It's 1972. How The Hell Do You Explain What A Video Game Is?

It’s 1972. How The Hell Do You Explain What A Video Game Is?

The Magnavox Odyssey was the first consumer video game console, the pioneering device that presaged a 20-billion-dollar industry. But when it was released in 1972, almost no one outside a handful of American scientists would have known what a video game even was.

This short promotional film was given to Magnavox television dealers in the US in anticipation of the console’s release to give them talking points for their consumers. How, exactly, should they explain a video game console?

The vision we see in the ad is very different from the way consoles are marketing and played today; it’s not hard to watch it and imagine a different history of gaming.

3. The console was a device for the whole family.

Something to use on rainy or cold days.

4. There was a heavy emphasis on how, exactly, to set up and use the device.

5. You operated it with little knobs.

Head movement: optional.

Normal face: optional.

7. And while the dials and knobs controlled little pricks of light, you actually had to lay down a mat on the TV to get a specific background.

The above game led to the first lawsuit in the industry’s history, when Magnavox accused Atari of stealing their tennis game to create Pong.

8. You could even buy an optional, creepily realistic rifle.

Despite the video, the Odyssey was a failure, in large part because Magnavox salesmen themselves didn’t know how to properly market the device as a separate category of electronics—they saw it as little more than a one-off gadget.

10. By contrast, this commercial for the home version of Pong—which was already an arcade phenomenon—emphasizes the addictive qualities of the game.

It depicts an old-timey father concerned that his daughter has been spending all of her time at the arcade. Home Pong isn’t presented as a device for the whole family; rather, it’s a cool product for kids.

11. By the time of the Atari 2600, released in 1977, console manufacturers had realized that they needed to market their devices as easily sold-out objects of excitement, desire and addiction.

13. That’s still the basic model for Microsoft and Sony.

14. In fact, the only console maker to still advertise their product chiefly as an all-family device is Nintendo. This ad, for the flailing Wii U, looks more than a little like the original Odyssey spot.

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Conan O’Brien Plays Atari 2600 Classics

Conan O’Brien Plays Atari 2600 Classics

Back in the early days of video gaming, gamers truly had to harness the power of their imagination to make any sense of the dots and pixels on the screen. 

To demonstrate just how archaic it was really back then, Conan O’Brien and his friend Aaron travel back in time for his regular Clueless Gamer series to play classic Atari 2600 games


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George Takei Beats Grumpy Cat for Internet Culture Prize at Shorty Awards

George Takei Beats Grumpy Cat for Internet Culture Prize at Shorty Awards

Web sensation George Takei, the 75-year-old actor and author who first shot into fame as Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek TV series in the 1960s, accepted a prize Monday night for Distinguished Achievement in Internet Culture at the 5th Shorty Awards.

The annual ceremony honors the best social media users and Internet celebrities.

Takei began to reinvent himself through social media in March 2011, when he launched his now hugely popular Facebook page. His 3.8 million followers react in droves to his daily postings, which include memes and photos that often latch onto current events.

“Social media can be an incredibly powerful tool,” Takei said in a recorded speech.

“Thank you for this award; it’s just as cool as having an asteroid named after me.”

His online presence extends to Twitter and his recently launched Tumblr. Aside from entertaining fans, he has also leveraged the platforms to help people in need.

Takei used Twitter to raise money for disaster relief efforts in Japan following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. And on Tumblr in 2012, he brought attention to an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to help victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York City.

Other winners included Jimmy Kimmel for Lifetime Achievement, for Tumblr of the Year, Bravo’s Andy Cohen for Best Social Media Manager and @SarcasticRover for Best NonHuman.

Here are some video highlights from Monday’s Shorty Awards:

Jimmy Kimmel Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tweets With With Seth Green

Wolf Blitzer Exposes Early Poll Results

The Wanted and Dog Benson Accepts Award

Felicia Day Gets Perks From Twitter Followers

Some brands that took home a Shorty were Pepsi for Best Fortune 500 Brand on Social Media, TED Conferences for Best YouTube Channel, National Geographic for Best Overall Brand Presence on Instagram, Old Spice Muscle Music for Best Viral Campaign, The CW for Best Use of Twitter in a Campaign, VH1 for Best Location-Based Marketing, and Watch What Happens Live for Best Integration of Social Media on Live TV (see full winners list below).

Watch the Entire Shorty Awards Here

Web and TV personality Felicia Day hosted the Shorty Awards, which featured presenters Coco Rocha, Chris Hardwick, Hannibal Buress, Carrie Keagan, James Urbaniak, Miss Teen USA Logan West and Kristian Nairn.

