Game on

Mary MacKay
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Lori Ellis, manager of heritage and cultural properties for the city of Summerside, dug into her collected stash of vintage video game systems and curated The Art and History of Video Games 1958 to 2011, now at Gallery 33 in Summerside.

Ever yearn for the good old days of Pong, Pac Man, Mario, Space Invaders and other video game classics?

Now you can revisit these and more at an exhibit in Summerside that provides a unique blast from the video games of the past.

The Art and History of Video Games 1958 to 2011 at Gallery 33 in the former Summerside Armoury, which is now part of Wyatt Heritage Properties, showcases a 36-year timeline of gaming history, starting with game consoles that used simple pixel groupings and wrapping up with the extensive photorealistic imagery of today’s sophisticated systems.

“What I tried to do was pick games and pick consoles that represent the timeline with the classics,” says exhibit curator Lori Ellis, manager of heritage and cultural properties for the city of Summerside

“That’s where my biggest interest lies — in the kind of classic gaming systems. A lot of it is about this nostalgic feel from the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

The bulk of the vintage video games exhibit is from Ellis’s own collection that started with her first video game system — a Magnavox Odyssey 2 — given to her in 1978 by her father.

“This piece was probably the catalyst in putting the exhibit together as far as the consoles go . . . ,” she says.

“It was fun to dig it out and clean it up and play it again and then start to think about the history of gaming, what else I might like to put with it in a personal collection and then put on an exhibit.”

The timeline in the exhibition starts with the Odyssey 100, which was released in 1975.

“The first one (the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey) was highly collectible and sought after, so I wasn’t able to get my hands on one of those for the exhibition, but this is the second one that came out,” Ellis says.

“It’s a Pong console, so it’s a Pong-based (table tennis-style) game where you just have a ball that goes back and forth and these paddles that send it back (to the other player). So this particular piece you played the game on the console itself. You don’t have controllers that are separate from it. So each (person) has to have their hand on the console to play it. It does hook up to a TV.”

Another interesting factor about the Odyssey 100 is that on-screen scoring was not technologically available yet.

“When you scored you physically had to take (the console counter) and move it up a notch. So that’s interesting from my perspective of the history in advancements in game consoles and so that’s why I picked that one specifically,” Ellis says.

In addition to being practically elbow-to-elbow with your competitor, the controls themselves were tricky to manoeuvre.

“You had a control that moved your paddle from left to right, but in this particular game you also had a controller that moved it ahead and backwards and you had a controller that moved the ball. You were trying to do all that at once, so in a way it was kind of advanced for a Pong system,” Ellis says.

In 1976 a low-budget Pong system, Coleco Telstar, was released at a price of $50, about half the price of other consoles at the time.

“What’s interesting about this particular piece, other than the fact that the controllers have been reduced and it’s almost simplified, is that it’s one of the few gaming consoles where it was shipped to you only partially assembled,” Ellis says.

“So the buyer had to apply the label to the front of it and they had to attach the knobs to the console. That was done as a way to try to reduce costs for the end purchaser, but you can see sometimes the application of the sticker would only be marginally successful,” she adds, noting the lumpy, bumpy texture of the label on this particular piece.

This Telstar system came with a built-in game trio of tennis, hockey and handball.

“They were all kind of variations of Pong. They just put different names on them,” Ellis laughs.

Ellis also included a 1977 TV Scoreboard, a 1977 Atari 2600 and a 1979/80 Intellivision in the exhibit.

“The TV Scoreboard, which is a Tandy product, is an example of one of the first (with separate) controllers (from the console),” she says.

“And you could keep track on your score on the TV. Again it was like a Pong system, but they had a gun for clay pigeon shooting. (It just shows) advancements, things are changing.”

The Atari 2600 was credited with popularizing the use of microprocessor-based hardware and cartridges containing game code, instead of having non-microprocessor dedicated hardware with all games built in.

“The Atari 2600 is what’s set up to play now, so we’ve got Space Invaders, Pac Man and Donkey Kong — some classics that people can play (while visiting the exhibit),” Ellis says.



Organizations: Holland College, History of Video Games 1958 to 2011, Magnavox Wyatt Heritage Properties Odyssey 100 Nintendo Sony PlayStation

Geographic location: Summerside, Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Thaddeus Sholto
    August 28, 2011 - 09:46

    John, you just proved my point. And isn't Google wonderful? It can even make someone like you appear smart.

    • John MacInnis
      August 28, 2011 - 10:11

      You've proved that you're a lot younger than me, and much more naive, and that's it. I'm sure I was doing research before your parents even met. Your attempt to insult me is childish, and I just laugh at you, because you're way out of your league, and that's the best you can do.

    • John MacInnis
      August 28, 2011 - 10:26

      I've read all your comments directed at me again, and you seem really familiar. I remember a reader with the username Illustrious Client, another Sherlock Holmes character, and the reader seemed like a woman by the way the comments were written, and now that I've read your comments again, I think Thaddeus Sholto and Illustrious Client is the same person.

