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The State Of Computer Games... From 1984

Why couldn't they just broadcast TV in HD back then?

For no other reason than because I love you, below you can see an American programme – Computer Chronicles – looking at the current state of computer games, almost 30 years ago. Beyond knowingly laughing at how they just don’t know stuff from the future, and their jumpers, it’s a fascinating perspective. Not just to see how gaming was already considered both old by then, and just how much the presentation in the media hasn’t changed. They ask, “Are computer games here to stay?” You can see the half-hour PBS programme below.

American readers are more likely to know that Computer Chronicles ran on PBS from 1981 to 2002, despite being pretty much unknown anywhere else.

I especially love their ho-ho-hoing at how out of date Pong is, before showing things that to my 3D-printed laser-eye look barely any more sophisticated. But again, future-o-smugness aside, it’s also pretty revealing to notice that mainstream presentation of gaming hasn’t changed one bit. If the BBC made a similar programme today, you absolutely know it would begin with two presenters chuckling to each other as they play some Pong, before explaining that things have moved on an awfully long way since then.

Oh, and stick around past the end of the episode, for some fantastic hardware gaming news.

It’s strange just how much could be transplanted to today without needing to change the script. Atari, Activision, EA, etc, all the big players, and even Atari’s Chris Crawford saying he was tired of games that glorify war, but rather show the reality. Sounds familiar, right? And that game – Excalibur – is huge. It has a full 66k of object code. And Trip Hawkins likes it simple, hot and deep.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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