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March 16, 2023 58 mins

Chuck and Josh were around during the Golden Age of the arcade. And look how they turned out! Join them on a trip down memory lane. 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey, everybody, we are doing a Northeastern swing for our
twenty twenty three tour and which includes one day in
dear old Canada. Right, that's right. We're gonna swing it
up starting May fourth at the Warner Theater in DC.
It's gonna be amazing. May fifth, we're gonna be at
the Chevalier, which you have to say with your pinkie

in the air. That's in Boston. And then Chuck. May six,
we're finishing up in Toronto, Ontario at Massey Hall. It's
going to be massive at Massey Hall. That's right. Our
first shows went great earlier this year. It's a great
topic and we are super super excited to take it
to DC, the Boston metro area in Toronto, yep. So

go to link tree slash SYSK live for tickets and
for you oldsters like us, that's l I n K
t R dot E slash SYSK Live. We'll see you
guys in May. Welcome to Stuff you should know, a
production of Iheartradiot. Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh,

and there's Chuck and Jerry's here somewhere running around like
a chicken worth or head cut off like headless Mike,
and that makes this stuff you should know, Mike, or
headless chicken. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, we're immediately reminded me
of the mcnaggan. What lets I mentioned that way back then,
there's a just look at mcnagan. It's a fried chicken heads.

It's a fried chicken head that's slipped into some fried chicken.
Oh at a restaurant. Have you ever eaten an h
and F home in and finch? Uh? Yeah, yeah, I've
had that burger at Pond City Market where we used
to have our studios. Oh, if you go to the
flagship restaurant, fried chicken heads are on the menu. No, really, yes,
And when you eat one, you're like, I've gone too far. This,

this dinner has turned into a blood orgy. Basically, I
have never am sending you the mcnaggan right now, just
because that's the kind of stuff we're doing. Now that's
i'll lose. This has gotten here. I'll do a typing
sound effect. Do do? All right? Feast your eyes on
the mcnoggan, and let's talk about arcades. Ah, yes, let's

I'm really excited about this one, Charles, because both of
us we're kind of we hit two different sweet spots
with this, right. I mean you were in the Golden
Era and I was in the Silver Era? Am I correct? Yeah?
I mean you you were kind of you probably went
to the Golden era time written from going to a

little Yeah. Yeah. My mom was like, that's a drug
den right, which is funny because I went to a
lot of arcades, and I know I was a naive
little Baptist boy, but actually, what am I saying? There
was probably drugs all over. Yeah, You're like, why are
you acting so goofy Todd, geez, get it together. But

we're talking about mainly the Golden Age of arcades? What
else is it? Dovetail with you? Said Bob for us
and what I was part of the Silver Age? Is
that with you? Okay? I thought that was one additional
thing you were going to say, No, I don't think so. Okay,
Well this dovetails nicely, I think with our episode on
Nintendo obviously totally and in fact we've had this. Dave

Russ helped us out with this one. Dave rus Co,
creator of the hit podcast Biblical Timing. But he wrote
this a while ago. But I've been sort of sitting
on it until Nino the Nintendo stank were off. And
did we do one on Atari or not or just
the one with Strickland. I think on Atari. No, I

definitely did a two parter on tech stuff, but we
did not. We did the et game the writer, Yes, yes, Okay,
did that one. Yeah. We've talked about the video game
Crash of nineteen eighty three like multiple times. And we
did pinball. We did do pinball, and that actually kind
of factors in remotely. We won't go into it much,
but pinball kind of prefigured the video game arcade in

a lot of different ways, not the least that it
had an unsavory reputation among parents and kids love to
go play there. But after pinball kind of stopped being
as much of a thing, there was a little bit
of a drought until we pick up and I think
that say the seventies, the early seventies, late sixties, with

a young man, an electrical engineer from University of Utah
named Nolan Bushnell. Nolan Bushnell figures into this story as
much as you can figure into the birth of the
arcade because he was a nerd. He was in all
the best ways. He was an e major at Utah,

Like you said, and when you were a nerd in
university in the late nineteen sixties early seventies, you're gonna
start playing very rudimentary computer games and think they are awesome.
In that very first game that he played was one
in from six two developed an MIT called space War.

Yeah with a big fat exclamation yeah, And it spread
very quickly among nerds in college all over the country.
It was a big deal. Um. But you say that
that um Nolan Bushnell was like an important figure, You
can actually kind of make an argument that this may
have never happened had it not been for him, because,

as he kind of recounts later, well, listen, there was
no one in the same position that he was in
probably in the world, because he had an electrical engineering
degree and he played he played games on computers, so
he knew about video games like I should say video
game because there was basically just one at the time. Yeah. Yeah.
And then he also um and during summers, and then

shortly after he graduated college, he was the games director
for an amusement park outside of Salt Lake City called Lagoon.
And there's seriously probably no one else on the planet
that had that varience with computer games and also with
UM arcade games like pinball or ski ball, was one

UM who could have kind of synergized them the way
that Nolan Bushnell did create Atari. M that's my take.
Do you have a thing against Nolan Bushnell? No, But
I'll tell you what is Nolan Bushnell still around? I
don't know, my friend, he loves you. If he is,
I will say that why because you're saying he's the

only one that could have done it in the world
and that it wouldn't have happened without him. He's like,
you can make a h Clark praises right now. Well,
Nolan Bushnell, if you're out there, I think that that
demands that you get in touch and thank me. Yeah,
it's in some of that arcade money, Josh Way sure,
but you are right, and that he had um he

had an economic understanding that proved to be pretty key,
as in, he uh, he knew what it cost to
like build the game in a game cabinet, he knew
how much they had to make to make that money
back and turn a profit. So just sort of learned
knowing the economics of how this stuff worked, and like