    • John MacInnis
      August 28, 2011 - 11:01

      Irene has now been reduced to a tropical storm south of the border, so that's the end of this particular hurricane.

  • Thaddeus Sholto
    August 27, 2011 - 23:02

    John, your arrogance is breathtaking. Read your last post about how you have done research on the topic of addiction. It reeks of arrogance and condescension as do many of your posts. When you can learn to control that you may have something to say. Until that time, give us a break and refrain from commenting.

    • John MacInnis
      August 28, 2011 - 07:39

      Yes, I've researched the topic of drug addiction, because back in a different century of a different millennium, I was physically addicted to the granddaddy of drugs in Canada, and that would be alcohol. I researched the topic of alcoholism, because I wanted to learn why so many things had gone so wrong in my life during my 20s and 30s. Many doctors treat alcohol addiction as if it's a valium deficiency. I don't seem to get along with readers who use the names of Sherlock Holmes characters, or cartoon characters, instead of their real names. Drug addiction is not a disease, and video game compulsion is not an addiction. You can call that arrogant and condescending, but I'm just calling a spade a spade. Refrain from commenting ? Me ? That's funny ! And who is "us" ? Would that be Thaddeus and Thadeous ?

  • Thaddeus Sholto
    August 27, 2011 - 20:31

    Try some more research, John. The term dope was used long before anyone knew of dopamine. Some say the word originated from the Chinese and their use of opium and then there is this: Dope was borrowed into English from the Dutch word doop, "sauce." Throughout the 19th century it meant "gravy." In the North Midland United States, particularly Ohio, dope is still heard as the term for an ice-cream topping, such as syrup. In the South, particularly in South Carolina, dope means "a cola-flavored soft drink." Dope was especially used of those medicinal preparations that produced a stupefying effect, and it even became a slang term for the dark, molasses-like form of opium that was smoked in opium dens. Some of the common modern meanings of the word dope "a narcotic substance" and "narcotics considered as a group,"developed from this use of the word. This is from an online dictionary and I have seen references to this connection in other sources.

    • John MacInnis
      August 27, 2011 - 21:18

      Well, I love doing research, but I've done enough on that particular topic, and I've been involved in way too many debates about drug addiction being a disease as opposed to what it really is - drug addiction. But I can tell you've been perusing information on the topic, so thank you for writing it. I enjoyed reading your various definitions of "dope", it was interesting. I'll never have to worry about being addicted to any video games, and the reason why I wrote a comment about the story in the first place was to add some historic perspective to a great story.

    • John MacInnis
      August 27, 2011 - 21:40

      "Thaddeus" in one comment, and "Thadeous" in another. And I actually thought you were using your real name until I saw that. sai

  • Thadeous Sholto
    August 27, 2011 - 16:50

    Hey John, you are wrong. It is known that playing certain video games or other activity (other than drugs or alcohol) can alter the brain's chemistry and circuitry and give the person a good feeling such as one would get from ingesting certain chemicals. Some activities induce the brain to releases endorphins, a natural chemical in the brain that makes us feel good. The so-called runners high is a perfect example of this. Running releases endorphins and that makes a person want to run more and more. Running is not doing chemicals, but it induces the brain to release chemicals. For some people video games can be addictive because of the effect on the person's brain. Drugs are not the only way to be addicted.

    • John MacInnis
      August 27, 2011 - 18:04

      Thanks for adding your comments, Thadeous. I really liked your comment about a runners "high", because I've met quite a few people who told me about that. I get a walking high. I don't run, because I want my knees and hips to remain in good condition. I'm horrified when I see somebody running on pavement. I was wondering why mind-altering drugs are called "dope", so I did a bit of research on that. When a person feels "high", their brain has just released a large amount of dopamine, a hormone that makes us very happy and pleasant, hence the nickname "dope".

  • John MacInnis
    August 27, 2011 - 11:44

    What a great story. The only video game I ever liked was Galaga, and that was about 30 years ago. I used to play Ms Pacman in the bars back then, and I can remember nights when just about everybody in the bar was playing some kind of video game. I don't think games like Pong will ever have a renaissance, as I'm sure young people would just laugh at older people like me, just like if I showed a young person how games like Kerplunk used to be played. They would laugh hysterically.

  • Pac-Man Forever
    August 27, 2011 - 10:43

    Can't wait to check this exhibit out. Back in the early '80s I got the Pac-man table top (hand held) game for Christmas to begin a life of addiction to video games .

    • John MacInnis
      August 27, 2011 - 15:38

      Hey Pacman, the correct word is "compulsion", not "addiction". Addiction is caused by using certain types of drugs to excess, such as beer, rum, cigarettes, cocaine, marijuana and many other legal and illegal drugs. Playing video games all the time is not like having a monkey on your back because of physical addiction to some type of drug.