Video and Other Electronic Game Collections

Arcade Game Collections

The collection includes more than 200 arcade games from the earliest classics to the latest specialty products being manufactured today.

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Early Arcade Video Games, 1971–1978

The Strong’s arcade video game collection includes examples of the most significant games from the early years of the video game arcade business, starting with the first game, Computer Space (1971), created by Nolan Bushnell for Nutting Associates. Other significant items include Bushnell’s and Al Alcorn’s breakthrough-hit Pong (1972); Gunfight (1975), the first game to use a microprocessor; Atari Breakout (1976), designed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; Fire Truck (1978), a two-player cooperative game; and Football (1978), the game that popularized the use of the trackball.

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Early Pin Games and Electromechanical Pinball Machines, 1931–1976

The Strong’s pinball collection includes examples of some of the most significant pinball machines ever produced, starting with one of the first pin games (or pre-flipper games), Automatic Industries’ Whiffle (1931). Highlights include Bally founder Raymond Moloney’s Ballyhoo (1932), the game that helped launch the pin game craze of the 1930s, and Rochester, New York-based Peo Manufacturing Corporation’s Midget Hi-Ball (1932). The collection also features many of the most important pinball machines of the electromechanical era, including Harry Mabs’s Humpty Dumpty (1947), the game that transformed the industry by adding flippers to the playfield; Steve Kordek’s Triple Action (1948), the first machine to feature two flippers placed at the bottom of the playfield; and Harry Williams’s Saratoga (1948), the first game to include thumper bumpers. Other significant games include Knock Out (1950), which featured three-dimensional tinplate figures boxing in a ring at the top of the playfield; Vagabond (1962), the first game to feature a drop target; and Space Odyssey (1976), a game inspired by the 1975 joint American and Soviet Apollo-Soyuz space docking mission.

See also “A Mere Bagatelle: From Marbles to Pinball and Beyond.”

Golden Age Arcade Video Games, 1978–1985

This portion of the museum’s arcade video game collection includes more than 50 of the most important games from the era. Highlights include Space Invaders (1978), the game that launched the video game boom; Pac-Man (1980) and Ms. Pac-Man (1981), two of the most popular video arcade games of all time, and Baby Pac-Man (1982), a hybrid of video games and pinball; Donkey Kong (1981), Shigeru Miyamoto’s classic that introduced the Mario character (then known as Jumpman); the space shooters Galaxian (1979) and Galaga (1981); Missile Command (1980), the emblematic Cold War game; Centipede (1980), the first arcade video game designed by a woman; I, Robot (1983), the first game to use three-dimensional polygon graphics; and Eugene Jarvis’s Robotron: 2084 (1982) and Defender (1980).

See also “I Have Pac-Man Fever Again.”

Solid State Pinball Machines, 1976–Present

The museum’s collection of solid state (or electronic) pinball machines includes more than two dozen of the most significant modern pinball machines. Key titles include Atari's Hercules (1979), the largest commercial pinball machine ever produced; Steve Ritchie's Black Knight (1980) and High Speed (1986), two of the most popular games of the 1980s; Pat Lawlor and Larry DeMar's Banzai Run (1988), FunHouse (1990), and The Addams Family (1992), the latter of which is the best-selling pinball machine of the modern era; George Gomez’s Monster Bash (1998), Lord of the Rings (2003), and The Avengers (2012); and Jersey Jack Pinball’s Emerald City Limited Edition Wizard of Oz (2013), the first machine to feature an LCD backglass display.

See also “Hercules: The Pinball Legend” and “The Addams Family and Pinball in the Age of Video Games.”

Vector-Based Graphic Games, 1977–1985

The museum collections include more than a dozen of the most important vector-based graphic arcade games. Key titles include: Space War (1977), the first vector-based game; Lunar Lander (1979) and Asteroids (1979), the latter of which is Atari’s best-selling arcade game ever; Ed Rotberg’s Battlezone (1980) and Red Baron (1980), which introduced three-dimensional images from a first person perspective; Tempest (1980); Star Wars (1983); and a cockpit version of The Empire Strikes Back (1985).

See also “Gone, But Not Forgotten: Vector Games.”

Simulator Games, 1985–Present

ICHEG’s collection of simulator games includes numerous large games such as Sega’s Galaxy Force (1988) fighting game in which the player sits in a cockpit that rotates 360 degrees; piloting games like S.T.U.N. Runner (1989) and F-15 Strike Eagle (1991); racing games like Sega Virtua Racing (1992) and Super GT (1997); and others, such as Namco’s pedaling game Prop Cycle (1996), Sega's undersea diving shooter game The Ocean Hunter (1998), and rock music simulator Guitar Hero Arcade (2009).