you said, also being into the games was a It
was a key reason this all happened. Yeah, so he
saw a real opportunity to do something big and he's
alive by the way. Okay, cool, well then yes, please
do get in touch Nolan Bushnell. Yeah. Um, he recruited
a guy named Ted Dabney who together they went on

to found Atari with another guy named al Alcorn. Alan Alcorn,
and the three of them created a first a rip
off of Space War called computer Space in nineteen seventy one,
and a lot of people say, like, it wasn't it
wasn't a good It wasn't a good game. It was
too hard, because the whole point of creating a game,

they found out after this first attempt is to make
it just hard enough to keep people interested, but easy
enough that you can play it while half drunk. Yeah,
like easy to play, hard to master. Yeah, because these
these coin operated games, their first targets were bars. So

computer Space it's very frequently said it's a commercial failure.
But um, Nolan Bushnell, my new friend, he points out
that we sold enough of these units that we were
able to go on and found Atari. Yeah, so they
actually did sell some. It went okay, but again it
was supposedly way too hard, and they took that as
a lesson learned and they moved on the next year

to create Pong. Yeah, they said, all right, you want easy, right,
let me introduce you to Pong. And I know I
mentioned this on the Strickland's episode, but I had the
you know, and I think you were kind of the
same and your family sort of you know, middle class
folks who a lot of times got the knockoff versions
of whatever, whether it was ping, the where those the

the not quite eyes odd shirt or the not quite
Monga's bike. I had Knights of the round Table knock
off polo shirts. Yeah, I had the not quite Pong,
which it was I believe the Sears and Roebuck version
of Pong it always is. Yeah. I don't know what
it was called, but it was essentially the same thing,
which is um ping pong or table tennis. It was
called ganap. Was it really the Sears version? No, that's Pong?

Okay backwards, Oh, I got you, boy. That was slow
on the uptake on that one. So okay, there's somebody
out there laugh. But Pong was based on a nineteen
fifty eight video game um Tennis for two. Did you
see video of that game of Tennis for two? Yeah,
it's played on a radar oscillator. Yeah, like the same

kind of like round fish eye screen. Yeah, yeah, that
you use for like to detect missiles in nineteen fifty.
That's how the game is played. But it's actually pretty
sophisticated if you watch it. Yeah, there was another game
that was on a round screen? Was it the um?
Was it computer Space? Did you see that one? I
didn't know. Was that a square screen? I don't know. Anyway,

something in my memory bank tells me there was another
one on a round screen because they just you know,
that's what graphic screens were like in the sixties. They
were radar screens. Yeah, but I mean this thing was
like it's almost like they broke into like a d
O d um missile silo and hooked up their controllers
and we're playing Tennis for two on it. That's what
it looks like in this video. Yeah. Uh. And you know,

while we're singing Bushnell's praises for creating Atari and launching
the arcade basically the modern arcade. He also was one
of the founders of Charles Entertainment Cheese, better known as
Chucky Cheese, which is still around. Yeah, have you ever
seen I'm sure we've talked about it before, but have
you seen the rock Afire Explosion documentary? The what so

Chucky Cheese has his band like they have like the
live animatronic band at their ch Cheeselo Showbiz Pizza had
their own called rock Afire Explosion. I think a Gorilla
was like the lead singer, and it's very cute, same
thing animatronics. They sang some songs and stuff like that,
and they made a documentary about people whose passion in

life is finding and rescuing and restoring old rock Afire
Explosion setups. Oh wow. It's one of those like really great,
like social interest documentaries that like just kind of fly
under the radar. But it's like, this is one of
the best documentaries I've ever seen in my life. It's
just great. Yeah, I gotta check that out. Please do
check it out. Its Rockefire Explosion. I think it's mid adds,

maybe twenty seven or eight. I love anything where someone
takes old stuff and restores it for even if it's
just for display or whatever. Okay, well, then I have
something else to tell you. I was saving this for
the end. But I happened I don't even know how
I happened upon this. There's a website called Aussie Arcade
and it's almost like a news server, list serve or

something like that. But I found a post called Atari
Star Wars Cockpit Restoration. So you remember the Atari Star
Wars game? Do you remember the sit down version? H yeah? Okay,
So a guy in Australia got his hands on one
of these that's seen better days and he spent nine
months restoring it like and I don't mean the outside,

I mean the wiring. He resal soldered the wires, he
like electro plated the metal parts. Again, it's one of
the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life.
And he chronicled it exhaustively. So if you want to
like spend an hour just being impressed, go look for
Atari Star Wars Cockpit Restoration by Womble Wombles, the guy

who did it on Aussi Arcade, and you'll just be wowed.
All Right, I'm gonna I know what I'm doing for
the rest of the day. Now at least you'll like it, Chuck,
I promise. And it's not a video, it's just it's
photos and like explanations and stuff. Okay, all right, So
back to Ellen alcorn in. Pong Pong was a huge hit.
They put the very first one in a bar and Sunnyvale,

California called Andicaps, which is kind of fun, one little
historical footnote and a couple and this is like the
movie version. Two weeks later they called and said, hey,
it just sing's not working anymore. And they go over
and then I was like, here's your problem, and they
opened the coin catcher and like a million dollars spills out.
But that's how the story goes. It was basically so

popular it was jammed with quarters, and they sold eight
thousand pong cabinets in the face of knockoffs because it
took a year to get the patent for pong, so
they were knockoffs being sold and they still ended up
selling thirty five thousand total pong cabinets. Yeah, they sold
eight thousand just the first year, and that was with

six people building them. That's in a pong cabinet in
a bar in today's dollars could bring in close to
one hundred grand in quarters. Wow, every single year. If
you had one of those in your bar. I think
they were saying it was bringing close to in today's

stellars about two hundred and seventy dollars. And of course
that's if it's played every day. Of course you can
be closed on Christmas. Sure, Oh you did the math?
Is that where you got it? I did the math,
but I sort of round it up still. I'll bet
Andy Kapps was open Christmas. But it was also a
good place to meet somebody if you were interested in them,
because it was a good way to have a conversation.