Complete List of Shorty Awards Winners

  • Activism: AgainstSuicide (@AgainstSuicide)

  • Actor: Misha Collins (@MishaCollins)

  • Actress (tie): Tara Strong (@TaraStrong); Selena Gomez (@SelenaGomez)

  • Animated GIF of the Year: Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg: Kiss Me in Paris – Source: Ann Street Studio

  • Apps: Twitter (@Twitter)

  • Author: John Green (@RealJohnGreen)

  • Band: One Direction (@OneDirection)

  • BNCollege Award: WVU Mountaineers (@WestVirginiaU)

  • Brazil: Dilma Bolada (@Dilmabr)

  • Canada: MattG124 (@MattG124)

  • Celebrity: Justin Bieber (@JustinBieber)

  • CelebrityFashion (tie): Sophia Abrahao (@SophiaAbrahao); Selena Gomez (@SelenaGomez)

  • Charity: Random Acts (@TheRandomActOrg)

  • Comedian: Rafinha Bastos (@RafinhaBastos)

  • FakeAccount: Prince Charles (@Charles_HRH)

  • Fansite: Sherlockology (@Sherlockology) and 1D Updates (@1Dneews)

  • Food (tie): Rosanna Pansino (@RosannaPansino); The Kitchenista (@MissAngelaDavis)

  • Foursquare Mayor of the Year: Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity)

  • Gaming (tie): Monark (@RandonsPlays); PieDiePew (@PewDiePie)

  • GIF Maker (tie): T. Kyle MacMahon (@TKyleMac); Ryan Broderick (@RyanPBroderick)

  • Government: NASA (@NASA)

  • Ireland (tie): Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial); BriBry (@BriBryOnTour)

  • Journalist Award: Tim Pool (@Timcast)

  • Museum: Emily Graslie (@Ehmee)

  • Music (tie): Demetria Lovato (@DDLovato); aoi (@Official_aoi)

  • NonHuman: SarcasticRover (@SarcasticRover)

  • Photography (tie): Mike Lerner (@MikeTakesStills); Jenna Pope (@BatmanWI)

  • Quora Answer of the Year: Kenyatta Leal

  • Real-Time Photo of the Year: Hurricane Sandy – Benjamin Lowy

  • Science (tie): Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield); AsapSCIENCE (@AsapSCIENCE)

  • Singer: Greyson Chance (@GreysonChance)

  • WebShow: Bravest Warriors (@BravestWarriors)

  • SocialFitness Award: Cassey Ho (@Blogilates)

  • SportsTeam: Pittsburgh Steelers (@Steelers)

  • KeepGoodGoing Award: Kathy Zucker (@KathyZucker)

  • Parenting: Carlos Pena (@CarlosPenaSr)

  • SmallBusiness Award: Jawbreaking (@ShopJawbreaking)

  • Tumblr of the Year: Texts from Hillary

  • TVShow: Pretty Little Liars (@ABCFpll)

  • UK: Charlie McDonnell (@coollike)

  • VideoBlogger: PC Siqueira (@pecesiqueira)

  • YouTubeStar: Cauê Moura (@CaueMoura)

Complete List of Industry Award Winners

  • Best Use of Social Media for News: CNN Worldwide – Election 2012: CNN Worldwide Won the Social Media Battle

  • Best Overall Brand Presence on Instagram: National Geographic – In the Field with National Geographic

  • Best Viral Campaign: Old Spice – Old Spice Muscle Music

  • Best Branded YouTube Channel: TED – TED Conferences LLC

  • Best Use of Video in a Social Media Campaign: Maybelline – TopChicret – Announcing Charlotte Free as New Face of #1 Cosmetic Brand in the World

  • Best Overall Brand Presence on Twitter: Comedy Central – @TheDailyShow

  • Best Overall Brand Presence on Tumblr: Comedy Central – The Daily Show Election Center on Tumblr

  • Best Use of Social Media for Auto Industry: Dodge – Dodge Dart Registry

  • Best Use of Animated GIFs: Wilson Sporting Goods Co. – Where Football is Born

  • Best Use of Social Media In Real Life (IRL): Temple University – “Temple Made” Campaign

  • Best Social Media Agency – Large (over 100): 360i

  • Best Overall Brand Presence on Facebook: Maybelline – New York Digital Strategy 2012

  • Best Use of Social Media for Customer Service: SquareTrade, Inc

  • Best Use of Game Mechanics (Gamification) in a Social Media Campaign: USA Network – Suits Recruits