See also “Video Games Take Flight.”

Specialty Games, 1991–Present

This portion of The Strong’s collection includes specialty and unique video arcade games such as the pioneering holographic game Time Traveler (1991) and the rare, custom-built Disney Fix-It Felix Jr. (2012), a game based on the studio's 2012 animated feature film Wreck-It Ralph. Highlights include the oversized puzzler Tetris Giant (2010), Pac-Man: Battle Royal (2011), and arcade versions of popular mobile games Fruit Ninja FX (2012) and Temple Run (2013).

See also “Wreck-it Ralph and Video Game Villainy.”

Gaming System (Hardware) Collections

The Strong’s collection of game systems includes the major home video game console manufactured since 1972 and a broad range of consoles from other regions; dozens of personal computers, both desktop and portable; more than 200 dedicated handheld electronic games and gaming systems; and hundreds of children’s toys that incorporate elements of electronic game play.

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Consoles, 1972–Present

Video game consoles and related artifacts including examples of every generation of home console system manufactured for the American marketplace since 1972, plus systems sold internationally in the Asian and European markets comprise The Strong’s console collection. Key artifacts include the first home video game systems—Magnavox Odyssey (1972) and Atari Pong (1975)—as well as dozens of Pong-like systems from that same era. Also included are Fairchild Channel F (1976)—the first system to use interchangeable cartridges—and other early cartridge-based systems such as Atari 2600 (1977), Mattel’s Intellivision (1979), Colecovision (1982), and Atari 5200 (1982). The collection also includes several models of Vectrex (1982), including a 3-D Imager. Also represented are Nintendo Famicom (1983), Nintendo Entertainment System (1985), and other mid-1980s consoles including Atari 7800 (1986) and Sega Genesis (1989). There is also a comprehensive array of 1990s consoles, including Neo Geo (1990), SuperNintendo (1991), Sony PlayStation (1994), Sega Saturn (1995), Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995), Nintendo 64 (1996), and Sega Dreamcast (1998). All major recent consoles are also represented, including Sony Playstation 2 (2000), Microsoft Xbox (2001), Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360 (2005), Playstation 3 (2006), and Nintendo Wii (2006). The collection includes many Japanese consoles including the Nintendo Famicom (1983), Sega Mega Drive (1988), Pioneer LaserActive (1993), and NEC's PC-FX (1994).

See also “Happy Birthday Home Video Games.”

Handhelds, 1976–Present

The Strong holds more than 200 dedicated handheld electronic games and gaming systems, starting with the first such game ever made: Mattel Electronics’ Auto Race (1976). The collection includes more than 100 dedicated handhelds created in the late 1970s and early 1980s by companies like Mattel Electronics, Coleco, Entex, and Bandai. Among these are such well-known favorites as Mattel’s Football (1977), Parker Brothers’ Merlin (1978), and Coleco’s Head to Head Baseball (1982), as well as more obscure games like Mattel Electronics’ Dungeons and Dragons Computer Fantasy Game (1981). Also represented are numerous examples of table top arcade games from the early 1980s; the first handheld game system with interchangeable games, Milton Bradley’s Microvision (1979); and other handheld platforms such as Atari Lynx (1989), NEC TurboExpress (1990), Sega GameGear (1990), and Sony PSP (2004). Nintendo has long been the dominant producer of handheld systems, and ICHEG has dozens of Nintendo handhelds, from the Game and Watch (1980) to the GameBoy (1989) line through current generations of Nintendo DS (2004).

Personal Computers, 1979–Present

Computers have facilitated electronic gaming in homes since the late 1970s and remain important platforms both for games played on individual computers and for multiplayer games played on the Internet. The museum’s collection includes dozens of computers, both desktop and portable, that variously provided platforms for gaming from the seventies through the present day. Included are numerous iterations of the Apple II line (Apple II, Apple II+, Apple IIe) that debuted in 1979; the world’s first portable computer, the Osborne 1 (1981); Atari computers such as the 400/800 (1980) and the 65XE (1985); members of the Commodore family, such as the Commodore 64 (1983), Commodore 16 (1984), and Amiga (1985); the Timex Sinclair 1000 (1982); and various other PC and Macintosh models up to the present. The collection also includes peripherals such as printers and modems that served as important accessories for many types of gaming.

