- Ludic Cartography. Mapping Gamespaces
- Past Projects
- Preserving Virtual Worlds
- Research and Publication
Many lifetimes ago I worked for a video game enthusiast magazine called Tips & Tricks. It featured several strategy guides every month and also printed thousands of cheat codes. When the magazine was still alive and kicking, there was a short Wikipedia entry describing it and all of the employees. Upon a recent check I saw that this entry had gone the way of the dinosaur. This was a bit of a letdown, but also a wake-up call that for something to be preserved, someone needs to advocate for its inclusion in the historical record.
Enter Roger Burton, the Editor-In-Chief of Game Losers, a website devoted to covering underreported sports and video game stories. A former reader of Tips & Tricks, he was curious about the history of the magazine, and thanks to the aforementioned lack of information on Wikipedia, he decided to track down many of the old writers and interview them, including yours truly.
So if you are interested in reading about my sordid history as a video game journalist way, way, waaaay back in the day, Burton’s “A Comprehensive Oral History of Tips & Tricks – The #1 Video-Game Tips Magazine” has got you covered.
California Extreme: The 18th Annual Arcade & Pinball Show was held from July 12-13, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA. This is a show where collectors who own classic arcade cabinets and pinball machines bring out their wares for the public to play firsthand, giving a new generation of gamers the opportunity to experience very old titles like Space War or Computer Space. It’s an excellent value with all of the machines set to free play, and the cost of entry only $30-40 a day for one adult. The Saturday show ran from 11am until 2am the next morning, so any gamer with the stamina could play for 15 hours (more if s/he paid for early entry.)
The last time I attended California Extreme was about a decade ago, and what I remember most vividly about that experience (aside from the fact that someone had to sleep on the hotel room radiator) was that I played a lot of Slick Shot, and that it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was expecting. There was space to roam around, and a lot of the machines I wanted to play were open.
I gave a short talk recently at the Society of California Archivists Annual General Meeting, during the panel session, "What the Hell Is It, and What Do I Do With It?: Cataloging Challenging Collections." My talk focused on the challenges associated with working with the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection, specifically in relationship to the Cabrinety-NIST grant. The slides from the presentation are available on slideshare.
Here at Stanford, the Cabrinety-NIST project is nearing the end of its two-year term. In addition to migrating data from original media and creating photographic documentation, a major aspect of the final phase will be to find and reach out to copyright holders who own the rights for software in the Cabrinety collection. Although we have made contact with some of the major publishers, there are still a significant number of titles for which we have not been able to identify rights holders. Discovery of rights holders is a difficult and time-consuming process. For many of the items in the Cabrinety collection it has been nearly impossible to determine whom to contact. As a result, we are publishing this open letter here on the HTGG blog.
This year’s Game Developer’s Conference was the most attended in the history of the conference, with more than 24,000 people descending on the San Francisco Moscone Center from March 17-21, 2014. There was something for everyone. If you wanted a hands-on experience, the MADE (Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment), the Videogame History Museum, Wild Rumpus, and the Indie MEGABOOTH showcase all offered playable games in their exhibit spaces. Feeling nostalgic about classic game titles? There were game postmortems for Zork and Robotron: 2084, plus a first-ever studio postmortem for Lucasfilm Games. Two of my favorite sessions from last year were repeated—the GDC Microtalks and the GDC Rants, where ten speakers are given about five minutes to talk/rant about a topic of their choice. If you wanted something a bit more in-depth, advocacy sessions and roundtables addressed complex issues ranging from gender equality to government funding to game preservation. The IGF Awards and the GDC Choice Awards honored game developers both old and new, and best of all, the GDC Choice Awards were hosted by a woman for the first time—Abbie Heppe, who is the community manager at Respawn Entertainment, and who I coincidentally worked alongside many years ago when we were both editors at Tips & Tricks Magazine.
I've been working with the Cabrinety collection for a year now. However, the collection has been part of Stanford for more than a decade. I am far from the first person to handle it and I won't be the last. For my last blog post of this year, I wanted to spend some time talking about the man behind the collection.
Stephen Michael Cabrinety was born in Sayre, Pennsylvania on August 4, 1966. He started collecting microcomputing software, hardware, and related materials while still in high school, and continued making acquisitions for the rest of his short life. In 1982 Stephen dropped out of Stanford University and founded Superior Software, Inc. where he served as its Director of Development. Superior Software, Inc. released three educational software titles for the Apple II computer in 1982. The titles are listed below along with their locations within the collection:
1. Legendary Conflict (Series 1, Box 254)
2. Quest for the Scarlet Letter (Series 1, Box 93 and Box 254)
3. The Breckenridge Caper of 1798 (Series 1, Box 254)
The following is a guest post by Christopher Fox, a student employee at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). For over four years, Christopher has provided NIST’s National Software Reference Library project with data entry services and the application development demands that support those services. He is currently completing his senior year at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where he is earning a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. He started working on the video game software part of the Cabrinety project when the group hit a dead end trying to collect data from gaming cartridges. Since Chris enjoys gaming and found a way to collect save data from older games for his own purposes, he offered to explore and share methods of extracting data from these obsolete formats.
Disclaimer: Trade names and company products are mentioned in the text or identified. In no case does such identification imply recommendation or endorsement by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, nor does it imply that the products are necessarily the best available for the purpose.
Earlier this year, Matthew Kirschenbaum posted an article to Slate where he listed what he considered to be the 10 most influential software programs of all time, based on his own personal experience. Out of curiosity, I compared his list to the contents of the Cabrinety collection, and found that out of his list of 10, there are currently 4 titles (or versions/adaptations of those titles) represented. Thanks to Stephen M. Cabrinety's foresight, some of these now historical titles are also in pristine condition. These are shown in the images below.
Adventure (Atari 2600 adaptation of the classic text adventure game)
Note: Fans of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones to television fans) know that he's been using WordStar for decades to write his books.
Hypercard (came bundled with student diskette)
Programmers today fight an uphill battle to keep their skills current, as changing technologies and constant advancements make it nearly impossible for even the most adept computer scientists to stay ahead of the curve. In today’s videogame market, coding and shipping a game as an amateur requires incredible discipline, as self-taught and independent game developers need to attain a level of expertise and make a time commitment that is well beyond the reach and/or willingness of the average person. Just watch Indie Game: The Movie (currently available on Netflix streaming and the official movie site) to see the toll the creative process takes on the individuals behind bestselling indie games Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Fez.
The Cabrinety collection is comprised primarily of games, but also includes a fair chunk of unique software applications that have nothing to do with entertainment. One of the strangest is the subliminal message application, where the user undergoes a computer-assisted form of self-hypnosis in order to achieve a specific goal without doing any actual work – for example, raising a child. The “Mind Over…” series and the “Expando-Vision” series are the best-represented so far, but I look forward to seeing what else is hidden in the depths of the collection. Here’s a look at some of the box covers. I take no responsibility if they subliminally influence you in any way.
The Expando-Vision series
1. Athletic Confidence/Golf
The caption on this cover says, “Fill your subconscious with the positive images you need to improve your game of golf…while you watch your favorite television shows!” Since normally these boxes depict someone accomplishing the stated goal, I’m not sure why this box shows a guy inside a sand trap while a woman wearing a single white glove looks on in disdain. Maybe he’s developed so much confidence he doesn’t care what she thinks of him?
2. Career/Success Motivation