  • Best Use of Facebook Advertising: Chengdu Municipal Government and Chengdu Panda Base – PandaQuest: Be the Next Chengdu Pambassador

  • Best Use of a Mobile App in a Campaign: Turner Entertainment Networks – CONAN Sync App – it’s techno-magic

  • Best Overall Brand Presence on Pinterest: Birchbox

  • Best Use of Social Media for Financial Services: Citi – Citi’s Connect: Professional Women’s Network on LinkedIn

  • Best Use of Social Media for a Consumer Brand: Food Lion – Food Lion’s Operation Grocery Drop

  • Best Use of Twitter in a Campaign: The CW – Live Twitter Feed in a Magazine

  • Best Use of Facebook in a Campaign: Chengdu Municipal Government and Chengdu Panda Base – PandaQuest: Be the Next Chengdu Pambassador

  • Best Use of Social Media for Fashion: Banana Republic – Banana Republic In Flight Fashion Show

  • Best Use of Social Media for Sports: Nike – Nike #maketherules

  • Best Fortune 500 Brand on Social Media: Pepsi – Pepsi: Live For Now

  • Best Location-Based Marketing: VH1 – Save The Music Foursquare Partnership

  • Best Use of a Hashtag on Twitter: Nike – CountonKobe

  • Best Social Media Campaign for Film: Universal Pictures – Ted

  • Best Social Media Manager Award: Bravo – Andy Cohen for WWHL

  • Best Use of a Promoted Tweet, Promoted Trend, or Promoted Account: Maker’s Mark – #CocktailParty2012

  • Best Use of Social Media for Retail or E-Commerce: Chobani – Nothing But Good, One Fan at a Time

  • Best Social Media Agency – Small (1 -20): neoco

  • Best Social Media Agency – Mid-Sized (21 – 100) (three-way tie): Deep Focus; Suite Spot – JetBlue Getaways Presents, “Get Away With It!”; Carrot Creative

  • Best Celebrity Campaign on Social Media: Intel – David Blaine’s ELECTRIFIED

  • Best Social Media Presence of a CEO: Deep Focus – Ian Schafer

  • Best Use of Social Media for Television: Beam Inc. – Skinnygirl Cocktails #WinningTheOscars

  • Best Use of Social Media for Television: ABC Family – Pretty Little Liars #TheBetrAyal campaign

  • Best Integration of Social Media with Live Television: Fox News Digital – Fox News Election Night 2012

  • Best Integration of Social Media with Live Television: Bravo – Play Live on Watch What Happens Live

  • Best Use of Social Media for Video Games: neoco / 2K – Borderlands 2: A Work Of Art

  • Best Use of Social Media for the London 2012 Olympics: Nike – Nike Greatness

  • Best Use of Social Media For Music: Intel and MTV Iggy – Intel Presents The Music Experiment Powered By MTV Iggy

  • Best Use of Social Media For Music: Spotify and OMD – Music Apps Hack Weekend

Image via David Livingston/Getty Images

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Some Of The Best Games On The App Store Are Free Today

Some Of The Best Games On The App Store Are Free Today

Over the past five years, the App Store has accumulated a collection of games that rivals anything put together by Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo. In honor of the store’s five-year anniversary, Apple has made free a murderer’s row of mobile gaming, including some of the very best games on the platform. The highlights:

2. Badland

One of the best mobile games of the year, a beautiful floating platformer, like Tiny Wings by way of Limbo.

3. Tiny Wings

One of the real classics of iOS gaming. Therapeutic, adorable, a must-play.

4. Infinity Blade 2

The sequel to the game that proved that iOS games could look as staggeringly polished as console games.

5. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP

An indelible and gorgeous achievement, Sword and Sworcery may be the single best game on iOS. It’s free. Get it.

6. Where’s My Water?

This game is about helping to shower an alligator. In addition, it stars “Allie, the most creative and sassy alligator.” I’d play it if I were you.

In addition to the games, there are a handful of free apps; you can find a list of them here. Happy free gaming!

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Warning: 'Backwards Compatibility' Hoax Will Brick Your Xbox One

Warning: ‘Backwards Compatibility’ Hoax Will Brick Your Xbox One


A six-step guide on online forum 4chan promises to unlock backward compatibility on the Xbox One, but Microsoft warns it’s a hoax that will break the new gaming console.

