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Bill Loguidice's picture

Pong - Your thoughts on arguably the true originator of our industry

Hey guys! I'll be working on the Pong chapter while I'm working on the Spacewar! chapter, as their historical lead-ups kind of run in parallel. In any case, Pong needs no introduction, from its first conceptual appearance on Ralph Baer's Brown Box that "inspired" Nolan Bushnell to ask Al Alcorn to create the original arcade game, to the precursor to it all from 1958, William Higginbotham's "Tennis for Two". Of course I'll also be discussing the various home Pong systems and clones and a few ways that the game influenced future games. As always, your thoughts are much appreciated for this truly iconic game.

YouTubed - Prehistoric Safari (Odyssey, 1972)

Well, sorry it's been so long since my last entry but I've been trying to come up with a way to convey the look and feel of Odyssey games without getting even more verbose than I already am. Solution!--YouTube and a new camera that actually records sound! This should help everyone understand the mechanics of Odyssey's lightgun game, Prehistoric Safari.

Prehistoric Safari (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Prehistoric Safari: Sounds like thunder; tastes like chicken.Prehistoric Safari: Sounds like thunder; tastes like chicken.Shooting Gallery is an add-on for the Magnavox Odyssey. It comes with four games, each with its own Überlay. Three of the games use the included game cart #9 and the fourth uses #10. The add-on comes in its own box with a GUN! A realistic looking rifle type of gun that plugs right into a socket built into the Odyssey! This gun is the kind of "non-orange" fake gun that will get you seriously killed if you "playfully" aim it at an officer of the law. So, uh, DON'T do that, 'kay kids?

In Prehistoric Safari, you USE the GUN! You are the MIGHTY HUNTER! However, you've lost most of your ammunition in the volcano (see it on the uberlay?) so you only have 15 shots. After 15 shots you'd better get back to your own world, using whatever method got you there (time machine, submarine or tiny raft). PlayerTwo is just the assistant, whom we always call "Jim". Jim's job is to move the target light behind each of the hideous beasts from before time. The Hunter should attempt to obliterate only the beast behind which the light is sitting. Jim keeps the light still until the Hunter takes the shot, and then, hit or miss, 'ol Jim moves the light behind another creature that should not be! The player's roles are reversed after 15 shots, and the person with the most "kills" after one round wins the game.

Percepts (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

1972 Percepts Überlay: Not the most attractive of the lot, but hey, it was FREE!1972 Percepts Überlay: Not the most attractive of the lot, but hey, it was FREE!

Percepts is the free Odyssey game you get for registering your Odyssey. You know the drill: you fill out a little slip of paper and mail it in to Magnavox; they get your personal information for nefarious marketing purposes and you get a free game. Not a bad deal!

Quick FYI. For some reason I've heard (or I've imagined I've heard) this game misnamed as "Precepts". For those of you who care to know: it's Percepts, as in perception. This isn't an outright tip, but let's just say it's a lot easier to find one of these on eBay if you're allowing for the probability that many non-gamer-sellers misspell the title as Precepts.

This game falls into the "seek and go to" category of Odyssey games in that a player must determine where to go on the screen and get there before their opponent does. Percepts comes with two decks (Purple and Green) of 15 cards each, an Überlay (both sizes) and a set of instructions. There are two Percepts games described in the instructions, but you can have fun coming up with your own variations if the mood hits you.

Simon Says (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Simon Says: Their ubiquitous gaze haunts me to this day . . .Simon Says: Their ubiquitous gaze haunts me to this day . . .I was unable to cajole my son into playing this game with me, but since there is a kitty cat on the Überlay I was able to lure my three year old daughter into playing it. She enjoyed it so much, that she requested to play it again on three separate occasions since.

Simon Says is best played with three people. Two people each handling a controller and a third person who plays the role of Simon. Simon draws one of the provided off-screen accessory cards, reads it and says aloud: "Simon Says: fine the (body part indicated on card)". The players have to move their PlayerSpots from their starting square to the corresponding body-part on one of the colorful Überlay children or one of their strangely legless pets. The person who gets their PlayerSpot to the correct spot first, gets to keep the card. The person with the most cards wins the game.

