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 Post subject: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 8:50 pm 
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I want to dedicate this thread to an era of gaming that seems oddly underappreciated on this forum: the second generation of video gaming.

For the uninitiated, the second generation of gaming falls squarely between the first (Magnavox Odyssey, Pong systems) and third (NES, Sega Master System, Atari 7800) generations. It's generally accepted that this era began in 1976 and began to wind down considerably around 1984 as the third generation began to gain steam. A small selection of games continued to trickle into the market in the late 80s and early 90s, and a robust homebrew scene can be found today.

Onto the specifics. The second generation contains the following...
Early (mostly cartridge-based) video game consoles: The Fairchild Channel F kicked things off with its chunky yellow cartridges, most of which contained several minigames based on "real life" pursuits like sports, card games, driving, etc. The big daddy of the second gen, the Atari 2600, followed one year later with its iconic one-button joystick and absolutely huge library of games. Atari managed to squeeze in another system this gen - the 5200, which boasted excellent graphics but is best known for its faulty joysticks. Also of note are the Matell Intellivision and Coleco ColecoVision, both of which utilized controllers with numerical keypads and controller overlays. Other consoles include the RCA Studio II, Bally Astrocade, Magnavox Odyssey², Emerson Arcadia 2001, Vectrex, Epoch Cassette Vision (Japan-only), and Starpath Supercharger (an Atari 2600 peripheral). Sega's SG-1000 is also debatably a member of this generation. It was released on the same day as the Famicom in Japan (July 15, 1983), but while the Famicom/NES became an international success the SG-1000 quickly faded into obscurity and was effectively replaced by the Master System.
The Golden Age of arcade games: You know these. The classics. The games Billy Mitchell is really good at. Space Invaders, Galaxian, Asteroids, Berzerk, Centipede, Missile Command, Pac-Man, Defender, Tempest, Donkey Kong, Frogger, BurgerTime, Dig Dug, Joust, Pengo, Xevious, Zaxxon, the list goes on and on... Virtually all of these were almost immediately ported to home consoles and computers - many times with mixed results. Today you can find them emulated on retro game compilations.
Early home computers: Placing computers into video game generations is a bit tricky given their lengthy retail lifespans and advanced technological capabilities. Take the Commodore 64 for example - it was on store shelves from 1982 to 1994, launched with the types of one-screen looping games you'd find on ColecoVision, but ended its life with versions of Street Fighter II, Final Fight, and Ultima VI! For the purposes of this thread let's say any old 8-bit computer is fair game. This includes the Commodore VIC-20 and C64, TRS-80 Color Computer, Atari 8-bit line, TI-99/4A, and many others. Most of these old computers utilized game cartridges as well as floppy disks and cassettes. They were also designed to hook up to standard television sets as well as monitors.
Early handheld systems: These aren't extraordinarily popular but are certainly worth a look. Many of the first handheld systems contained a single standalone game. Most notable is the Game & Watch line by Nintendo, which was recently resurrected by Club Nintendo with the "Ball" remake. In 1979 the Milton Bradley Company released the Microvision, which actually used swappable cartridges but was known to contain faulty hardware.

Personally speaking, this generation is a favorite of mine. I love the experimentation and innovation, obscenely huge library of games and consoles, creative control schemes, groundbreaking arcade originals (and their sometimes questionable ports), and general affordability of games. It's such a fun era to explore and I still feel as if I'm just scratching the surface. At the time of this writing I own the Atari 2600 & 5200, Channel F, Odyssey², Intellivision, ColecoVision, Vectrex, Commodore VIC-20 and C64, TI-99/4A, TRS-80 Color Computer (Models 2 & 3), Atari 600XL, and a handful of old Game & Watch and standalone handhelds. I also frequently play Golden Age arcade classics on the various compilations by Taito, Konami, Midway, etc. I have a long-term goal of obtaining some of the more obscure hardware as well as building my second gen game library. As a ports junkie I love comparing different variants of the same game as they appear on the Atari 2600, Intellivision, ColecoVision, and so on... Best of all is simply playing these old games: they're a blast.

Any second gen discussion is welcome in this thread. Talk about your favorite games, collecting, the homebrew scene, emulation, high scores, whatever. Overwhelmed by all the choices and want to know where to get started? Feel free to ask!

Hope to see a few folks in here. 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 9:16 pm 
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I have a big soft spot for atari 2600.

I used to rock this back in the day when everyone had a Nintendo.