You played side by side. It was a social lubricant
because you were drinking at a fern bar, a Harvey wallbanger,
playing pong, and you know, meeting some ladies down at
the Regal Beagle exactly. So this was nineteen seventy three. Yeah,
nineteen seventy three. So Atari went from not existing you're

coming out with its first game in nineteen seventy one,
to having a smash hit and actually creating stand up
coin operated arcade video games as an industry, from nothing
to in nineteen seventy three to nineteen seventy four selling
out to a tar to Warner Brothers or Warner Communications
for twenty eight million, which is almost one hundred and

fifty million today and sorry, in six years. That's crazy. Yeah,
I mean that's definitely worth singing the praises. Yeah, absolutely,
And you know, Dave argues that the golden Age was
seventy eight to eighty two. I would argue it trickled
into eighty three and people were still going into arcades

in eighty four and eighty five. But I think he's
probably pretty close because eighty three, as we'll see later,
is if you look at data, is when gross profits
you know, really kind of didn't bottom out. But we're
a lot less than during those previous four years. Yeah,
I think it was like eighty four, maybe especially eighty four,

but probably in the eighty five it was like a
dead man walking. You didn't know it. Yeah, but yeah,
people were still I mean, those those video arcades that
started to spring up like mushrooms all across the country.
I think in nineteen eighty two there were thirteen thousand
arcades in the US and let's just get the straight

five six years before there were probably zero, and all
of a sudden there were thirteen thousand arcades. There were
tons of companies that were getting into creating and designing
and building these stand up cabinets that were sent to
all of these thirteen thousand arcades in the United States,
and it was just the thing. It was the biggest

thing around at the time. Yeah, I mean, I can,
off the top of my head, I can think of
four arcades that were within twelve minute a twelve minute
drive from my house in suburban Atlanta, I see. I
The only one I could come up with was the
one at Southwick Mall and Toledo that I wasn't allowed

to go to. It was called Red Barns And Okay,
I don't even remember what it looked like inside. I
saw pictures of the old sign. I was like, yeah,
that's it. I just remember it being dark. And I
think I met gone in there once as a slightly
older kid, after I was like allowed to do whatever
I want, you know, like age twelve. Yeah, and um

and uh, it was, you know, kind of like this
neat place that I wasn't allowed to go to before.
But it kind of missed, you know what I mean. Yeah,
you know, if I wish one thing for you, it
would be that so that you were just a little
bit older. Yeah, and then and then you could take
those years off because I don't want you to be
my age. I want you to be my age in

the eighties. That would be really neat. I wonder when
we'll start doing that, we'll start playing with age and
experience like that. I have an idea. I want to
tell you this. I think this is so cool. I
there's no way I can possibly do this, so I'll
just share it with the universe and maybe somebody can
do it. Okay. Imagine, so we've got like AI that's
starting to get pretty smart all of a sudden, and

if you listen to the End of the World with
Josh Clark, that may not be a good thing I'm saying,
but they're the AI that's starting to be deployed is
getting smarter and smarter and more and more humanlike and
more and more capable. And one thing I thought would
be really cool as if the AI that's out there
today could study the different stats and footage of every

NBA player that ever existed. Okay, and then eventually you
can say, I want the eighty eight Lakers to play
the twenty fifteen heat and the AI would play a
simulated game that would play out probably exactly like it
would have played out in real life if you could
actually do that. I mean they do those simulated games

now for like this the big game for super Bowl. Yeah,
I thought we weren't allowed to say that was the
super Bowl. Police can come get us. Uh. Yeah, they
played those those um computer sims. But I don't know
if it's as like robust as you're probably thinking. And

I don't know if they have done like matching up
classic teams, because that would be pretty fun because that,
especially in the NBA, that's a big argument of like
you know which era was best or whatever. Um So anyway,
the arcades, I had four that I can think of
off the dome that we're within fifteen minute drive. Uh.

Kids in the eighties were Ferrell basically, Um, if you're
a younger person and you watch Stranger Things and you think, like,
was it really like that? Yes, it was really like that.
You would you would come home. My mom was at home,
but I would basically come home and immediately leave again
most times and not come back until after dark. Latchkey.

Kids would come home to an empty house and then
go somewhere else or have friends over, or go straight
to a friend's house, and we just didn't have oversight
um somehow, you know, most of us did, okay, at
least me and my friends did. Like there were no
I'm sure there were plenty of tragedies, but not in
my room. We all did fine. Yeah, I mean there

would be a tragedy once in a while, it would
make sure and scare everybody, but it was so few
and far between at the time. Yeah. But one thing
I wanted to get into with Dave. He kept saying,
like quarters, quarters, quarters. In the early days of arcades,
at least at the ones I went to, there were
not quarters. There were tokens. Oh yeah, yeah, and you

they had deals going like a game didn't cost a quarter.
A game cost depending on the deal that day. If
you went on like a Tuesday, you would get like
twenty tokens for a dollar or something like that, like
they would have like double token day, and a game
was never a quarter, so you could play and play
and play forever for five bucks because games ran on

tokens that were not the value of a quarter. And
then eventually, of course quarters or maybe in some places
they already used them, but then the quarter became like
a fifty cent game was like whoa like, are you
kidding me? And now when you go to like a
Dave and Busters, you get a pay fifty dollars for
some card and you didn't even know how much you're

paying per game unless you read the fine print. You
just buzz your card. It's you know, it's over. It's
several dollars probably, yeah, for sure, I'm sure probably five
bucks a game maybe, and some for the big, big ones.
But it's a different I mean, I went to a
Dave and Busters recently with Ruby, and it's not a
ton of just regular old arcade games, big things and cranes,