The graphic, which closely resembles Microsoft‘s marketing materials, surfaced over the weekend and instructed gamers on how to turn their consoles into developer mode, which would allow Xbox One owners to play Xbox 360 games. The offer may sound tempting, since the One isn’t backward compatible and can’t play any of the hundreds of Xbox 360 games, but Microsoft spokesman Larry Hryb cautioned users on Twitter not to try it.

Microsoft developer 343 Industries explains in a blog post why this hoax will damage the console: All Xbox Ones have the potential to be used as developer consoles, but Microsoft has not set up that functionality for regular users yet, so enabling it on a consumer console will cause the Xbox One to enter an endless startup loop.

Several sites, including the BBC, pin 4chan as the originator of the hoax, though the original post has been deleted from its forums. The original instructions can still be found online.

Image: Mashable, Chelsea Stark

BONUS: 7 Best Headphones for Gaming

For A Team Responsible For A Product That Generates So Much Homophobia, This Is Really Refreshing

For A Team Responsible For A Product That Generates So Much Homophobia, This Is Really Refreshing

Xbox LIVE just “leveled up” in my book. Not only is their staff incredibly diverse, but they’re openly supporting GaymerCon, the very first convention for LGBTQ gamers, which will be held in August 2013.

Jump to 1:30 for all the nerd-equality goodness.

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The New "Wolfenstein" Is Stupid, Violent, Ridiculous, And Perfect

The New "Wolfenstein" Is Stupid, Violent, Ridiculous, And Perfect

Why The New Order could be a fresh start for shooters.

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If the world of video games was an American high school, first person shooters would be the jocks. You know: big, loud, and popular; nice to look at; running the gamut from amiable and funny to violent and cruel; mostly not college material. Sometimes they break stuff and get in trouble, but we tend to look the other way. Overall, they have the most fun and ask the fewest questions. Everyone else, to an extent, exists in their shadow.

That is why it has been so strange and not a little amusing, over the past year and change, to see first-person shooters tripping over their shoes, agonizing over their skin, and afraid to speak up in class. Yes, the swaggering flagship genre of AAA gaming has in recent months grown extraordinarily, ridiculously, paralyzingly self-conscious. While the limitations of these games—chiefly that they are not smart and after 25 years of popularity still exclusively predicate themselves on pointing a death stick at stuff—have been apparent for years, they seem to finally be aware themselves. And it is totally fascinating.

The trend began in earnest with BioShock, the 2007 game that many people regard as the best first-person shooter of the past decade. If these games are indeed jocks, BioShock was Friday Night Lights’ Tim Riggins: Hunky and brutish, yes, but also soulful, questioning, broodingly philosophical, and irresistibly aware of his own flaws. BioShock was a shooter, but it quoted, like, Ayn Rand, and in a negative way, and it asked smart questions about free will and determinism. Also, it was fun. A few people pointed out that it lacked the courage of its alt-bro convictions, but c’mon, this was progress.

BioShock gave rise to a whole litany of shooters that fashionably challenged the conventions of the genre, with varying degrees of effectiveness. It is also responsible, indirectly, for a wave of dumb and over the top shooters that sprinted gleefully in the opposite direction, waving the white flag of “irony”. Finally, BioShock raised hopes, perhaps unreasonably, for its sequel. People expected an even smarter game, one that transcended the inheritance of its genre.

BioShock Infinite released last March to the expected hosannas. But a funny thing happened soon after: grumbling. Then more grumbling. Then a legitimate, heated, nearly existential debate about the nature of the first person shooter. Some of the smartest games writers resented, even detested, BioShock Infinite. Why does it have to be a shooter at all? They asked. Why can’t it just be better than that? It wasn’t sufficient anymore to simply be the jock with brains. If you’re so smart and interesting, people demanded, why do you still act like a jock at all?

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The first-person shooter, for the first time in its history, is acutely not cool; démodé. This past fall, the annual po-faced warmongers Call of Duty and Battlefield basically got shouted down. Killzone Shadow Fall, which was supposed to sell PlayStation 4s, was instead largely ignored. The modest innovations of this year’s hugely hyped Titanfall were characterized, accurately, as modest innovations, nothing revolutionary. Meanwhile, Halo has settled into profitable outsourced obsolescence and Bungie, the creators of that franchise, have moved on to the ambitious, massively-multiplayer Destiny. FPS fans gaze longingly towards Bellevue, hoping for Half Life 3, but that’s a dream, and besides, Portal probably moved the genre forward as much as any game in the past decade. The future of shooters is as unsure as it’s ever been.