Our family was too poor to afford NES and the atari we got was a hand me down. But me and my siblings had a blast with classic gaming.

And who among us here played their second gen console on this huge thing?

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For me a major part of old atari consoles is the sounds. Bleeps and bloops that remind you that this is a videogame.

Like the intro song in Crystal Castles https://youtu.be/z_jskCGsr_0?t=7s

Or the Power-up in Vanguard https://youtu.be/ewQDKtc1i-4?t=7s

The intro of frogger was heard many times for me growing up https://youtu.be/vEsq-PGRJ5I

Although now that I hear them on youtube, they sound quite S#itty! Nothing like the original hardware to play it on.

Ahh the sounds of nostalgia.

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 9:55 pm 
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My first experience with video games was the Atari 2600 on a massive console TV like that. It used to be fun playing with the color knobs to make the games look different.

I didn't have any experience with the old computers except the Apple II with the obligatory Oregon Trail and lots of other games that were supposed to be teaching me things but really didn't.

As far as second-gen collecting goes I stick to the 2600 but I'm a sucker for golden age arcade compilations of any kind. I spent a lot of time with many of those games as a kid, not just in arcades but in department stores and diners. I really miss the days when I could go out with my dad, grab a hamburger and pad my "Top Agent" score on Spy Hunter or play Commando and Pac-Land while my mom stood in line at K-Mart.

Does anyone know if Berzerk or Frenzy were ever had any reasonable modern releases? Out of all of the most classic arcade games released in compilations these seem to be the most lost to time. It's understandable with Frenzy (which at least saw the light of day recently on the ColecoVision Flashback) but Berzerk was huge in its time (and didn't even make it to the Atari Flashback yet). Does anyone even own the rights to them anymore?


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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:18 pm 
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I was rocking the 2600 back when you kids were playing your new fangled NESes and stuff. I didn't get one of those till 1989. So Toys R Us runs would be for the ever dwindling stock of 2600 cartridges. I also got a huge load of cartridges from people who didn't want them anymore, which makes up the majority of my current collection, 71 games!

Throw some 2600 games out and I'll be back :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 5:23 am 
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Good thread. You know I love this era, Bone.

My first home video game experiences were with the C64 and TI99/4A, and my first console was a 7800...which meant that I was amassing a VCS library while my elementary school chums were digging into the NES.

There are three things that really, to this day, give me such a deep appreciation for this era (even over the one to follow):

1) These games laid the groundwork for the next 40+ years of the medium. I am constantly impressed by how many design ideas, how many genres and sub genres, how many themes and narratives, and how many art choices that we typically think of as more modern ones have early expressions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I recently played Dragonstomper for the VCS, for example, which is an excellent game and clearly a precursor to something like The Legend of Zelda or Hydlide. There are games like A Mind Forever Voyaging for the Apple II which are still heralded as having some of the best writing the medium has ever seen (something Baldur's Gate/Dragon Age writer David Gaider told me). There are so many games from this period that do so many interesting things that are easily missed if you focus on just the "defining games" that the era is associated with. There are really few modern game ideas that don't have purer/distilled expressions in this era.

2) These games were created within intense constraints. I think that anyone who has zero or minimal appreciation for this era owes it to themselves to read Montfort and Bogost's Racing the Beam. It is a quick read, but it will give you a sense of the technical mastery found often within the games of this era and can really change your view of the era's relevance for today. Doing so should also alleviate a lot of the common complaints people seem to have about the "boring look" of blocky graphics, limited colors, "bleep bloop" sounds, etc. very quickly - once you understand just a few basic things about hardware and software design of the era, you can start to appreciate many of these "rudimentary" aesthetics as anything but.

3) There's so much weirdness to be discovered. This is one of the most fascinating eras to collect for. Aside from the fact that there are so many systems out there each with their own quirks, there is a shit ton of crazy accessories and random games to unearth. Higher profile stuff like mail-order VCS carts are fairly well known but, for example, just yesterday I found out about this Atari controller. There's also the fact that games were marketed in strange ways since they were new. This applies to the Atari 2600 launch in some ways, but also to the huge list of inputs that could be used to play them. There are entire consoles built on design ideas that went nowhere, and there are modern homebrew games to be found that easily count amongst the best things ever made for a system.



There are plenty of other reasons to fall in love with this era on both the computer and console side of things...but I think that it is my second favorite retro era after the period from roughly 1993-1996 (when a lot of the same inventiveness was crammed into moving the medium into 3D).

