Before Xbox, Playstation, Wii, and even Nintendo, there was the Atari Video Computer System, known simply as Atari. Gamers of the 1970s and 80s will recall countless hours spent entranced before dots bouncing across their monitors while playing early video games like Breakout and Combat on this pioneering console. In their book, Racing the Beam, the inaugural volume in the MIT Press’s Platform Studies series, Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost investigate game systems’ underlying computing, developing a critical approach that examines the relationship between platforms and creative expression.
Back in 2009, Nick Montfort, owner of an Atari himself, spoke to the “Ideas” section of the Boston Globe about Racing the Beam, his favorite game, and the Atari’s influence on how we play. Here is an excerpt:
IDEAS: It might be hard for kids raised on Playstation 3 to realize how revolutionary Pong and Combat were. Those games are also connected to what we play today, aren’t they?
MONTFORT: Take the Wii, for example. There are things about that system that are quite connected to the experience of Pong. Wii Sports, for instance, is a game like Pong in that it sort of shows off the basic things the system is capable of doing. How the controllers work. How people can play together. There are some differences. You can play Wii Sports with one player. But that game is a type in that it’s bundled with the system and [offers the] idea that people are going to play together.
See the entire interview here.
Read Stella and Combat: A BIT of Racing the Beam to learn more about the interplay between computation and culture in the Atari emulator Stella and the Atari VCS game Combat.