Children’s Electronic Toys, 1976–Present

Included in this collection are hundreds of children’s toys that incorporate elements of electronic game play. Texas Instruments, one of the leading pioneers of children’s electronic toys, is represented by dozens of different products, including Little Professor (1976), Speak & Spell (1978), and Touch & Tell (1981). Also included is both Simon (1978) and a Simon prototype made by its inventor, Ralph H. Baer, whose schematic drawings and related documents for the toy reside in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Other examples of children’s electronic toys in the collection include the original Alphie the Robot (1978); board games with electronic elements, such as Dark Tower (1980); educational toys such as those produced by Leapfrog; collectible toys such as Tamagotchi (1996); and computer-connected and web-connected toys such as Lego Mindstorms (1998) and Webkinz (2006).

Game (Software) Collections

The Strong’s video game collections include more than 35,000 games on various media.

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Console Games, 1972–Present

Represented in the collection are more than 20,000 video games for consoles, starting with hundreds for early systems like Magnavox Odyssey (1972), Fairchild Channel F (1976), and Atari 2600 (1977) and extending through all the major consoles and handhelds to the present day. The collection is notably strong in Japanese games, with complete or nearly complete collections of many Nintendo, SEGA, and NEC systems. Included are classic titles ranging from Atari Space Invaders (1980) and NES Super Mario Bros. (1986, North American release) through Sega Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo (1998), as well as rarer items such as NES Nintendo World Championships 1990. The Japanese titles include such rare games as Kunio-kun no Dodgeball da yo Zenin Shuugou! Tournament Special Gold Cartridge (translation: Mr. Kunio's Dodgeball, Assemble Everyone! Tournament Special Gold Cartridge) and All Star Power League Gold HuCard—both special limited edition games that were given away as prizes for tournament winners.

Computer Games, 1978–Present

Game play on computers has ranged from casual games like the Solitaire program that Microsoft introduced with Windows 3.0 in 1990 to massively multiplayer online role-playing games such as the wildly popular World of Warcraft (2004). The museum holds some 7,000 computer games, ranging from those for early systems like the Apple II to games for contemporary PCs. The many pioneering titles in the collection include Microsoft Flight Simulator (1982), Sierra On-Line’s edition of Ultima I (1983), Castle Wolfenstein (1983),  the multiplayer game M.U.L.E. (1983), the simulation games Utopia (1981) and SimCity (1989), and the turn-based strategy game Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991). Sports titles such as the first John Madden Football (1982), action titles such as Bungie’s Marathon (1994), and adventure titles such as Ken and Roberta Williams’s Mystery House (1980) and Sid Meier’s Pirates (1987) are also included. Controversial horror games such as Night Trap (1994) round out the breadth of the collection. More than 1,000 are games received over the years by Computer Gaming World for review in the magazine.

Educational Games, 1978–Present

Educational games stand among the first computer games created for the general public, starting with Oregon Trail in 1971. Generally, educational games have been confined to the personal computer market because console makers have feared that “educational” titles would dampen sales. Educational software peaked in the 1990s, and today many educational games are web based. The Strong’s collection encompasses titles from, among other producers, The Learning Company, Brøderbund, Knowledge Adventure, and Minnesota Educational Computer Curriculum (MECC). Included are Oregon Trail, other classics such as Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (1985), Reader Rabbit (1986), Jumpstart (1994), and more than 3,000 others. Among these are thousands of review titles donated by Children’s Technology Review Editor Warren Buckleitner.

See also “Four Decades on the Oregon Trail.”

Video Game Company Collections

The Strong holds tens of thousands of artifacts and library and archival items that represent and reflect the impact of particular manufacturers on the evolution of video games and society. Through its International Center for the History of Electronic Games, The Strong works with companies to help preserve those distinct historical contributions. Groupings appearing here include large or otherwise distinct assemblages provided to the museum by specific manufacturers. These collections include either software or hardware, or both, or one or both in addition to archival items. Other materials related to these companies, but not provided by them, may be found in other museum collections categories according to type.

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Atari Coin-Op Divisions Collection, 1972–1999

Atari pioneered the arcade video game and helped launch the video game revolution with the introduction of Pong (1972), the Home Pong console (1975), and the Atari 2600 (1977) during the 1970s. As Atari Inc. (1972–1984) and later as Atari Games (1984–1999), the companies produced iconic arcade video games and pinball machines such as Pong, Breakout (1976), Asteroids (1979), Superman pinball (1979), Missile Command (1981), Star Wars (1983), Gauntlet (1985), and Primal Rage (1994). The collection encompasses a wide array of historical materials, including more than 3,000 pieces of original concept and final arcade cabinet artwork, hand-drawn assembly design sketches, story boards, photographs, and print advertising proofs; hundreds of original art kits and production films for Atari arcade video game cabinets; nearly 2,800 videos of game demos, television commercials, industry show presentations, focus groups, and company celebrations; arcade game source code; promotional materials; and an unreleased “Maze Invaders” arcade video game—one of only two units known to exist. Also included are dozens of binders chronicling the production of virtually every Atari coin-operated game from 1972 to 1999; extensive corporate records documenting game brainstorming sessions, industry and market research, and player game evaluations; as well as company correspondence, newsletters, and technical documentation.

