The Life & Death of the American Arcade

The Verge has a fascinating (and long) read, “For Amusement Only: the life and death of the American arcade.”

“The crash of 1983 nearly killed off the entire video game industry. It wasn’t just arcades that suffered, though this marks the beginning of their very steep and permanent decline. History has told us that the rise of home gaming killed off arcades, and so our own laziness is to blame. To an extent, of course, that’s true. If this were a history of video games, it would be time to talk about Nintendo, and the epic release of the revolutionary NES console in 1985. This event reinvigorated a decimated industry, and ultimately gave birth to the video games ecosystem we all still live in. But that didn’t happen until 1985, and so it wasn’t technology that killed off the arcade, not to begin with. It’s fair to concede that the arcade, already dying, was allowed to stay dead because we were all happily gaming at home by the time anybody noticed that all of the actual arcades were disappearing, and fast.”

Marching Band + Video Game = Nothing but Goodness

If you missed it when @the_nerdery tweeted it this morning, this video of the Ohio State University paying tribute to classic video games really is a wonder to behold. If you’re the impatient type, fast forward to six minutes and just watch the running horse bit. It’s amazing.

What are Indie Video Games?

More awesomeness from PBS’ Off Book series.

Did blowing in Nintendo cartridges really help?

“When things went wrong inside your NES, the problem was usually a bad connection between the cartridge and its slot. That could be due to tarnishing, corrosion, crud in various places, weak pins in the slot, or other issues. The symptoms of a bad connection could include the game not starting at all, the console showing a blinking light, or the game starting up with garbage all over the screen. . . To combat these problems, in the mid-1980s my friends and I somehow learned this secret: if we took out the cartridge, blew in it, and reinserted it, it worked. And if it didn’t work the first time, it eventually worked, on the second or fifth or tenth time. But looking back on it, I wondered: did that blowing actually help? And if it did…why?”

The folks over at Mental Floss have investigated the age-old question does blowing in Nintendo cartridges really help?. Anecdotal evidence from anyone who has tried this trick would point to yes. You’ll have to head over to Mental Floss to see what their experts had to say about the issue.

How not to handle customer service, or don’t make the nerds mad

In that strange in-between time when the Internet is awash with 2,011 year-end ‘Best of’ lists, the nerd-rage descending upon the head of a clueless and inept PR flak is probably the best thing to read today.

Penny Arcade has the full saga about Dave who just wanted his swanky PS3 Avenger controller and Paul, the not-so-adept PR/Marketing man who will probably looking for a new job in 2012 (that’s my prediction).

This story has made Penny Arcade a bit spotty on the up-time, but you can check out excerpts of the fracas at Kotaku, Forever Geek, Tech Crunch, and just about every other nerd-centric blog.

I don’t know what it is about these sort of customer service flame outs that are so darn interesting, but I can’t look away.

Classic video game deaths

Seen on Kottke

Title Scream

Between anxiety over Adobe’s acquisition of Typekit and excitement over tomorrow’s iPhone announcement, I figured you could use a nice little escape. Enter Title Scream, a nice little collection of title screens from 8-bit and 16-bit video games. I particularly liked this gem:

Who killed the video game?

Since spending many many hours on Sunday listening to Wil Wheaton read Ernest Cline’s fabulous book Ready Player One, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about video games. This book is pretty fabulous even if your nerdy-inclinations don’t bend towards Sci-Fi or 80s pop culture or classic video games (mine don’t and I still loved it).

So when I stumbled upon Cory Doctorow (who is mentioned in the book) posting about the death of video games on Boing Boing my heart raced a little. Doctorow’s post points to Tim Rogers’ “who killed video games?” (a ghost story). Which is a bit misleading because I’m not entirely sure if social games (ala Farmville and Social Sims) should be put in the same bucket as other games (like, I don’t Pac-Man. Remember how I said my nerdy-inclinations didn’t include video game knowledge?).

Regardless, Rogers’ piece is pretty interesting about how calculating and evil-genius-y the creators of these social games are and how they program the fun out of the game and put more on the suffering part of it. Sure, the article is white text on a black background and is firmly in the tl;dr zone, but if you got some time to spare and good eyes give it a read. With everything we do becoming increasingly ‘gamified’ it’s kind of cool to see how these game-makers are pulling our strings.

Supreme Court rules Video Games protected by Constitution

Yesterday, in a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled that video games, even violent ones, are indeed protected under the first amendment of the US Constitution. The ruling came in the case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, and concerned a California law that would have enforced fines on anyone selling violent video games to people under 18. In the decision Justice Antonin Scalia wrote:

“Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

Head on over to The New York Times for more about the decision and why Scalia said violent speech is different from obscenity.

Heaven is a place on the Internet

Did you catch yesterday’s xkcd?

That’s it right over there ——->

Funny, huh?

You know what makes it even better? The good people at G U D magazine made it possible for you to play that heavenly version of Tetris. Pretty sweet.