If the person playing Simon chooses to make it so, then the role of Simon can be played as a crafty trickster, sometimes omitting the words "Simon Says" from the command phrase. The rule being, of course, that if Simon doesn’t say “Simon says” than nobody is supposed to move their PlayerSpot at all or suffer terrible consequences, such as the loss of a card. Being the playful, tormenting father that I am, I tried it that way but quickly discovered that I should probably wait until she turns four before trying to “fake out” my daughter. It just pissed her off in a very, “Why must you cause me such pain, Daddy?” kind of way. I changed the rule to Simon having to say “please” for a command to be followed. This was more easily understood by my daughter because it’s something my wife and I are drilling into her in real life. She enjoyed chirping back at me "You didn't say 'please'!" whenever I tried to trick her.

States (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

The States Overlay: Alternative solution to the immigration issue; move Alaska and Hawaii into Mexico!The States Overlay: Alternative solution to the immigration issue; move Alaska and Hawaii into Mexico!This title is purely and quite overtly an edutainment title making its debut long before the term was ever coined. Analogic may have concealed its arithmetic stylings in a sci-fi envelope, but nobody would mistake States as being anything but an enthusiastic attempt to capture the hearts and wallets of America's education-minded parents.

The overlay is a map of the good 'ol United States of America, which wouldn't be complete if they didn't have the Alaska/Hawaii combo scaled-to-fit and hovering over a vanished Mexico. The off-screen props consist of 50 cards, an answer brochure entitled “Affairs of States” and a “study map”. The 50 cards each highlight a specific state with three questions about the state. The answer brochure is exactly what it sounds like, and is handier than dragging out an encyclopedia. The "study map" is a paper version of the overlay, and reminds me of the type of placemat they give kids to color while waiting for their order at a Denny's(tm) or an IHoP(tm).

Analogic (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Analogic: Takes place on a spacescape overlayed by a grid of seemingly random numbers.Analogic: Takes place on a spacescape overlayed by a grid of seemingly random numbers. It impresses me that the Odyssey, a system that doesn't do math, would be the system to introduce a game with arithmetic as its focus. In addition to being the first math edutainment vehicle, Analogic is also the first Science Fiction-themed home videogame.

The Analogic Überlay is a grid of seemingly random numbers superimposed over a simple spacescape. I say "seemingly" because those numbers are actually a maze. (It's important to keep that in mind for later.) Each player controls a PlayerSpot which starts the game at either the planet Even in the upper left, or the planet Odd in the lower right. They represent “light beam transceivers”. The light beam itself is the BallSpot. To setup the game, players bring out the BallSpot and, using their ENGLIGH knobs, maneuver it so that it is constantly bouncing back and forth between the two PlayerSpots.

The object of Analogic is for each player to traverse the space between the Odd/Even worlds and reach the other player’s starting position before their opponent does by choosing odd or even numbers on a vertical or horizontal path. Doing so will involve math.

Haunted House (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Haunted House Overlay: Even the translucent areas retain their spookiness.Haunted House Overlay: Even the translucent areas retain their spookiness.I love the Überlay for this game. It's a silhouette of a stereotypical haunted house. The house is three stories tall and filled with items such as bats, cats, skulls and candelabra. You play the game by moving your Detective through the house and "lighting" each item one at a time, in order, as specified by numbered, drawn cards. (For those just tuning in, "Lighting" involves moving your TV square behind an on-screen area, causing it to glow.) If you successfully light the item, you collect the card for that item.

Cat and Mouse (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Cat & Mouse Overlay: What's a five-letter word for devoured?Cat & Mouse Overlay: What's a five-letter word for devoured?Picture a crossword puzzle grid (see overlay left). You know the type, empty squares (for the letters) and full squares (uh, not for the letters). The players start with their Player Spots on the Mouse and Cat icons respectively, which are already placed in the maze. In one corner of the maze is a "mouse house". (Yes, that's what "they" call it). The mouse has to get to his house before the cat gets him, but must do so by moving through only the white squares of the maze. The cat must obey the same limitation. If either the cat spot or the mouse spot overlap with one of the dark parts of the crossword puzzle-like landscape, they have to go back to their starting position.

Submarine (Magnavox Odyssey, 1972)

Submarine's Overlay: Similar to Ski except for the "being torpedoed" part.Submarine's Overlay: Similar to Ski except for the "being torpedoed" part.I think that Submarine would count as the First Home Shooter, ever!

PlayerOne plays the Convoy Commander and controls the square on the screen designated as “The Convoy”. The Convoy Commander must move the ConvoySpot through the shipping lanes, represented by a convoluted path, by staying on the path the whole way. If the Commander strays off the path, a ship in the aggregate ConvoySpot inevitably hits a mine and sinks. Meanwhile, PlayerTwo is the Submarine Commander. The Submarine Commander sits just outside the shipping lanes and tries to sink the convoy ships.

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