See also “ICHEG Preserves Atari Coin-Op Divisions Collection.”

Brøderbund Software, Inc. Collection, 1979–2002

In the 1980s and 1990s, Brøderbund was one of the leading producers and distributors of games for the home computer with titles such as Lode Runner, Prince of Persia, Myst, SimCity, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? The company also released many best-selling consumer software titles such as Family Tree Maker, Print Shop, Kid Pix, and the pioneering Living Books line of children’s books. This collection, donated by company founder Doug Carlston, includes 1,600 of the company’s games, other pieces of computer software, copies of original art, production masters, board game versions of some products, and related items. Also included are extensive corporate records detailing Brøderbund’s operations from its inception in 1979 to its eventual acquisition by The Learning Company in 1997. Among these are strategic and other long-term planning documents, market research, meeting notes, financial statements, correspondence, catalogs, news clippings, photographs, and other materials that reveal the company’s domestic and international operations. Doug Carlston also served as President and Chairman of the Software Publishers Association, and materials in the collection document that work and offer further insight into the growth of the software industry.

View the Brøderbund Software, Inc. Collection finding aid. See also “Preserving the Brøderbund Story.”

Her Interactive Collection, 1994–2012

Her Interactive occupies an important place in computer game history for having challenged gender disparity in the predominately male-dominated industry. The collection includes design notes, press releases, testing and focus group documents, company profiles, and correspondence that not only document the history of Her Interactive but also offer critical insight into female experiences and attitudes towards electronic gaming. Also included are more than 30 games. Among these are Nancy Drew: Stay Tuned for Danger, Nancy Drew: Tomb of the Lost Queen, and others from the company’s signature series.

View the Her Interactive Collection finding aid. See also “Her Interactive Collections at ICHEG.”

Microsoft Collection, 1993–2011

Microsoft has been a key innovator in the electronic game market and sold products totaling billions of dollars over the years. This collection represents a wide sweep of the corporation’s gaming history and includes more than 200 items. Among these are more than 70 games for the PC, Xbox, and Xbox 360; dozens of examples of hardware and accessories, including consoles and controllers; prototypes for Xbox 360 and Kinect and a beta version of Xbox Live Starter Kit; and 15 examples of the many awards the corporation has received for various innovations and sales milestones. Also included are miscellaneous posters, images, and promotional materials.

Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) Collection, 1979–2001

Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) was the leading developer of war games and other computer simulations in the 1980s and early 1990s. The company’s pioneering first game, Computer Bismarck (1980), helped make military simulations a leading segment of the early computer game market. SSI also published sports, finance, and fantasy games, including the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons titles licensed from TSR, and featured some of the era’s most important developers, including Dan Bunten (Dani Bunten Berry) and Gary Grigsby. This collection, donated by company founder Joel Billings, includes internal records documenting the history of the company from 1979-1997, as well as information about other computer companies of the period. It also includes the master code for Computer Bismarck and a copy of the computer code for Tank (unpublished), the first game Billings ever wrote.

See also “The Strategic Simulations, Inc. Collection. View the Strategic Simulations, Inc. (SSI) Collection finding aid.

Tengen, Inc. Collection, 1987–1994

Atari Games founded Tengen, Inc. in 1987 to produce home console and computer games. Between the late 1980s and mid-1990s, Tengen developed and published dozens of home versions of popular arcade titles including Tetris (1988), which was later recalled due to a court ruling; Paperboy (1988); Shinobi (1989); After Burner (1989); Pac-Man (1990); and Race Drivin’ (1994). This collection includes source code for nearly all of the more than 50 games the company produced, original game package and user manual artwork, posters and other promotional materials, and electronic records containing product schedules, sales figures, and corporate documents.

Westwood Studios Collection, 1985–2003

Westwood Studios is recognized worldwide for having created and popularized real time strategy games (RTS). The collection includes more than 500 items chronicling Westwood’s innovative history and extends from the company’s early days of producing games for the Amiga and Commodore 64 to 2003. RTS games such as the pioneering Dune II and Command & Conquer (which spawned many sequels) form a major portion of the collection. Also present are early games such as Eye of the Beholder, an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, and mass market titles such as Monopoly and Lion King. Other items include artwork, development and marketing materials, and related artifacts such as costumes worn by actors for filmed scenes in games.

View the finding aid for Lou Castle’s Westwood Studios Slide Collection.