grabbing stuffed toys and interactive stuff. It's fine, it's fun. Yeah,
it's just not a video arcade. A video arcade. And yeah,
late some of these and early eighties was a very
specific space. It was dark, there was very few people
over the age of eighteen or nineteen in there. It
was just it was a kid's place. And like you said,

kids were ferrel at the time, and you could your
parents didn't know where you were, so you could spend
as much time as you wanted or as much money
as you had at the arcade or out in the
woods or doing whatever, and so because that this was
like a new thing. Like kids were I think allowed
to like kind of roam free in the mid seventies

for sure, and definitely before that too, but they didn't
have this place to go to. Maybe a pinball arcade
was there or something like that, but nothing like this.
And the difference between a pinball machine and at nineteen
seventy nine stand up art video arcade machine is just
mind boggling, especially if you're playing this thing in nineteen

seventy nine and your only exposure previously was two things
like pinball machines. Yeah, should we take a break? Yeah,
all right, we'll take our first break and we'll be
right back, all right. So we've established that the peak

of parents not caring about their children was in the eighties.
The early nineteen eighties, arcades came along to squeeze dollars
out of us, and they started getting better games, you know,
the games at first, you know, I started looking at
these and we're going to talk about some of the
iconic games, and what I realized is the iconic games

of the era almost all still hold up today. Maybe
not with the graphics. It may be a little rudimentary,
but most of these iconic games are still the gameplay
is still challenging, and that's why I think it holds up.
The one that aren't that don't hold up as far

as gameplay goes, or games like pole Position, which was
the first three D car racing game where you were
sort of position right behind the car, and Pole Position
was a huge game in nineteen eighty two that really
brought on driving games. But Pole Position didn't hold up
because the gameplay is not that great in addition to

not looking great. But if you go play misspac Man
or Space Invaders or Centipede or Yeah, or Galagha or Asteroids,
these games are still challenging and fun to play. Yeah,
and Galagha, I will put money that it still looks
good just about anybody. Yes, it is bitmapped because it's
a bit it's like eight or sixteen or whatever bit graphics,

But it still looks good and it moves well, and
it's just a it's a cool looking game. It is
nineteen eighty one. Shout out to Shagira Yoko Yama for
designing Galagha on the heels of Galaxian, their previous this game,
which was not as good Galagha and both were inspired,
of course, by Space Invaders, which was the next biggest

game after Pong to come along in nineteen seventy eight. Yeah,
so Pong just put video games on the map. And
then the next up was Japan, who said, oh yeah,
I'll hold our sake, and they came up with Space
Invaders in nineteen seventy eight, and it became such an
overnight success in Japan that people rented empty commercial spaces
and just put Space Invaders in there and created like

these kind of pop up arcades that were opened twenty
four hours a day and had a line out the
door at all times. Apparently, the legend goes that there
was a nationwide shortage of one hundred yen coins because
these storefronts with the Space Invader machines were sucking them
up crazy pretty cool. I will say that David Busters

had a like a probably probably ten foot tall Space
Invaders that you can play, which is kind of cool.
Ten what's the point of it being ten feet tall?
Is the screen like that big? Yeah? That's how big
the screen? H Okay, I got you. Well, it's pretty
Does it look good though? Yeah? It looks awesome. So
Space Invaders is the reason we have all those space

fighting or space shooter themed games that are so clustered
in like the early eighties, late seventies. That was the one.
But um the next game that came out that really
kind of shook that up. That was the trend forever.
There was one I saw a chuck called Starfire from
nineteen seventy nine. I don't remember that one. It was

by UM, I can't remember who it was, but it
was this um this company, this games company that just
kept pushing the envelope. But anyway, Starfire, if you watch
the gameplay, it has the same exact font as Star
Wars and interesting you are unambiguously shooting tie Fighters. But
it was in no way, shape or form license from

Star Wars. It was just that big of a rip off.
So that was like the big trend was space fighters
until pac Man came along in nineteen eighty and said
boom yeah. Pac Man was the first. It was a
Namco game, a Japanese gaming company, and it was the
first game to have a mascot, like a little character.

Previous to this, you know, you had your little shooter
ship with space invaders and your little triangular spaceship with asteroids,
and not even a ship with games like Missile Command.
But which actually that may have been after pac Man.
I'm not sure, but pac Man was the first mascot.
It was designed explicitly to not be violent. It was

designed explicitly to a feel appeal to young girls because
they were trying to make more money, and you know,
it was it was sort of a boys thing at
the time. They were like, we need to get girls
in here, and pac Man comes along and they were
into it. The boys were into it, and it became
a worldwide sensation. It was I had a pac Man
lunchbox and matching thermis that I was like, one of

my prize possessions, the pac Man cartoon. This is about
when I came in pac Man cartoon was I think
it's probably still good. There's a song pac Man Fever.
There's an article we really need to shout out on
the Verge by Laura June from back in twenty thirteen,
and she points out in this article that the pac

Man Fever sold a million records in nineteen eighty two,
and survivors I Have the Tiger, which was the number
one hit of nineteen eighty two, only sold a million
more that's how big pac Man Fever was. Yeah, Buckner
and Garcia that the singers of pac Man Fever terrible song?

Was it link in the tune of a cat scratch Fever? No? Okay,
well that was just the Simpsons that screwed me up. No, no,
no good. Listen to Pacman Fever. It's it's awful. But
you know those guys, hats off to them. They made it.
Sold a million records? Ever done that? Yeah? I never
sold one record, although we may soon. Oh yeah, man' uh.

Cinipede was another watershed game in nineteen eighty. It was
the first game um Co designed by a woman named
Donna Bailey, and she was the only woman working at Aitari,
at least the only designer, and she picked out that
track ball in Cinipede. Again, gameplay holds up still very
very hard game to play. Yeah. I was watching gameplay

on YouTube of Centipede and I was getting anxious. Just
done like the second second level. Yeah, these games are
are fun and hard. Um. I don't think we mentioned
that Asteroid I think was the first game to untether
the ship. Um Like Space Invaders and Galagha all those games.
You can move left and right at the bottom. Yeah,
but you're shooting upward towards the top of the screen. Yeah.

