This was my first year of intensive work on video game history and I wanted to share how things have been progressing on my end. I have some thoughts about what I was able to accomplish along with my hopes for the future that I would like to share with readers. This will include the blog, the video series, and the projects which I contributed to this year which you may not have seen.
The Blog (You’re reading it right now!)
The vast majority of my views on this blog have come from 2018 due to my consistent output, plus gaining a Twitter following over 2017. I set a personal goal for myself to put out posts on a twice monthly schedule, which did not occur. Depending on the type of content that some may enjoy from me, I may not have even achieved a suitable monthly output. My main takeaway from this is to not set hard goals for this side-project, but I have a level of posting in mind that I feel I can achieve now.
I did feel good about my output for this year. I am well aware of what content is most interesting to people, as my first Game Development post and the Microprocessor Games examination were the most viewed, but I felt good about posting alternative content like Historical Methods and an interview (which will definitely be more numerous in the future). The intention of this blog is drawing people into discussions about history and doing real work in examining areas in depth rather than simply telling stories. Posts like the Breakout one were not about creating narratives, as I am saving that for elsewhere.
I am intending to return to some of these posts as new information comes forward, even as I know that will not enhance the viewership. The Microprocessor article will receive an update based on new information I acquired in the last few months of the year and the Thief history has several interviews I was not able to transcribe in time that may add some additional context. Several series will also be returned to, such as the Historiography of Video Games and Chicago Legacy, even though neither of those posts really received appreciation.
One other failure of this year is that my original plan for the oral history was to do Dragon’s Lair, because I felt I may have been able to get Rick Dyer to speak about the game. That never panned out so I fell back on Thief: The Dark Project, which I do feel was more relevant to people’s interests. I had fun creating it despite the numerous formatting problems and I feel it was a vision that I executed very well. Many people were telling me to use narration to guide the story a bit, but I chose to keep it as entirely quote-based (save for the beginning and some title markets). I think it came out rather well. I do intend to do another big post for this year, but it is yet to be determined.
This blog will continue to broadcast for whatever audience decides to read it. I have found success in using my Twitter to reach the majority of readers, though I also had additional help from elsewhere. I’d like to particularly thank Vadim Ivshim for his Russian translations of some of my posts and Simon Carless for putting me in several of his newsletters. I welcome whatever sort of comments as well, so feel free to engage with the material here or elsewhere.
I had convinced myself about getting the first portion of the video series out by the end of 2018, but there were a number of disruptive factors in my life which made that impossible. However, I am a very long way towards being able to do the final editing. A good amount of voice-over and on-camera footage has been shot, the scripts are written, the visuals are mostly in place, public domain music has been acquired, and a general style has been worked out. The vision I had for the series hasn’t really changed since the initial conception, just now the feasibility has become so much more complete.
The hardest part I think is going to be navigating the YouTube minefield. I’m confident the videos can attract a loyal audience as I see tons of small gaming history channels which are getting larger with each video they make. My concern is being able to produce a brand out of this series, delivering content, tagging it with the right metadata, and responsibly sharing it around with those who wouldn’t immediately click on it. The presentation of the videos are going to be as important as the stuff inside.
Of course I also worry about potential issues and what may need to be improved. Already I have found that my way of presenting source data in my scripts is very deficient and I plan to fix that for the second chunk that I am working on. The delivery of information is also currently at a rather fast pace, with longs points between moments of levity which could hold more interest. I won’t bore you all with my fears of how I may disappoint, but I always want to improve. As basically a one-man show, I only have myself to rely on, so I want to be better all the time.
The series will 100% launch this year (unless I die) even if I have to make some compromises to what I have wanted to do. I plan to release the episodes once a week, which will take a couple months to finish even with this limited chunk. I hope to get as far ahead as possible while working on the next part (1976-1980) and evaluate what might be the best course of action from there. I have considered every future possibility but I can’t really know where to take things until there’s a clear indication of how people respond to my work. All I know is that I fully intend to cover the history up to 2011, whatever form that may take.
