Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 3    April 1998


By Chris Federico and Adam Trionfo

How orphaned are these game systems that Chris and I cover if there is so much to write about? There are still new games appearing for most of the old systems, with most of the activity seeming to center around the Atari 2600.

Last night, using my Supercharger, I played a recent Freeware game that I never could have imagined appearing on the VCS: a text adventure! There's no keyboard, of course, but it still works rather well with just a joystick. It is rather more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book than, say, an Infocom game.

I also had the rare experience of playing what Chris and I suspect to be a pirate version of Ms. Pac-man at a local pseudo-arcade called Block Party. The coin-op's case is labeled Ms. Pac-man, and everything about the game is the same -- except that all of the action-related graphics have been replaced! Instead of playing the part of the famous yellow heroine, you play a fire fighter who's being chased around by packs of cigarettes. The Energizers have been replaced by lighters, the consumption of which enables you to smoke the now fleeing cigarettes. The usual dots deployed along the maze have been replaced by flames which you must extinguish. I was amazed to find this game at a mainstream venue. Does anyone know where to find more details about this?

Before the next issue appears, there will an Orphaned Computers & Game Systems web page that will contain back issues and additional information not available in paper copy. The site will be set up in a similar fashion to the newsletter you're holding, with issues available for downloading to print hard copies. It will employ an easy-to-navigate hierarchy set up for quick access to whatever you're looking for. You'll find no advertisements and no graphics -- just a cool, fast download! -- AT

I was surprised to find that Block Party, which Adam mentioned, had not only the pirate game but also a semi-circle of other classic coin-ops. And people were playing them! There were Missile Command, Centipede and Stargate. It was obviously a thrill to play Stargate, remembering how to use the button controls effectively (and actually not making a fool of myself, if you can believe that!). But it made me realize that these "orphaned" games actually make up a new, reasonably lucrative industry.

When Adam started this newsletter a mere four years ago, it could still be considered an inarguably underground forum. Classic games were already being collected by a lot of people, but it wasn't considered an actual market; it was, more or less, an affront to the idea of getting newer, more expensive slicko systems. But now, after the appearance of Williams Classics and other CD-ROMs available for IBM computers, classic gaming has ceased to be a mere hobby. Are we, as classic machine enthusiasts, simply part of the new mainstream? If you were to take a look on the Internet, you'd certainly wonder. Sure, we don't make up the majority of the gaming fans in the world -- not even close. But interest in the boxes of yore is gradually becoming more rampant, and it'll be interesting to see how far it goes before the status quo of gaming hops back off the nostalgia train and finally gets on with being its usual, supposedly progressive self.

You'll notice that this issue contains a lot of stuff about creating games, alongside the expected material dealing with playing them. It's safe to say that Adam and I have felt the slight pangs of a dilemma we're both having: We own tons of video games, old and new, but the flames in our heads scold us for playing more than creating. Sure, we get this tasty hunk of text out to you fine people every couple of months, but we've both undertaken projects that are still in progress, and the main one is the programming of a game. We've both written tons of programs before, but now we're attempting to write a super-sonic Amiga game. We need to learn Blitz BASIC, but we can't stop playing games long enough to concentrate! I suppose that the relevant material herein is an attempt to make sense of our irresponsible impulses. -- CF