That’s all to say that the timing feels distinctly not right for Wolfenstein: The New Order, the new first person shooter from MachineGames and Bethesda. Is there a franchise more synonymous with the conventional past of first-person shooters than Wolfenstein? This, after all, is the series that, in 1992 with Wolfenstein 3D, quite literally set the conventions of the genre and led to its massive popularity. Why, in a gaming moment defined by uncertainty and resistance towards the tired tropes of the first-person shooter, would anyone want a new Wolfenstein game?

So of course The New Order is, against all odds, one of the best first-person shooters to come along in years. Yes, I know. Somehow, somehow, son-of-son-of-son-of Castle Wolfenstein is an urgent, compelling, funny, well-told, and perhaps most importantly confident videogame, which reminded me of the distinct pleasures that this tired genre once held for its fans.

The New "Wolfenstein" Is Stupid, Violent, Ridiculous, And Perfect

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I don’t think I’d realized quite how painfully concerned with themselves shooters had become until I played the first few hours of The New Order, which felt to me like a revelation. This is a game that is blessedly unburdened by deep thoughts, which is not to say it is a game without themes or devoid of meaning. It simply does not take the time to ponder why it exists, and my dear sweet god, what a relief.

Yes, Wolfenstein just plain gets on with it. You play as B.J. Blazkowicz, an American soldier in an alternate future 1960s in which the Nazis have won World War II (why not?) and exert total control over the world through their concrete-and-steel technological superiority. It’s a dumb story that is told better than it has any right to be, like most of the things about this game. It is not “look at me I’m dumb” like Bulletstorm or Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, which is another way of saying “I’m smart”; it’s skillfully, artfully dumb, which is truly dumb, which is to say, truly smart. Anyway, the black-and-white moral stakes fit perfectly with its clear conscience. We don’t have to worry that we are shooting, because we are shooting at Nazis, and it’s dumb, and that’s okay.

(I wish I had something complex and interesting to add to the observation that shooting at digital Nazis is satisfying and defensible, but I don’t. Suffice it to say that we are all products of our culture, and that part of being a product of a culture that was on the right side in World War II is that you get to feel good about shooting at digital Nazis. I think it was part of the Potsdam Agreement. I dunno. Leave me alone.)

About five hours into the game, I reached a section comprising a pitched battle against a battalion of Nazis defending an enormous model of the moon inside a giant planetarium. As I raced Blazkowicz up and down crisscrossing metal walkways, dual assault rifles chucking hot Nazi death, I realized that I was doing something that I almost never do anymore while playing first-person shooters: smiling. There I was, standing atop the Nazi moon, drenched in digital Nazi blood, ecstatic. It is a simple pleasure, uncomplicated and pure, but no one seems to be able to do it anymore without overcompensating. And done correctly, it’s wonderful.

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Though Wolfenstein: The New Order is old-fashioned in its outlook, it is newfangled in its methods, and by that I mean it has a lot of bells and whistles. These will be catalogued better elsewhere but include long and interesting in-game exposition, ‘tasteful’ nudity, parts where you drive, and the option to play with satisfaction as either a sneaky fucker or a blatant fucker. For my part, I chose blatant fucker.

Still: this is just a very well-done shooter, and for some people, that will mean it is not enough. A popular argument among smart-game-writer-types in the wake of BioShock Infinite held that first person shooters are prolific because shooting is an easy mechanic to define and produce. In other words, it’s easier to make a shooting game, than, say, a talking or an eating or a base-jumping game, because the goals and interactions are easier to manage. Ultimately, what this means is that first person shooters can no longer be mechanically creative. This argument strikes me as incredibly circular. Shooting is only an easy mechanic to define and produce because over the course of three decades gamers have flocked to shooting games, allowing developers to refine this mechanic to a pretty astonishing degree of sophistication. Don’t believe me? Play The New Order for an hour and then try playing the original.

When Wolfenstein 3D came out in 1992, it wasn’t a huge-budget blockbuster in a dominant genre with an established set of tools; it was goofy shareware that culminated with a boss fight against Hitler in a robot suit. The accomplishment of Wolfenstein: The New Order is that even as it capably integrates the things we now expect from a big narrative shooter, it manages to take us back to a time when these games were weird, joyful, and blissfully unaware of their cultural significance. It conjures an era when first person shooters could be dumb and creative at the same time, and more than that, they could feel good about it. No, this may not be a way forward for the genre, but after years of ponderous self-examination and self-justification, it feels very much like a fresh start. And maybe that’s the best lesson for the jocks of gaming, the lesson the rest of us are forced to learn in high school: Just be yourself.

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