Recently, Minecraft fever struck my house. All four of my children now play the game and one Saturday morning my kids showed me the houses, sheep farms, mines, and other creations they built in the game using blocks they mined or harvested from stone, ore, wood, or other materials. The buildings were creative, beautiful, and strong enough to survive late night monster attacks.
Temple Run, an iPhone game, was recently the rage at my son’s school, so he downloaded it to my phone. It’s a basic survival game in which the player, an explorer, flees with the idol from a jungle temple. The game rewards quick decisions as the player tries to stay on the path and jump or slide under obstacles while attempting to outrun a pack of man-eating monkeys. The monkeys always win, but it’s a lot of fun trying to escape.
We do! Recently, news reports cited as wasteful spending a $113,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to The Strong’s International Center for the History of Electronic Games to preserve video games. We disagree. We believe video games not only are the most dynamic, exciting, and innovative form of media today but also an important form of play and a driver of cultural change.
The more than 140 arcade cabinets ICHEG owns are key components of our tens of thousands of video games and related artifacts.
One of my favorite games in ICHEG’s collection is Atari’s 1976 arcade classic Breakout, an elegant, one-player elaboration of Pong. Players move a paddle side-to-side to keep a bouncing ball in play long enough to knock down multicolored layers of bricks. A tone sounds each time a ball strikes a brick. The ball speeds up with each successive layer of bricks, making it harder and harder to hit. Breakout is a seductive game, easy to learn, difficult to master.
On September 4th, the video game industry lost a true pioneer. Bill Kunkel, founder of Electronic Games magazine and longtime video game journalist, passed away at the age of 61.
Kunkel began his career writing comic books and covering the wrestling industry, but he made his greatest impact as a journalist chronicling, celebrating, and critiquing video games. Over the years he worked on numerous publications, designed games and taught about them, and in 1981 cofounded, with Arnie Katz and Joyce Wetzel, Electronic Games magazine.
This summer three students provided important assistance to ICHEG. Two Rochester Institute of Technology game design majors, Ned Blakely and Matt Fico, upgraded equipment in our research lab, captured game footage for archival purposes, and created multimedia experiences to include in our eGameRevolution exhibit opening this November. Josh Keaton, a student from the State University of New York at Brockport, assisted with background research for the exhibit. Here, in no particular order, are ten books Josh found helpful:
Home video games turn 45 this week. That’s right, on August 31, 1966, Ralph Baer originated the idea of playing a video game on a television. An electrical engineer and employee of defense contractor Sanders Associates, Inc., Ralph had toyed with the idea of using a television to play some sort of game before, but, now, the thoughts crystallized into a definite concept.
The Entertainment Software Association just released their newest data on the current state of video game play in the United States. The document reports that sales of video game software and hardware topped $25 billion last year, the average age of a gamer is 37, and 29% of gamers are over the age of 50. The report also notes that 72% of American households play video games.