The main priority is in this chronological series, with a hope that the brand can be extended to other content, possibly things like podcasts. One planned-for contingency is if major discoveries are made on specific games, update videos on specific games could be uploaded to serve as substitutions for sections in the larger video which that section may be a part of. Again, this is all post-release concerns. I will likely be discussing this more in another forum, so keep an eye out if you would like to hear more about this.
In 2018 I made a concerted effort to not only contact but bring together as many game historians/preservationists as I could. This has helped build a network which has not only helped their work, but put me in contact with people interested in what I can offer. I have been happy to provide assistance on projects through last year and I wanted to make the readers aware to what I contributed to.
I had two book credits this year. The first was for the CRPG Book Project, where I wrote the Dungeons of Daggorath section over 2 years ago. This was less historical, but I thank Felipe Pepe a lot for helping me construct a well-defined summation of the game which has definitely helped my writing. The other was as a credited and named source in Ken Horowitz’s book The Sega Arcade Revolution: A History in 62 Games, which I was generously sent a copy of. I provided resources to Ken including several interviews with Sega/Gremlin employees which are quoted in the text of the book.
Two gaming history documentaries bore a special thanks for me. Norm at Gaming Historian asked for some help on his Punch-Out! video, so I got a credits spot. I answered some questions and scanned some photos from the coin-op trade publications for use in the video. Jenovi had me read over the script for his video on the name “PSX” for the original PlayStation. I will be honest, he didn’t take a lot of my advise in his narrative construction, but I thank him for the credit.
A combination preservation and article effort for the Video Game History Foundation resulted in the Sega-Gremlin Marketing Video Archive, with tapes I had been sitting on for a while. I also helped with Kate Willaert’s post on the Computer Space marketing materials. I assisted with a donation to The Strong Museum in Rochester, New York which I mentioned in my microprocessor article. Alex Smith has mentioned me several times in his They Create Worlds podcast as well as been using many materials I provided to him. There was a surprise appearance of me on the ANTIC podcast, though it wasn’t a great showing. Was cool to be in the same chat as Joe Decuir though.
My Internet Archive account worked to upload a lot of stuff I had been sitting on. The complete Mattel Internal Documents as well as the KC Munchkin court case files had been sitting around a while, so it was good to upload them. Several interesting early video game books were finally compiled together so that they could be accessed on the Archive. Other publications are in the process of uploading due to my inability to figure out scripts for mass uploading. The work gets too repetitive even for me!
I did have several correspondences which have not yet yielded anything, but are on the track to being future contributions. I submitted two as yet unpublished articles to Old School Gamer Magazine as well as got involved with the movie Welcome to Arcadia in a small capacity. I am working to start a wiki project as well as consulting on some other video game media things, which I will be sure to point out on Twitter. Speaking of…
Talk to Me!
If you are interested in video game history, I would implore you to get involved with us in creating a community of connected individuals working together towards preserving this story. I really felt strongly about the fragmentation of the community when I first joined and all I want is for people to feel comfortable talking to each other, asking questions, and not overlapping each other in work where possible. We can make the most out of the ticking timer of aged materials and people if we foster a community rather than special interest groups.
If you want to contact me specifically to ask me about anything (really, anything!), you can do so on my Twitter account or by the Contact Page to reach me by email. I want to be transparent and open about my research, so please don’t hesitate to talk to me about it. I want everyone to be better informed.
The largest community that I am a part of is the Gaming Alexandria Discord channel. We have a number of highly talented and dedicated people for preserving artifacts, discussing history, and just having fun. It is the best way to reach me and many others working in the field, and we hope to keep growing. There’s also a large amount of materials which we are making available to anybody who joins. Please message me for an invite as the link on the website isn’t active. If you donate to the Video Game History Foundation Patreon you can also gain access to their Discord, which I am also a part of, along with luminaries like Andrew Borman and Frank Cifaldi.
This is the state of affairs for The History of How We Play going into 2019. I’m still having fun despite how much work it has been. I look forward to continue providing everybody with quality content for the future. Hopefully I hear from all of you as well!
Best to 2019.