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Video Game History Foundation explores early names for "video games"

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Video games, by any other name, would smell as sweet. Which is to say, I dunno, they smell like whatever you smell like while playing them? (Recently, my replay of the Dead Space series has lead to some very sweaty moments. Yes, I’m sweating over video games and I need to go for a walk.) But when did the term get… coined? The folks over at The Video Game History Foundation looked into that question, and watching 1970s journalists trying to agree on terminology is both fascinating and infuriating.

~~Brief aside~~
As Alice notes: “Obviously we know that video games TWO WORDS is correct.” Yes. We didn’t have to ask the Video Game History Foundation about that. We all know that videogames is the only right way to do this. Videogames. (I just heard a head explode. Yay.)

In the piece, a reporter in 1976 found herself outraged by the Death Race arcade game, which shows motorists getting points for killing civilians. Incidentally, the game and its instruction manual calls the targets “gremlins” but this reporter thought the hit and runs sounded like the screams of a child, so there’s that. The piece (which is also maybe the first major call-out of video games for inappropriate content) was syndicated by 100 newspapers that week. Which meant editors across the country had to find some approximation of the term “arcade game” before that term had been agreed upon as a standard for this kind of entertainment. The results are WIIIIILD.

On a different note, I have no idea why there would be outrage for this when the film it is based on, Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000, came out a year earlier and has numerous decapitations and people actually trying to hit babies. Hey Wendy Walker, maybe see a movie every once in a while, you goof.

As for the one true name, Chris Chapman noted:

“Curiously, the names which in retrospect seem the most obvious were neglected entirely. ‘Video game’ wasn’t an unknown expression; by early 1976 it was regularly used in Magnavox and Atari advertising. But perhaps its association with home consoles had led people to think that was the only valid usage; no editor referred to Death Race by these words. The second surprising omission was ‘arcade game’, a phrase that through the 1950s and ’60s was popularly used for mechanical amusements like pinball and shooting games.”

There’s a lot of great screencaps in here. Every single one of them could be a new Twitter header image for any of us. I’ve got my eye on the last one.

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Well. That really just glides off the tongue.

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Electric Bar Game is my Electric Six cover band.

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Death Toy was the working title for Small Soldiers.

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When you didn’t really have a take, but deadline was sneaking up on you so you just went for it and also thought you could quote a general mood instead of an actual person.

Go. Get those header images changed. Show the world that your read An Unit Of Journalism.

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Brock Wilbur

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