From Pixel to Paper: The Centipede Board Game

From Pixel to Paper: The Centipede Board Game

Centipede Arcade Game, Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New YorkIn 1981, Atari released Centipedea shoot ‘em up arcade game comprised of pixilated creepy-crawlies—created by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey, one of the first female game designers. To play the game, a player used a trackball controller and a single firing button to shoot at a large centipede as it wound its way down the screen and through a field of mushrooms. The player also needed to steer clear of spiders, fleas and scorpions. The game quickly became one of Atari’s most well-liked 8-bit games. Traditional game manufacturers recognized the popularity of Centipede, and in 1983, Milton Bradley released a board game interpretation. To learn more about what it takes to create such an adaptation, I had the pleasure of discussing its evolution with the board game’s designer, Bruce Whitehill.

Never Alone: Protecting Cultural Heritage through Interactive Play

Never Alone: Protecting Cultural Heritage through Interactive Play

I recently listened to independent researcher Paul J. Hale’s Disney Story Origins podcast. In each episode, Hale seeks to understand the historical facts or origins of folklores, myths, and tales adapted by Disney for the big screen. Hale’s podcast presents amusing factoids and comparisons. In Disney’s Mulan, for example, the heroine has a token sidekick,…

Remembering Ralph

Remembering Ralph

I lost a friend this past weekend. I first got to know Ralph Baer a little over seven years ago when he reached out to us at The Strong to see if we might be interested in preserving materials documenting his lifework. We, of course, were interested—after all, he was a legend, the man who…

Video Game Focus Groups as History

Video Game Focus Groups as History

ICHEG collects a vast variety of archival materials such as artwork, design documents, and interoffice communication that provide researchers with essential details about how game companies and designers conceived, thought about, created, and sold their games.

The Virtual World of LEGOs

The Virtual World of LEGOs

When Danish carpenter Ole Christiansen sensed a demand for inexpensive, quality playthings in the 1930s, he crafted wooden blocks and other toys and soon founded LEGO. In 1949, the company produced a set of red and white interlocking plastic bricks entitled “Automatic Building Blocks.” For decades, LEGO sets have provided children and adults with hours…

Jordan Mechner Collection Documents Revolution in Game Graphics

Jordan Mechner Collection Documents Revolution in Game Graphics

A century ago, Max and Dave Fleischer, two brothers from Brooklyn, developed a device that allowed animators to capture live-action events frame by frame. They tested their system on the roof of Max’s apartment building, where Dave, wearing a black clown suit, cavorted in front of a white sheet. Max captured the movements on film…

A Second Revolution in Game Distribution

A Second Revolution in Game Distribution

Biologists who study the fossil record note that dramatic blooms in the number and diversity of species interrupt long periods of stasis or gradual change in animal forms. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould termed this phenomenon “punctuated equilibrium” and wrote a book, Wonderful Life, about the sudden efflorescence of fossils during the Cambrian period about 550…

Pirates Sail on the Video Game Screen

Pirates Sail on the Video Game Screen

Homer and Cicero wrote about incidents involving sea robbers that threatened the trading routes of Ancient Greece and Rome more than 2,000 years ago. Since then, each era has encountered new brands of pirates. Popular culture today glorifies the picture of a band of outlaws who are guided by the wind and their own set…

The Lasting Appeal of Chase Games

The Lasting Appeal of Chase Games

Frequently my two-year-old daughter Sidney greets me with two words: “chase, Daddy.” It’s a request that usually leads to lots of laughter and me circling around tables and chairs as I chase her throughout our house. In psychologist Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn, he notes that young mammals of nearly all species play chase…

Study or Visit Space with this Video Game Series

Study or Visit Space with this Video Game Series

Physicists and astronomers tend to maintain two schools of thoughts on space exploration. The first school focuses on cost management and quick results and concludes that robotic, unmanned missions prove the best approach to space exploration. The second school advocates for humans to travel to space. “It’s our prerogative as an intelligent species, our cosmic…