In 1981, Commodore introduced the Vic 20 home computer, which sold for around $300. The first computer more easily afforded by average families, it revolutionized home computing. Scott Elder and his brother Gary were tinkering with games—and programming them—on their own simple computer, an Ohio Scientific 2P, which they bought secondhand. Scott admits he was not the best student in high school, but somehow, he had a talent for writing code. As soon as the Vic 20 came out, he […]
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Video games have transformed the way we play, and The Strong National Museum of Play has long been at the forefront of collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of gaming. Now, as part of a 90,000 sq. ft. museum expansion, guests have the opportunity to explore 24,000 sq. ft of new exhibits dedicated to video games. Among these new exhibits, ESL Digital Worlds: High Score provides guests with an unparalleled look at the historical and cultural significance of video games. […]
Where we play often determines how we play. This fact is often forgotten when we look at the history of play, whether that’s in a monograph or a museum collection. Place shapes play.
Let’s consider this historically. For most of human history, living quarters were nasty, brutish, and cramped. There was little room for interior play in a dark, dirty hovel, unless that play was fairly confined. In a northern climate like Iceland in the Middle Ages, that might mean playing […]
I was in high school when I first played the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Final Fantasy XI. I was one of the early North American players, importing the PC version from Japan prior to the release of the first expansion pack, Rise of the Zilart, as it wasn’t clear when, if ever, the game would come to the United States. There was a solid English-speaking community on the Ragnarok server, and I never got terribly far in the game […]
I previously blogged about some Japanese Super Nintendo video games I had cataloged during my first few months as Curator of Electronic Games. Reflecting on my own memories of playing Super Nintendo and other systems of that generation and seeing the Japanese games I was cataloging, I recognized that many genres popular overseas often did not make it stateside.
The Sega Saturn was immensely popular in Japan, its library totaling more than one thousand games. By contrast, the American Saturn library […]
One of the joys of working in a museum collection is seeing the variety of objects that come into the museum. In 2022, my weekly round of photography brought me in contact with a mix of Pokémon plush figures. But photographing some classic Pokémon wasn’t my only interaction with the franchise. I spent February 2022 exploring the open world of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In December, I completed my Pokédex in Pokémon Scarlet. I continued to procrastinate on several planned Pokémon […]
“Hey, you! Greenhorn. Come on out and play like a man!” challenged the dozen cowboys staring me down from an ad in an issue of Electronic Games magazine. This rhetoric surprised me in 2023, but I imagine it would have been even more jarring for readers in 1981 when the ad for Activision’s Stampede first appeared. “Play like a man!” seemed unusual, because playfulness is so rarely connected to conventional forms of American masculinity as a key trait. Yet here […]
Game design is learned by doing. Get a game with a level editor or a scenario maker or whatever and create something. Get some friends to try it. Don’t TELL them how to play. Instead, watch them and see what happens.—Arnold Hendrick
Granting a rare interview in 2009 and reflecting on his career, Arnold Hendrick (1961–2020) described his passion for wargaming and then for game design. His first published game appeared as the game supplement in the wargaming magazine Strategy & […]
There has always been a close connection between bowling and video games for me. As a kid, I spent many nights playing with one of my brothers at our local candlepin bowling center. While my father hurled softball-sized balls down the bowling alley’s lanes, my brother and I often rolled digital bowling balls on a video game in the alley’s arcade. What I didn’t realize then was that while many of the first commercial video games of the 1970s centered […]