Tech #10: Video Games for the Home!
One thing you'll notice when looking at old video game advertisements is that it was marketed as a social activity, much like a board game. Early video game ads weren't much different than ads for Monopoly or Twister - it was something for the whole family to take part in (or at least husband and wife). Somehow, the video game experience has morphed into a solo activity, or with anonymous players online, and it's all about the graphics and virtual experience. Although, Guitar Hero and many Wii games hearken back to the home video game's early days.
Back in the day, almost no kid had a TV in their room (they were freakin' expensive) and a TV and a video game system in their room was basically unheard of. It's probably not too off the mark to say that MOST kids in America have a TV and video game system in their room; whereas, in the 1970s and even 1980s, it was always in the family room.
Of course, I mustn't paint too rosy a picture of the early video game experience - it was a far, far cry from a Norman Rockwell painting. My brother and I fought like hell over the video games (literal physical brawls - like cage fights in the living room) and we could get pretty addicted. I remember spending entire days trying to "turn over" Defender and Asteroids.
Indeed, it was nothing like these happy families bonding over their new Atari... but at least it was doing something together.
And you can't blame dad for looking so excited in these pictures - he's not so much happy about family togetherness as he is glad to (1) have something to shut these kids up and (2) not have to shell out all that cash going to the arcade. A quarter in 1983 is equivalent to about 53 cents today - and you may remember, those games often didn't last long. A lot of money went into those machines.
You might have learned from this blog, I have the type of personality that can't do anything in moderation. When I start a blog it's going to be at least an hour every night unless there's a fire or someone dies. In that same way, when my parents bought me Space Invaders and Missile Command, I couldn't just play in moderation.... I had to conquer it. I had to make it my bitch.
Still, when I think back to video games during my childhood, they're not all pleasant, but they're with the family. Now, I picture pasty fat assed kids alone in their room playing Halo.
The old games were much less complex, but no less enjoyable. Although, there were certain games like Frogger which were endlessly frustrating. There was nothing worse than making it across the entire stretch of highway, only to miss a log at the very last jump. God, it was painful.
What do you notice in common with all these ads? Basically, they all feature only white families. I double dare you to find me a home video game ad that features a black family.... okay, maybe in Ebony or Jet.
Even when it's just kids, no adults, it's strictly a Caucasian endeavor. Interesting.