What made Asteroids really really hard was once you were
brave enough to hit that throttle button and start flying
around a little bit like it was, it's a very
tough game. And then I think um was a Defender. Yeah.
Defender was a really cool one that still holds up
two that you could shoot left or right, and so
it was a scrolling game, whereas with some of the

other ones, they were like yes, whereas some of the
other ones they were just or all the other ones
they were just a new level, which basically was like, oh,
these shapes are now in a different location in their
purple rather than green. Yeah. However, were they scrolled vertically,
but this is definitely the first horizontal scroll. Yes, and
it was cool. That's another one that really holds up
to Defender. Yeah. Miss pac Man far superior to pac

Man in nineteen eighty two. Was I mean, I feel
like it was just as popular probably as pac Man.
It may as far as like play goes, I would
guess it's Eclipse pac Man, but as far as like
pop culture goes, yeah, pac Man might have Miss pac
Man beat I think they were kind of hand in
hand appropriately, you know, Yeah, you're right, Um want to

shout out a few more games just quickly that I
feel like we're sort of game changers. The game Tron,
Oh yeah, that was good, just on the heels of
the movie Tron. It was great because it had four
different sub games within the game, and that light Cycle
game was like one of the coolest things you'd ever
played when you played it so hard to at least

like a six or seven year old. It was very
well and as it as it progressed, those first levels
are kind of easy and they just get harder and harder.
And then for me personally, the game Tempest, the game
Joust in the game battle Zone, where all three like big,
big games. For me, I always loved Cubert. Anywhere there
was a Cubert that I would play that. Yeah, Cubert's fun.

And that makes sense because you were younger and sort
of a skewed toward younger kids. I think what was
the one where it was like Hamburger or something like that, Oh,
Burger Time, Yes, Burger Time, Burger Timelay dig dug was good.
And then still to this day, I went and looked
at Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior, and that was

way too hard for me at the time. It's still hard, yeah,
but it's it's some of the best like graphics and
like colorful, like movement, and it's just just such a
beautiful game still to this day. And that one came out.
Donkey Kong came out in nineteen eighty one. Yeah, and
I don't think we covered in the Nintendo episode the
name Donkey Kong, did we We did, because remember, somebody

tried to file suit. I think ourca tried to soothe
them and they were like, now this is that's long gone.
That ship is sailed. Oh okay, because for some reason
it didn't ring a bell. Because I had never really
stopped to wonder why in the world it was called
Donkey Kong. It's such a weird name, but apparently they
were looking for an English word that meant stubborn, like

a donkey, and then just combine that with King Kong yep,
and Mario. I don't think we talked about this. Mario
was originally known as jump Man, one word not even hyphenated.
We should have been dragons Layer. Briefly, it's a game
that came out in nineteen eighty three. I don't know
if you remember dragons Layer much. Yeah, it was. It

was the first game that used and kind of the
only one that used LaserDisc technology to basically where you
were playing a Disney cartoon. Yep. And it was from
Don Bluth, an ex Disney animator. He did um an
American Tale, I think, Okay, I think he was like
the lead on that. Maybe I gotcha, But here was

a deal with dragons Layer. It looked cool, and it
looked different than anything you'd ever seen, and way better
than like the sixteen bit technology graphics wise at the time.
But the gameplay was terrible. You basically just push buttons
at key moments to advance the story, and like you
weren't really playing. You didn't have control of the character. No,

so let's say a single minute of this this movie
was chopped up into five different segments. Yeah, over the
course of this whole minute that played out, you would
move that thing like five times, and the rest of
the time you were just standing there waiting. It was terrible.
I never played dragons Layer. I was suckered into it

at first because it looked amazing, yes, and then I
was like this is bad. Yeah, it really was, and
which sort of just reinforces my point about the gameplay.
If it's it's good, it holds up. Yep. No one,
No one's playing dragons Layer these days. Um I want
I'll bet there's somebody out there that's like dragons Layer
for life. Yeah, maybe I want to. Yeah, I want

to shout out to from my youth, my super youth. Um.
There was one called Comanche, which is like a Wild
West shoot him up. I never played that, I remember it.
Do you remember? I cannot find any documentation of it
anywhere online, just can't find it. But I'm glad that
you verified that. I used to play that at the
little Putt put on Kataba Island by where my family

used to vacation in summers. Nice. And then the other
one was, Um, it just escaped me, chuck because I
was talking about Camanche. Paperboy. No, I don't remember. I'll
shouted out, Oh, come to me later and I'll just
interrupt you with it. Okay, do you remember battle Zone?
The one I mentioned is that the one it was
like a destroyer. Now. Battle Zone was the one where

you put your face in what kind of you would
think now is like a VR thing, like a like
a submarine periscope, and you had these two levers and
you were a tank basically, and it was all like, um,
I don't know the technical name, but when it's just
like the green lines and like a grid layout like

those were the graphics, but it was it was kind
of had like a three D effect. Yeah, and was
really pretty rap. I'll but it knocked your socks off
back then, Yeah, it did. I thought it. The other
one and another one okay, the one I was thinking
of was Empire City. I think it's Empire City nineteen
forty two or something. You're like a gangster shooting other gangsters. Okay,

it's pretty cool. And then the other one was Spy Hunter.
Remember Spy Hunter. Yeah, that was that was a pretty
good driving game. That was because you put like that
oil slick and people would spin out who were chasing you.
It's just yeah, very neat. I knew this episode is
gonna go like this. Yeah. We just took fistfuls of
member barries before we did this one. Kill screens we
should talk about because there was a technological limitation to

