Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever run as fast as you can while holding a computer? If not, what's the largest object you've ever held while running full speed?
I bought Rayman for the Atari Jaguar shortly after it came out in 1995, hopeful it would bring some Mario-style platforming magic to Atari's "64-bit" machine. While lushly illustrated with a deep color palette, I found the gameplay and the controls a little kludgy, and I had trouble advancing past one of the first few stages. I gave up and moved on to other games.
Shorty thereafter, I lent Rayman and my Jaguar to my brother and his roommate to play at college, and they beat it within a few days. Determination was just as important as skill when it came to completing video games in those days, and I had no motivation to torture myself with a frustrating game.
Which brings me to a tangential point: When I was a kid, if I couldn't beat a video game, I thought it meant that I was a bad video game player. I thought it was my fault. But years later I realized that the games that frustrated me most were just poorly designed.
Not to say that all difficult games are bad games — in fact, I'd say there's a big difference between "difficult" and "frustrating." Merely difficult games are still fun even if you fail; they make you want to try again to complete a challenge. Frustrating ones feel unfair and make you want to smash your game console with a hammer.
One of my friends did that to his NES once. He also threw it off his second story apartment balcony. Ah; those were the days.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever visited physical violence against a video game console or controller?
There is a certain rustic beauty in hand-drawn video game notes that I will never cease to enjoy. Case in point: this map/reference key created by family friend Chris when he was a kid in the 1980s. I'm not quite sure what game it was for (other than "Golf"),
but it was likely a game for the Apple IIc, as I found it among related Apple IIc ephemera when I acquired his collection some years ago.
For more hand-drawn video game goodness, check out this VC&G post about my friend's Deadly Towers maps from 2006.
[ Update: 06/03/2013 - I was just talking to my brother, and he thinks that either he drew this alone or I wrote the letters and he drew the numbers. It was either a reference to a Golf game he programmed in C in 1991, or an old Atari 800 golf game that I haven't found yet. I still think it's possible that Chris wrote the letters. ]
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you ever hand-draw maps for modern video games?
This is not particularly retro — in fact, it's from 2005. But I find it so amusing that I have to share it. I believe this insert (about 5 inches wide) came with a Kodak scanner that my father bought some years ago.
The back side of the paper is blank.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you read instruction manuals before using electronic gadgets?
I bought a Sega 32X for $30 new in 1995 or '96 at Toys"R"Us. They were on clearance because nobody wanted them. (I also bought a Virtual Boy for $30 this way around the same time.) There were good reasons why no one wanted them: chiefly, because better machines like the PlayStation and Saturn were out there, and most games for the 32X weren't very good.
Still, I have a soft spot for this system. It touches some fundamental nerdy part of me that likes convoluted electronic expansion modules — it means more to collect, and more to mess with. I have a bunch of 32X games, perhaps even half of the entire library for that system, but I rarely play any of them. I seem to recall the Star Wars Arcade title being pretty good for it. Virtua Racing wasn't half bad either.
By the way, the only explanation I can muster for the inclusion of the keyhole in the ad above is that it's some sort of sexual metaphor, much like those found in Sega's other 32X ads at the time (See "The Sega Mating Game," Retro Scan of the Week, 2008). In other words, I guess we're spying on a Genesis and a 32X having electronic intercourse.
Discussion Topic of the Week: In an alternate universe where there was no Sega Saturn, do you think the 32X could have held its own against the competition for a few years?
Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what's the best pool/billiards video game of all time?
Just today I received an email asking for help in producing an ASCII-art style printed banner for a memorial service that will take place this Saturday, May 11th, 2013. They will be honoring a lifetime IBM veteran who passed away recently at the age of 69.
I have a few ideas on how to do it, but I'm short on time this week, so I'm hoping someone out there can help her. Here is her email (posted with permission):
Hello. My uncle recently passed away quite unexpectedly at the age of 69. We are holding his memorial on Saturday, May 11th. I have been racking my brain on a way to honor him at his memorial. My uncle was a lifetime IBM employee and computer pioneer.
In 1979, when I was 9 years old, he gave me a banner for my birthday. It was from the old dot matrix printers. It had a silhouette of Snoopy on the top of his dog house and it said "Happy Birthday Chimene". I literally thought it was the coolest thing. This was before home computers and home printers for our family. The letters were made with x or o or maybe dashes. Because my brain had no conceptual framework for the world of computers, I literally wondered if it was created by magic.
I would like to have one of these made for my uncle for his memorial. Do you have any idea how I could go about getting this done? I am not tech savvy so I would love to find someone that can do this for me and do it quickly. I know that there would be no better way for me to honor my uncle and I am desperate to find a way to get this done. Any help you can provide would be so greatly appreciated.
Post your suggestions or offers to help in the comments, and Chimene will keep an eye on them. I'll pass along your email address (leave it in the comment form) if she wants to contact you further.
In a previous Retro Scan, I cataloged one of my least-favorite brands of floppy disk storage boxes. This time, I thought I'd share an ad for the Elephant Memory Systems Trunk, one of my favorite disk storage boxes.
As far as floppy disk box designs go, the Trunk is my favorite mostly because of nostalgia. This was one of the first floppy boxes I ever used; my dad had bought one to store our Atari 800 or Apple II floppies in (can't remember which, although I still have it in my closet). Compared to other disk boxes, this one feels solid, and the build quality is high.
The Trunk does have one serious drawback, though: The lid covers so much of its outward-facing surface area that it is very hard to pick up and move around without accidentally opening it and spilling its contents on the floor.
Still, it's a pretty good floppy box. This and the Flip 'N File.
Discussion Topic of the Week: Estimate how many 5.25″ floppy disks you own. What system(s) are they for?
Discussion Topic of the Week: Has anyone ever gained unauthorized entry into one of your computers? Tell us about it.
Here's a retro-flavored Polaroid instant photo I took of my bedroom floor some point in 1995. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and I had just received a stack of Beatles CDs (upper center-left) the previous Christmas — along with my first CD player, integrated in boombox form, which can be seen seen in the upper right portion of the photo.
But I'm not posting this photo because of Beatles CDs. On the floor sit a number of retrogaming consoles and accessories: to the left is an Atari 5200 console, and in the lower right you can see a ColecoVision and the corner of an Intellivision. There are also a few Atari joysticks, a copy of Yars' Revenge for the 2600, and three copies of Intellivision Donkey Kong.