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Harold Goldberg How 50 Years of Video Games Conquered Pop Culture

Broadcast 6/1/2011 at 6:46 PM EDT (5 Listens, 7 Downloads, 2 Itunes)
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Harold Goldberg How 50 Years of Video Games Conquered Pop Culture

Harold Goldberg is the author of ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US : How 50 Years of Video Games Conquered Pop Culture , a narrative history of video games from Random House. He was editor in chief of Sony Online Entertainment and has written about games for Wired, Entertainment Weekly and VH1.

He is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle, a group comprised of New York's finest videogame journalists.

He currently writes for G4TV and Boys' Life about games, and has written for the New York Times and Vanity Fair about other topics. He is a contributor to NPR's Morning Edition and to NBC's Live Digital

Harold Goldberg, author of a journalist writing about music, then, in mid-nineties began writing about games.

Notes from the interview:
68% of us are gamers.

Shooters seem to get most of the attention and a lot of the sales
Shooters are games with guns-- Halo or Call of Duty.

First first-person shooter was Doom, a PC that became very popular.

Tens of millions per franchise

Grand theft auto-- when last grand theft auto came out it beat Avatar in terms of sales in the first week-- $500 million in first week. Grand Theft auto continues to sell. Sales are also enhanced by DLC Downloadable content for $10-$20.

Nolan Bushnell did this with his varying versions of Pong.

Francise-- same t hing as Pirates of the Carribean-- if you have a best-selling video game and you have hundreds of people working on it, it really takes a lot of money to recoup that first game, so there are games for second and third games. For example there have been 20 or 25 versions of Madden and it's still among the top five games. That's the big challenge, how do you continue and grow the franchise?

The reason they sell is creative approaches.

Since the beginning of the 1950s there was a fascination with playing games on computers. First game was made in England-- a tic tac to game.

First interesting game was by William Higginbotham, at Brookhaven labs-- Tennis for Two-- and was designed for visitors days-- a version of pong on an oscilloscope about 15 years before pong was created. HIgginbothan really showed that there really was interest.

Took about 15 years to commercialize the idea. Ralph Baer worked for Sanders, a defense contractor in New Hampshire, had idea on how to put games on a television. He created the Magnavox Oddysey-- pretty rudimentary-- a black and white dot on the screen and plastic overlays you put on your television set. It didn't sell that well.

A few years later, Nolan Bushness from Atari got the idea to put that kind of game into bars.
At the time, pinball machines were three games for a quarter and Pong was one game for a quarter. It was a big gamble for Atari to ask three times as much for one game.

The first demo was placed in a bar in the bay area and people played so much that people from Atari had to come in to fix it. It was really Nolan Bushnell's personality that got games into our home. He was able to persuade Sears to carry pong.

Warner Brothers bought in, then Steven Speilberg brought out an ET game which was full of bugs and not playable well. They ended up dumping millions of the games to a landfill and crush them up.

The next big thing was the creation of Electronic Arts-- Trip Hawkins-- an early Apple employee.
HIs big game was the Madden football game. it took so long to make that they started calling the Madden game Tripp's Folly.

Why was it such a best seller? The couch potatoes could be part of a Madden experience.

How did the games change us?

Became a new form of entertainment in the living room-- another way we entertain ourselves.
When video games began have a modem attached to the computer, then people could play friends who were not in the living room.

The CD rom allowed very lifelike games-- like Myst and The Seventh Guest, which was inspired by David Lynch's Twin Peaks, so it almost played like an interactive movie.
Responsible for selling millions of copies and helped drive sales of millions of PCs.
Raised the standards for companies selling console games.

Sony's Play station became multipurpose.

All the while you had nintendo

What's a console lives under your television set in your living room-- often has best graphics, though PC gamers would argue that PCs have best artwork.

Handheld games

Cell phone games like angry birds

How much time do people spend playing games. A gamer will play between ten and twenty hours a week. On world of warcraft, even more.

People with consoles may play ten hours a week.

Blizzard's World of Warcraft, like Everquest, but easier.
There are about 12 million world of warcraft players around the world.
This is called a massively multiplayer online role playing game MMORPG

Maybe 30 million players worldwide.

For those growing up today, video games are more important than movies or music.

Universities have video game majors. it's easier to get into the video game business.

Go to game developers association you can find out a lot of ways to get into the industry. They have job listings and conferences and speeches.

What about the addiction factor in video games?
If you have an addictive personality you can become addicted to video games just like you could become addicted to alcohol and gambling. There's a center in Seattle for helping video game addiction. This is not a wide spread problem.

Kids who wrote stories all used video game story lines-- go through a level then fight a boss.

Game Developers' Conference

When you play a game like Gran Turismo or Madden Football, it does effect your reflexes.

Army uses videogames to assess potential recruits. This goes back to the Magnavox Oddysey, which was believed to have potential as a military simulation.

There was a game called America's Army that was given away.

The military aspect.

Call of Duty bought in the store, is purchased for on-line play. It's a military game-- a fairly accurate simulation in some cases.

Real drones-- are they being controlled by 20 something kids who are good at video games?

Is there a culture that supports players playing the games?
Yes, in all the franchises-- a woman made over a million dollars playing Bejeweled.

People go from town to town playing shooter games or Guitar Heroes.

Women and games-- Pacman and Tetris were big with women-- logic, without shooting, without the need to win-- the beauty in placing shapes together that women were really attracted to.

In the late 1990's there was the casual game revolution-- games on line-- from bingo to Bejeweled--

Bejeweled was created by a few guys in their twenties who tested it on their mother-- She found it relaxing.

The first Wii was very successful as a family oriented game playing machine.

Bottom UP
games for iPad, iPod, iPhone where small teams can make a game that's successful.

The app center-- the game center for apple barriers to entry are almost non-existent. That said, how do you get your game noticed. Have to figure out how to market.

MMPGs get together and talk, go to virtual.

Games as Disruptive technologies.
May make us a little m ore impatient with people. Online games get to the point more.

There is a trend with games that is more about the narrative... you're involved in avery deep, long lasting, up to 200 hours, single player experience.
What does it mean we're involved in a story for such a long time.
I'd like to know how it affects our brains.
LA Noire
Red Dead Redemption

LA Noire is an open world game. You can take a mission or not. It also harkens back to adventure games of the 1990's where you have to figure out, with puzzle solving,

Zynga which makes many of the games on facebook, is valued at $10-12 million. You can't progress well on those games without buying things. People spend hundreds of dollars on those games.

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