these arcade games that were based on eight bit processors.
The hardware was and an eight bit processor can only
store two hundred and fifty six total values. So if
you got good enough at some of these games, you
could get up to screen two fifty five, and when
you hit screen two fifty six, the game would sort

of skits out on you and stop, and that was
called a kill screen. Yeah, they were the game was
trying to reset to zero, but there wasn't a level zero,
so the game would just do some weird stuff. But
what's interesting does that mean? Then? For like pac Man
in particular is very famous to have that two fifty
six value curse, and you can only get to two

fifty five. But if they just had named level one
level zero, would I wonder if the game would just
just start over again and you could just play it
in an infinite loop. Donkey Kong had one two. They
had the same problem with the two hundred and sixty
or two hundred and fifty six value curse. At level

twenty two, you should have two hundred and sixty seconds
to complete the level, but because the eight bit processors, like,
I don't know what two hundred and sixty is, so
let's just call it four. You have four seconds to
complete so in theory it goes beyond level twenty two,
but in reality, in practicality, it stops there because no

one can beat that screen in four seconds, not even
Billy Mitchell. I'll bet an AI in the future, Kim.
All right, So I say we talked about a few
of these little tidbits, and then we'll take a break
and then talk about what killed the arcade? Good. Yeah,
these are kind of fun because you know, if you
were a kid at that age or heck, I still

enjoy entering my initials as when I kid high score.
Anyone else is going to say that. The very first
game to even display a high score at all was
called Seawolf from nineteen seventy six. Do you remember that game?
I do. I don't think I really played it, but
I remember it so everybody. It was. It was a

submarine game, so you just shot torpedoes at ships, but
the joystick was a periscope. It's so cool looking still today.
Oh I remember that. Yeah, And it had great like
graphics on the cabinet. It was just an all around
NIAT game. The I don't know about the game play
and the graphics like in the game weren't top notch

or anything, but just the periscope alone was very cool. No,
I totally remember that. It just kind of came out
and then came down, right, But that was the comparscope does, right.
But that was the first one that had a high score.
You said, that's the first one that just registered a
high score. The first one that I believe stored the

high score was pac Man. I thought it was Space Invaders.
No, no no, no, what I say, pac Man? Yeah, I
do Space Invaders and seventy eight, but you still didn't
have the initials. That was Starfire in seventy nine that
let you put your initials, and then Asteroids was the
first one that showed like the top ten or whatever. Yeah,

And the problem with Space Invaders was that if you
unplugged the cabinet, the high score was gone forever, which
was very richly portrayed in that Seinfeld episode The Frogger,
Remember that one, right where George like his only legacy
is he still had the high score at the pizza
place that he used to hang out at in high
school on the Frogger and he tried to keep it going,

and of course it didn't work out for George. Yeah,
I forgot to shout out Frogger. That's another game that's
still fun and still hard. I totally forgot about it too,
and it really is. I like, I even looked up
that episode. I still didn't think that, like, oh yeah,
Frogger was a great game, but absolutely was. And that's
actually really good point, real quick, Chuck. If you played
Frogger on the arc like a stand up arcade, it

was exponentially better looking. It played better than what your
friend was playing at his house at home on the
Atari twenty six hundred. And that was another big draw
that even when the controllers and the home consoles came out,
there was still reason to go like put your tokens
in at the arcade. No, absolutely, um, I would argue
that Frogger was one that translated pretty well to the Atari.

Sure it just didn't be good. Yeah, they didn't look
as good. And but some games did not translate at all,
like the infamously bad pac Man for Atari. Oh yeah
it was bad. I was very, very excited to get
this game. It was the biggest thing in the world
and I got it for my birth day, and it
was just it didn't sound right. It went don don

don don donk like when it was eating the things
at the mouth. It just none of it worked. It
was just a bad game. And by the way, the
thing I couldn't remember about battle Zone it's the vector graphics,
oh yeah, which apparently I don't know a lot about it.
But it's you can render way more a way higher
resolution graphics with less processing power somehow. Okay, that makes sense. Yeah,

all right, so let's take that break, yeah, and we'll
come back and talk about what killed the arcade right
after this. All right, Chuck, what killed the arcade? Ronald

Reagan kinda he did not? He probably, yeah, right, Well,
a couple of things killed the helped kill the arcade,
one of which was kind of what happened with Atari
in a way, and that it got so popular that
people just started making terrible games to try and cash in,

and that that was true for the stand up and
sit down cabinet arcade games as well. They just started
making too many of them, and a lot of them
weren't good, and a lot of these arcade owners, like
you know, borrowed money to get the latest games in
there that ended up stinking, and that that bit him
in the rear end. Yeah, I mean, like Anyboddy, any

small business entrepreneur could open an arcade because all of
those manufacturers had programs where they would they would give
you these machines on credit and you could pay them
back in quarters if you wanted to. But, like you said,
when you couldn't tell what game was good and what
game was bad because the marketing and the graphics and
everything made it look so cool no matter how bad

the game was, that you would end up with a
room full of duds and all of a sudden, all
your customers are gone and you would go under. And
that happened over and over and over again. So those
thirteen thousand arcades just dripped down to very very few
by the mid eighties. Yeah, And I bet you, and
this is just me speculating, but I bet you a
lot of those arcade owners weren't like really into the games.

