The Strong’s historians, curators, librarians, and other staff offer insights into and anecdotes about the critical role of play in human development and the ways in which toys, dolls, games, and video games reflect cultural history. Learn even more about the museum’s archival materials, books, catalogs, and other ephemera through its Tumblr page.
Play Stuff Blog
In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... the A-Team.
America first heard these words, spoken in a gravelly voice over grainy footage of soldiers disembarking from a helicopter in the jungles of Southeast Asia, after Super Bowl XVII on January 3, 1983. For the next four yea rs, what has been described as a combination of The Dirty Dozen, Mad Max, Hill Street Blues, Rocky III, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, M.A.S.H., and Dallas held the status of must-see-TV for millions of viewers worldwide.
The brainchild of NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff, The A-Team television series came to life through the work of writers Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo. They created comically mismatched outlaws—Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, Captain H. M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, Lieutenant Templeton “Faceman” Peck, and Sergeant B. A. “Bad Attitude” Baracus—who sought justice for the oppressed, righted wrongs, and turned everyday objects into armored tanks with a little welding and some elbow grease (with a funky welding montage soundtrack to boot). The result was absurd, amazing, and the ultimate 1980s pop culture phenomenon.
The show was also a licensing dream. Action figures, vans, helicopters—even comic books, board games, and crossword puzzle books—hit the shelves to quench consumers’ thirst for the loveable con-men with hearts of gold.
The A-Team proved a boon to the toy weapon industry as well. In 2012, The American Rifleman gave The A-Team the top spot on their “Guns on TV: Top 12 Shows” list. Nearly 30 years after the series ended, it still out-guns classics such as The Rifleman and The Lone Ranger, as well as more recent programs such as Miami Vice, NCIS, and 24, in the variety and volume of firearms on display. However, The A-Team’s signature brand of sanitized, cartoon-like violence—extras routinely walked away from car explosions, slightly dusty but very much alive—insured that only one person was killed on-screen throughout the show’s four-year run.
Mr. T, who played B. A., had previously made a name for himself as Clubber Lang opposite Sylvester Stalone in Rocky III with his intense portrayal of a boxer from the streets and his famous line, “I pity the fool.” He quickly became a fan favorite as the A-Team’s prickly driver and strong man.
He coined catchphrases such as, “I ain’t got time for your jibber jabber,” and “I ain't goin' on no airplane!” B.A. was certainly a beloved character in my house, as evidenced by the handmade Mr. T doll that my mother secretly crafted for my father and gave to him on a very memorable Christmas morning.
Your father, the King of All Cosmos, had too much fun partying last night and accidently destroyed all the stars and constellations. Whoops! Being a mighty king, you’d think he’d be able to rectify this problem easily, but he’s never been a particularly effective king. As a matter of fact, he’s not a good father, either—he definitely never liked you. He’s as big as a planet, and he doesn’t consider you, at 4 inches tall, much of an heir to his kingdom. He always orders you to clean up his messes, and without so much as a thank-you.
Growing up, I never owned a single video game console. I owned a few sports games that I played on my old Apple IIe computer, and I recall playing Super Mario World when I was at my babysitter’s house. But that was about the extent of my gaming knowledge. All this changed when I got married, however. My husband is a hard-core gamer. He favors RPGs, puzzle games, and platformers and also plays his share of shooters and fighting games. But what amazed me most when we met was not the breadth of genres he played, but the sheer number of consoles he played them on!
I remember the roar of the crowd as I confidently gripped the ball and took aim—the way the noises faded as I focused on my target—and the broad smile on Bozo the Clown’s face during my successful run on the Grand Prize Game.
Cataloging a large collection of video games and related materials involves a ton of research and leads to game development stories that often are as fascinating as the games themselves. ICHEG’s recent acquisition of a group of games and game systems from Japan brought Super Mario Brothers’ history to the forefront.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of cataloging more than 10,000 electronic games for ICHEG. As a gamer, I’ve found this a great way to learn about the various genres and mechanics that make up the history of electronic games.
A few days ago a researcher in our ICHEG lab sparked a rich conversation about her favorite childhood gaming platform, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Like so many gamers in the late 80s, she spent endless hours assuming the role of Mario and squashing Goombas in the Mushroom Kingdom. Her memories of Super Mario Bros.
Tetris is a great example of how simple ideas often inspire the best video games. In my recent conversation with Alexey Pajitnov, he recounted how a simple wooden puzzle game inspired him to create Tetris.
Over the last few weeks my e-mail filled up with friends and other electronic games enthusiasts bringing to my attention a couple of eBay auctions. Amused at first, I quickly saw a collectors’ chain reaction happening.
These auctions centered on the rare and elusive Stadium Events video games by Bandai, a Japanese toy making company founded in 1900. The first e-mail I received referred to an auction on eBay for an “Old Nintendo NES system and five games” that sold for $13,105.