the iconic title back in action. Hasteroids? Take-Out? WTF!?!

Denny's partnership with Atari is part of a history of quirky advertising strategies by Denny's. With millions of smart phones and tablets loaded with games, Dennys wants to leverage it to try reaching new customers & build a stronger bond with existing connoisseurs of cheap food. Released on iOS and Android, Denny's Greatest Hits Remixed games tie in with their current menu offerings by the same name.

Atari games altered for Denny's fast food promotional app A quote from Atari's CEO makes me wonder if he understands his IP's value and the difference between brand exposure & expansion as opposed to transformation!

We are excited to be partnering with Dennys on this partnership. Transforming our classic and beloved games into a retro, remixed promotion will be a natural way to expose our brand to a new generation and resonate with our long-time fans in a fun and unique way, Atari chief executive officer Fred Chesnais said.

Hasteroids game cart mock up Hashteroids on a mobile phone is a disposable triviality that won't likely spawn interest in the Atari brand. Asteroids was a successful game that helped spawn an entire industry (in a manner of speaking).

Can Chesnais really believe that this Denny's promotion is at all helpful to the Atari brand? Exposing a brand means introducing it to those that are not familiar with it. This promotion is a windfall for Denny's. They get to link their menu items to "Atari". They want to sell more food!

What is Atari getting from this? How does a mock-up 2600 cartridge with a Hashteroids label benefit Atari? Most people who are not familiar with Atari's classic games are also not familiar with the old game carts. If you're not familiar with Atari, I doubt you know what game carts looked like in the 1980's.

This is an awesome partnership for Denny's! Any link they can achieve to the beloved Atari IPs will only benefit them. Atari has recently been quoted saying they want to go beyond just putting logos on a t-shirt. I understand the desire and savvy behind that idea, but at least the logo on a shirt doesn't alter or transform the brand. It expands/preserves it.

Creating a mobile game with a strong tie-in to a non-gaming entity doesn't seem to benefit Atari as a gaming company. Even if they go down the path of online gambling, hash browns seem a poor choice. They say all publicity is "good" publicity, but this partnership does little to define or expand the Atari brand. Recently emerging from bankruptcy, this may simply be a lucrative move to score some capital. Who knows...

I'd rather see Atari-logo t-shirts! I can't even remember the last time I saw an Atari shirt in a retail store. :)

What Would Mario Do?

Nintendo has a long history with McDonalds from play areas with Nintendo consoles to Nintendo Wifi Zones and Happy Meal Toys. Never do you see Mario in a clown wig or donning the Hamburgler's striped suit. He's Mario and he's iconic. You don't mess with that. Take note, Atari!

McDonalds currently has Mario Kart Happy Meal toys and you won't find any alterations to Mario. He's Nintendo's primary brand, so he may be packaged in a McDonald's product, but you won't find any Super Mario Fries or Luigi Milkshakes. Mario belongs to Nintendo and with McDonalds, they can showcase their brand to a myriad of children who will instantly tell Mom & Dad they need a Wii U and Mario Kart. Take note, Atari!
July 21, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Ouya nimbly goes where the Big-Boys dare not - all-access subscriptions and a Reading Rainbow console

Every time I ponder the future of my favorite ROM station - the Ouya - it appears in new territory. As the "little guy" in the world of game consoles, they're doing some pretty interesting things that the less nimble mega-corps have difficulty with.

It's no secret that the Ouya is a niche product that doesn't sit on the same retail shelves as the PS4 or Xbone. So, having stirred up a lot of energy during their launch, what's a a small company to do to stay relevant? They challenged the growing mobile market, by directing the ease of Android development to living room TVs via a small Android console. Coming to market was a great feat, but staying there is difficult. While the iTunes and Play stores are flooded with titles, how can Ouya's software offering of 800 games compete?

They announced a limited test of a subscription service last month. For the price of an average next-gen game title ($59.99) they will grant users access to all the games for a year. Valued at $2,000 one has to wonder if this signals innovation or desperation. This seems like a win for gamers, but makes me wonder how successful they've been with software sales from their proprietary store.

Geordi La Forge Wants You to Read

For those who saw the Kickstarter for LeVar Burton's (from ROOTS and Star Trek: The Next Generation) effort to bring Reading Rainbow back as an app, the once popular show is coming back as an app. Formerly a PBS TV show (1983-2006), Burton was it's exec producer. Various celebrities would read books aloud to inspire kids to read. As technology improved this canceled show was recently KickStarted into a modernized online variation.

The oddity to this tale is Ouya has released a Reading Rainbow edition of their console. It seems like an odd pairing, but Ouya was another insanely successful Kickstarter campaign and this Smurf-blue console and controller are more than a reward tier. Having reached $5 million on their kickstarter, Reading Rainbow will port it's app to the Ouya platform.

Ouya - Reading Rainbow limited edition I'm glad to see Ouya keeping it's name on the public's radar with such a high profile project. It will be interesting to see how an educational app does on a platform primarily geared towards gamers. Hey, a lot of gamers have young kids! :)
July 8, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Do you know that today is a holiday? It's Video Games Day!

Spend the day gaming! Invite friends over and revel in what face-to-face gaming is all about. We particularly encourage this among those who play online with a headset. Back in the NEW era, there was nothing better than having the crew over to play games. Some played. Some watched. But everyone was into it and yelling at the TV! Good times!

Online gaming offers a lot of new experiences, but it never struck me as the same sort of fun that group play in the living room offered. So, grab a few friends and game together- in the same room! It's Video Game Day!
July 4, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

My son almost broke 900K on Robotron- 2nd time playing, at 9 years old

Each time my son comes to visit, he finds a different game to gravitate towards. We were playing an Android game in which the play-mech gave you 2 thumb pads - one to move and the other to fire. I mentioned that this was similar to Robotron. I was met with a blank stare at which point I knew our first goal of Summer Vacation was exposure to Robotron 2084!

Robotron 2084 on the Atari 7800 Robotron 2084 on the Atari 7800
Robotron 2084 on the Atari 7800 Robotron 2084 on the Atari 7800

After playing some Sly Cooper on the PS3, I popped in Midway Arcade Origins - where we often play Spy Hunter. I selected Robotron and he remembered my comment in the airport and the game we were playing (Lamb Chops!). He got a kick out of is, so we went downstairs to our Retro Room and fired it up on the Atari 7800 with a real joystick. This is how Robotron was meant to be played!

Homebrew joystick for the  Atari 7800
Homebrew joysticks for Atari & Colecovision.

I couldn't believe he nearly broke 900,000 points on his second time playing Robotron! Retro gaming is full of unexpected rewards :)
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