They were They're like, you know, I've got three car
washes and an arcade. Well yeah, and they also like
made a pretty good sideline on selling little kids drugs.
H the other and this is um from that Verge
article you mentioned. They list another big reason, which was

that there was a cultural backlash. Just you know, that's
sort of sort of always been the story from Pinball,
like you mentioned early on, to you know, Grand Theft Auto.
Now is parents and politicians saying, hey, these games are
not only um robbing our children of like potential homework

time or interacting with the world and with their friends
or being in nature, but they're they're corrupting them yeah right,
like um, Like they're not only being corrupted like physically
in the arcades by potential drug dealers and kids who
want to teach them how to skip school more efficiently
and that kind of stuff, um, but also by the

games themselves, like they're being turned into zombies at best.
At worst, they're being taught to enjoy things like violence,
which is starting to become more of a thing. Um
they are who knows what hidden messages somehow, Um Black
Sabbath worked into some video game. It was the same
kind of moral panic that that it was. It was, Yeah,

it was within the same bubble that anything that was
that parents didn't fully understand that kids were really into
was suspect and dangerous and probably you just needed to
keep your kids away from it. Yeah, which is really
ironic because these are the same parents who let us
be feral children right right, because the thing down their

high horse about these games that we played that we
really enjoyed, well, I think they could understand that in
a lot of ways. Like if you were out in
the woods building a tree fort, like your parents had
done that before, they understood it. They knew what it
was like, you know what I'm saying. These arcades, they
didn't have that experience, or if they did, they remembered
what they got into when they were playing pinball back

in like the forties or something like that as little kids,
and they were like, oh, yeah, I forgot I learned
how to skip school there. I should probably keep my
kid from doing that. And then I think also there's
just like a it's just a generational gap that inevitably develops.
Like I kind of understand where the parents were coming
from at age forty six now, whereas if you had
asked me ten years ago, I would have been like,
that is so lame. Parents just suck in general, you know. Um, yeah,

I think that those all those things put together like
kind of kind of just people. I think all those
things kind of came together to kill video games. Yeah. Um,
the irony of what we were just talking about too,
is like, you know what goes on in the woods,
do That's where I learned to smoke cigarettes, Like nothing
was going on, and that's good. In the woods. You

found all kinds of things in the woods, you know
what I mean. That's that's as far as I'm going
as the cigarettes thing, as far as recollections. But at
this notion that we were all just out there playing,
you know, playing nature kid. I learned a lot of
things in the woods as a kid. I was playing
nature kid. I was just smoking while I was doing it. Right, Man,

you had this thing where, um, I kept a bar
of soap that I'd stolen from my parents' house out
at our tree for it where I would smoke cigarettes,
and I would I would go out to the golf
course pond that was like right adjacent to the woods
and wash my hands off first and then put the
soap back and then go back home. As if that

like got rid of the cigarette smell from me. You
would have scared the hell out of me, because I
was not If I would have seen a kid my
age or god forbid, like five or six years younger
than me smoking, yeah, I would have just run in
the other direction. Did I ever tell you the cigarette
buying story from when I was like twelve? Was this?

I know, Emily got a note from her mom to
buy her cigarettes and that was legal. It's pretty awesome.
It wasn't that, was it? No, this is me buying
for myself and my friends. We all pulled our money
together and came up with I think like twenty dollars
between us, which is like ten packs of cigarettes at
the time. And I rode my bike to this convenience store,
like lean the bike up against the wall in full

view of the clerk and walk in and I'm like,
I'd like ten packs of cigarettes. Let's see. It was
kind of like when you're at a donut shop ordering
a dozen donuts, but I was doing that with cigarettes.
I like, I'll have those cools and those Marborough's of
a couple of Winstons, how about some Virginia slims. And
the guy sold him to me, put him in a
back for me to drive or ride home on my

bike more efficiently with that is amazing. It really was
a beautiful time. It really was h so um Dave
posits and he's kind of right in a lot of ways.
Is one of the death Knells was in nineteen eighty
two in a very sort of offan comment from See
Everett Coop, who was a surgeon general at the time,

had given a speech in Pittsburgh and this was in
the Q and A afterward. There was a question about
video game effects and he just sort of tossed out, yeah,
and you know, I think these kids were becoming addicted
body and soul. And then you know, this was the
surgeon general. This is when people knew who that person was.
Trusted what they said, Yeah, he was big, and uh,

that just sort of became the media narrative. The National
PTA leapt on this, issued a report and I'm glad
that day puts reporting quotes because they weren't really basing
it on hard data or really great studies. It was
more like a lot of speculation on how bad these
games were for kids, right, and that was all you

need to hear. PTA put their seal on it, and
parents were like, okay, it's official between them and see
if Ritt Coop like this needs to end. Also, there
was a part of it too, It wasn't necessarily the
game consoles um. The author of the Verge article, Laura
June points out that game consoles were around before the

demise of the video arcade, and it really wasn't until
like nineteen eighty five, like we talked about in our
Nintendo episode, that they got even bigger. But I would
say still early eighties Atari was still pretty big. Yeah,
so it was around at the time. But I think
parents let that live in order to let video arcades die,

because at the very least, you could keep an eye
on your kid while they were playing the games at home, right,
you know, you could ignore them in the basement rather
than ignore them out on the wild. Yeah. It's much
tougher to smoke cigarettes in the basement than it is
in the wood. There was an early nineties renaissance when
Street Fighter to the World Warrior came out, followed by

Mortal Kombat and Teken in the early nineties, so people
crept back. And this was like my early college days.
I remember we would go to the Bowling Alley and
Athens to play Street Fighter and stuff, and then the
whenever the first I guess it was the first PlayStation
maybe is when we you know, started really playing heavily

at home with Mortal Kombat. Yeah, with Mortal Kombat and
Street Fighter. So, um, you were into this because this
is where I was at my peak as far as
video arcades go. Yeah, I was in. I was more
into because, like I said, I was in college. So
we would make the occasional trip to the bowling Alley,
but it was mainly playing with my friends Clay and
Jason and Brett and Bill playing at their house. I

had a friend named Tony Tony Appy actually, who I
went to high school with, and he was like seventeen
at the time and managed an entire Mountasia somehow. That's
how responsible he was. A Mountasia it's like a family
fun park where there's likes mini golf, huge arcade, yeah,

golf and stuff. Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Um and Tony was seventeen and managed the place and
he would give us that unlimited coins, so we would
go in and play all these games. And when you
have unlimited free coins, like you're really willing to try
out all sorts of games. But we had a really
good time there at Mountasia in the early mid nineties.

