Much referenced but never actually seen is the original ad Roberta and Ken Williams took out as On-Line Systems for Hi-Res Adventure: Mystery House, in the May 1980 issue of MICRO: The 6502 Journal. The 6502 was the microprocessor used in the Apple II, which was the machine On-Line initially produced all their products for during their first couple years in operation in the early 80s.
While some sources claim it was a quarter page ad, we can clearly see that it was a full-page piece. From the extensive text to the prices to the almost entirely unknown two other arcade games sold alongside Mystery House (Skeetshoot and Trapshoot), there's lots to chew on here. I'm not one for "Holy Grails" of game history, but...I must admit to certain fascination with this ad. It's a pleasure to put this back in circulation.
The past two weeks have been a bit dizzying--full of excitement and possibility and adventure within and beyond the walls of the academy. Here's some recap, and preview of up-coming stuff I'm involved in.
SCMS: Society for Cinema and Media Studies
This year's Chicago conference was a time of great connection and re-connection. The media archaeology panel was a pure success; I've been encouraged to flush out my feminist critique of media archaeology and pursue publication. As a grad student, this was feedback I very much needed--I operate in a department largely unaware of the emergent trends in media studies, and my engagement with the field outstrips that of my advisor. Demoing this work for folks who are "stakeholders" in this conversation, and having them socially "sign off" on the project was just the POV I needed to confidently move forward with what I deeply, naggingly know is work I have to do.
Other academic highlights included the "Debugging Terminology in Video Game History," which previewed some of the great work forthcoming from Henry Lowood and Raiford Guin's co-edited Game History Lexicon, the Platform Studies Roundtable (do we have any agreement on what "platform studies" means? absolutely not), and the Digital Networks panel, which included Patrick Jagoda's breathtaking presentation on network aesthetics. As the Sounding Out! blog reported, the terrain of the conference is shifting; new domains in media studies--sound studies, materialist media studies, videogame studies--are capsizing the long-standing primacy of film (and even television) at this conference. Many of the young scholars I spoke with--ABD grads and jr. faculty--are curious to see if SCMS will be able to hem these increasingly divergent interests together, or if there may be some need for media studies to strike out on its own. Where IS the big-league media studies conference that isn't a tack-on to some other discipline? (as we experience at SCMS, 4H, MLA, ACLA, ICA, etc.)
Marketplace TechReport Interview
While at SCMS, my Marketplace Techreport interview aired on NPR! It was an aweing experience to meet the famed and insightful David Brancaccio in this context. David has been carrying a beat on "Who is Tech?" and paying special attention to the issues around sexism in the game industry. My report was, in part, to provide alternative histories that can help us be more thoughtful about how we frame these debates today.
Different Games is fast approaching! This conference is the first of its type organized around issues of difference, diversity and intersectionality in game design, game scholarship and game criticism. The conference was created by Sarah Schoemann of NYU-PolyTech, and is co-organized by myself and Sarah (with the assistance and input of many!). Different Games will be hosted by the Technology, Culture and Society Department at Poly, April 26-27. We'll have tracks of academic papers, design presentations, a game arcade, workshops, and breakouts. Our keynotes are Mary Flanagan and Celia Pearce, and the event will also include presentations by Anna Anthropy, Mattie Brice, Adrienne Shaw, Raiford Guins, Nick Fortugno, and lots of other ballers, big and small. The schedule is still pending, but should be out soon. This conference could not have been better timed to be in sync with current events in the game industry.
Personal Best @ NYU Game Center
As part of an effort to build excitement about Different Games, and also bring attention to feminist issues in game scholarship, Sarah Schoemann (TCS, PolyTech) and Toni Pizza (NYU, Game Center) have been working together on a lecture series called Personal Best: A Series on Feminist Game Design Practices. Personal Best first featured Jessica Hammer, speaking on designing games for Ethopian teenage girls. I'll be the second figure in Personal Best, speaking on Roberta Williams (surprise!). There will be new content here, compared to my Provost Talk--including info on the larger West Coast game industry Sierra was a part of, and a more theoretical examination of why women's play has been left out of early game history. Full verbage below; Facebook invite here.
Talk Title: Before We Were "Gamers": Roberta Williams, Sierra On-Line and How We Write Women into Video Game History
Personal Best is excited to welcome our second speaker, Laine Nooney whose lecture will cover some of the founding hits of Roberta Williams' game design career and offer insight on how Williams' understood her own design practice, put in the context of Sierra On-Line as an important company of the 1980s home computer software boom. Furthermore, the contributions of Williams will be framed within the larger context of video game history, and focus on how women like Roberta Williams aren't simply "additions" to a historically male gaming narrative but could actually challenge what we understand the history of games to be.
So Ray and I have just finished our 2nd run of edits/feedback on When Games Went Click: The Tennis for Two Story. We're imagining the video should be out by mid-to-late Spring semester. Above is a "movie poster" I made for Ray after the shooting finished in the fall, as a gift; eventually we're going to have them made into posters to hang in the department office and in our own homes. It isn't every day you cut a video about the first analog computer game!
For those interested in the documentary, here's some gentle teasers. The documentary will include interviews with four figures:
Sometime after the video is done, it will be available to the public on YouTube, hosted by SBU's YouTube channel. There will also likely be a main screening at SBU, and hopefully I'll be working with a friend to have some local screenings at more small-scale sites around NYC. Check this space or follow me on twitter for updates!