Monday, April 18, 2011

The Sears Video Arcade II

Just to drive the point home once again, and also because I have these photos on my desktop, here's the packaging for the Sears Tele-Arcade II.  It's a re-branded Atari, the version that was sold in Japan under the name, Atari 2800.  I actually saw one of these up close at a used-games store in Bloomington, MN.  It's very stylish and very nice.  Too bad the controllers or the box weren't included, but I guess that's what Ebay is for.

Video games were not a new idea in 1983, when this model was released.  The general public had a pretty good idea of what these machines were about, and kids were already hooked for years.  So this isn't a matter of introducing a new technology to an uninformed audience.  This is about branding.  It's about selling video games as a fun social tool, a leisure activity where friends and family can come together, and everyone is welcome, young or old.  Let's have fun together.

I love the illustrations from the game cartridges on the box.  The box art is one of the best-loved things about the Atari era.  We just loved these illustrations.  I was even showing some Atari games to Marcee tonight, and we were having a lot of fun admiring the artwork and cracking jokes.  I can't remember the last time I saw a video game box that was remotely interesting.  It's all photoshop and corporate marketing and CGI art assets.  Snooze.  Doesn't anybody use pencils and paints anymore?  The Atari illustrations could be put into museums and hung on your wall.  They're magnificent.

Sean Malstrom was right.  The biggest threat to modern videogames is indifference.  It was never chiseled into stone that these things would last forever.  Pinball machines didn't last forever, neither did rock 'n roll or drive-in theaters.  Why should this icon of youth be any different?  Today's video games are no longer fun.  They're bloated and pompous and arrogant, and far too expensive.  Heck, these people don't even want to make video games anymore; they want to make movies or art statements, or whatever.  I'd much rather just tell my kids to go play outside.  They'll face enough pompous bullshit when they get to high school.  Let 'em have fun for now.

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