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Last edited by dsheinem on Sun Mar 22, 2015 9:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:44 am 
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The arcades of this era truly stand out. I can still enjoy a good game of Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, or Missile Command.

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 9:44 am 
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dsheinem wrote:
There are plenty of other reasons to fall in love with this era on both the computer and console side of things...but I think that it is my second favorite retro era after the period from roughly 1993-1996 (when a lot of the same inventiveness was crammed into moving the medium into 3D).


I was thinking the same thing. Both are not necessarily my absolute favorite eras in terms of games to play but they're my favorites in terms of exploring due to being so experimental and laying the foundations of future genres.


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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 10:30 am 
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I did prefer my Coleco to my Atari 2600 when I was young. The Coleco had Ladybug, which was a wonderfully addictive game loosely based on Pac Man.

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:18 am 
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I had several family members with a huge wooden TV set. Once they upgraded the old wood TV became the TV stand for the new one. :lol:

Nice post, dish. More reasons why I love the second gen. In addition to the time constraints you mentioned it's also interesting to see how many games were designed one person (like Howard Scott Warshaw or Carol Shaw).

I think people who believe second gen consoles were "too primitive" don't realize how many RPG/adventure titles were available on these systems. In addition to Dragonstomper and Adventure there were also the two D&D games on Intellivision, and one of the Dunjonquest games was even ported to the ColecoVision. And that doesn't even touch the computer stuff.

The number of controllers is amazing. I happened to stumble upon a complete copy of Star Raiders at Goodwill a couple of years ago and it came with its own controller and overlay!
https://atariage.com/overlay_page.html? ... ID=OVERLAY

And yes, 1993-1996 ("Generation 4.5") is pretty fascinating. Kinda bummed about how hard it is to find CD32, 3DO, and PC-FX games though. But now I'm getting off topic.

samsonlonghair wrote:
The arcades of this era truly stand out. I can still enjoy a good game of Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, or Missile Command.


How are you playing these today? I highly recommend the Atari Anthology and Namco Museum 50th Anniversary, among others.

@Gunstar Green
Did you end up picking up the Coleco Flashback? It's the best thing next to the real console, as I don't think a Coleco compilation ever existed.

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 Post subject: Re: Second Generation Appreciation Thread
PostPosted: Sun Mar 22, 2015 3:11 pm 
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BoneSnapDeez wrote:
@Gunstar Green
Did you end up picking up the Coleco Flashback? It's the best thing next to the real console, as I don't think a Coleco compilation ever existed.


I did. I got the Dollar General version with Antarctic Adventure which isn't fantastic but technically impressive.

There are some letdowns in regards to the library. Some are understandable like the Nintendo licenses that Nintendo would never let them do but other absences are curious like Lady Bug.

But what it does have is pretty great since Coleco had some of the lesser known arcade hits of the time, including awesome Exidy games like the best port of Venture and Pepper II. I'm more interested in the obscure stuff than another version of Donkey Kong anyway and Miner 2049'er along with Jumpman Jr. scratch that itch pretty well anyway.

They also included another fantastic predecessor to the action adventure genre in Gateway to Apshai which is very Rogue-esque. Intellivision probably had more of these style games but this is a really interesting one.

I love some of the "knock offs" too like Sir Lancelot and Nova Blast which build upon Joust and Defender respectively and do a really good job of it.

And of course I could play Frenzy for hours if no one stops me.

Out of the home brews included Princess Quest and Mecha-8 could almost give the NES competition. They're really impressive.

I'm pretty grateful for the Flashback since I don't think I'll ever be hunting down the real hardware (and certainly not some of the very uncommon games they included like Choplifter) but I hope it sold enough to warrant a ColecoVision Flashback 2, possibly with some more licenses to expand the library. I'm not holding my breath for any Nintendo games but I'd love to see Turbo, Gorf, Mr. Do and Spy Hunter in the next version.

The ColecoVision is one of my favorite, "What if?" stories in video game history. This quote from an interview in High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games interested me:

Bert Reiner, Coleco's head of engineering and production wrote:
I went to Japan with Leonard Greenberg and we visited Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo. At the time, we were doing some joint production development with them. They were interested in buying ColecoVision from us for 10 percent above our cost, but Leonard wanted to sell it to them for 10 percent below our regular selling price. The negotiations broke down and Yamauchi said, "We'll develop our own game system, then." I heard Leonard laughing, thinking these guys wouldn't come up with anything that could compete.


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