Oh well, I know I mentioned what was sort of
the pinnacle of my childhood life at one point was
when through something as my dad being principal. They had
a free night at Charles Entertainment geez, and it was
I think just the educators and their their kids got
to go. But it was just one free night at
Chucky Cheese and everything was free that you just ordered

pizza when he wanted, and the first thing he did
when you walk in was gave you a little a
little cloth sack full of tokens. And the idea of
that being free was just mind blowing to like, it's
two a ten year old, Oh, I can imagine two
free pizza, free games, free coke. Yeah, I mean, you
just got to play games for free all night long.

And I remember going home that night being tired and
just dreamy in my head, thinking this is the best
night of my life. So things came back in the
early nineties and the parents stepped up again and said no, no, no,
everything we were saying before in nineteen eighty three that
didn't apply now really does apply. Like the violence is

just outrageous and outlandish, Like in Mortal Kombat you could
very memorably pull your opponent's final calum out. It's fun
I mean, looking back, it didn't look that great, so
it's kind of funny. Now that they're in uproar. But
if they were an uproar over the violence from Space
and Vaders, you can imagine what Mortal Kombat did to them,
So that kind of killed that comeback as well. And

plus also home consoles just kept getting better and better
and better. Yeah, and that's the story of the arcade.
I mean you can still go now. You know, they're
the sort of there's the daven Busters type places, which again,
like I said, are you know they've retrofitted. They have
the Giant Space Invaders. They have this huge pac Man
game where multiple people can be pac Man at the

same time. So they've kind of like tried to bring
some of these into the modern era. But if you
really want that throwback experience, in most cities they have
some kind of a barcade style thing where they have
the classic games and you can you can get a
beer or something in play. I've not been to one,
have you. I went to one at one point, and

then when I was living in La there was an
arcade like an old school regular arcade. It wasn't some
retro beer places within walking distance of my first apartment,
so I would go down there and play or go
to the Bowling The Big Lebowski Lanes had some good
arcade games. Conceptually speaking, it just makes sense why not
put like fun activities into a bar rather than just

booze and you know, hopefully good conversation with whoever you're with.
So I totally get that. Seems like it would be
fun if everybody like followed all the unwritten rules about
playing games. You know, Yeah, I'll try. I'll take you
meet on a barcade date someday. You got anything else,
I got nothing else. Well, that means everybody that arcades

are done, Chuck, I feel like we burned through a
really great live show topic here. Oh that's all right, Yeah,
people don't come to our shows that have been to arcades.
That's true. That's a good point, man. And since Chuck
just made a good point, that means it's time for
a listener me. I'm gonna call this hamburger steak follow
up from LORI. Hey, guys, heard the discussion of the

hamburger steak and thought, hey, that's all's my problem on
what to cook for supper. But then Chuck said that
hamburg your steak was just hamburger pressed into a steak shape.
I had to stop and step back to make I
sure I heard that correctly. But try this maybe to
juice up your hamburger steak. I think you'll like it better.
Mix that hamburger with about a half a pack or
less of lipped an onion soup mix. That's a that's

an all time great hat for hamburgers and turkey burgers.
Period keeps some very choicy and very flavorable. Add some
bread crumbs and even egg if you want. This is meatloaf,
and then cook it completely. Remove it from the skillet.
Place the rest of the soup mix that you didn't
use and water in the skillet. You cook a burger

in and basically thicking that into a gravy. Wow, you
could add some flour or corn starch to thicken it
up and then add the burger back in. And then
this is how Lourie signs her email. You can use
my name Comma Lorie. Yeah, that's from Lorie. Michael Good.

That sounds like a good recipe to me. That is
a great recipe, Laurie. Thank you for that. I'm going
to try that post taste, and it actually brings to
mind another thing I just came up, chuck, since we're
talking about kitchen HACKSA Have you ever taken the water
that you boil the spaghettian and then add a little
bit to your sauce. No, okay, I never had before

until the other night, and apparently we've been doing it
wrong all along. You have to do that. And the
reason why is it actually counterintuitively thickens your sauce a
little bit because of the carbs that are still floating
around in the water, and just a little bit, just enough.
And then the other thing it does is it's when
you put the spaghetti drained spaghetti into your sauce, which

is what you're supposed to do. We won't put it
on top of the spaghetti. You stir it around, toss it.
It actually makes the sauce stick to the spaghetti more.
It is I can rapport. Really, you should never make
spaghetti any other way, all right, Okay, I'm gonna leap
prog off of that because this is along those same lines.
If you make homemade mashed potatoes like I do, and

you chop up raw potatoes and then boil that, then
you strain the water out, save some of that water
and add it back in instead of just going right
to like milk or cream or whatever you want to
use as your liquid, put some of that starchy water
back in first, and I think it has a similar effect. Nice. Yeah, starchy,

That's why I was after, not carbi. Yeah. And finally,
just at a correction, or not a correction, but a tip.
Your butter bell you mentioned was getting moldy. We had
quite a few people right in that say to use
salted butter and your butterbell will not get mold Yeah.
I don't. I'd like to salt my own butter. I
don't buy it pre salted. I'm not a communist. Okay. Yeah,

I'm sure that was part of it too. And also
I think I may have fudged slightly when I said, yes,
I did change the water every three days. I think
I did from time to time, but I think that
probably had something to do with it. But it's nice
to know that wasn't the entire thing that I was
using unsalted. All right, Well, if anyone's still listening, now,
these are great Yeah kitchen tips. Yeah, for sure, I
think we should probably get a move on. So thanks

Lorie for that awesome recipe. Thank you for your tip,
Thank me for my tip. As well, and if you
want to get in touch with us to give us
a tip of any sort, you can email us at
stuff podcast at iHeartRadio dot com. Stuff you Should Know
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