As I sit here at the typewriter the P.L.O. is evacuating Beirut. The Atlanta Braves have lost 11 games in a row, allowing the Dodgers to climb back into first place. The President has decided that we’d be better off paying more taxes after all. The Mets, my team, are in the cellar.
And as I sit here clicking away at these keys somebody’s writing a program, designing new hardware, scheming to sell us one more video game. Atari and Mattel are surely preparing strategies for the upcoming Christmas campaign. George Plimpton is rehearsing his lines. Alan Alda, voted the most likely celebrity to represent a game company (“Gamer Results,” Oct. issue), is probably receiving overtures this very minute.
Yes, it’s a war out there. Mattel is making games for Atari, Atari is talking turkey with George Lucas, and Midway has to have a Son of Pac-Man (see “Bernie,” page 73) up its sleeve. Mattel, Atari, Midway, the big three. To a great extent, that’s who this third issue of VIDEO GAMES is about. Starting on page 28, there’s “The Selling of Intellivision.” Susan Prince traces Mattel’s history—from Barbie to video games—and tells of the company’s never-ending struggle to become number one. Then, there’s “The House That Pac Built” (page 52), Andrea Stone’s tale of how Midway leap-frogged over Atari to become the king of the arcades. Finally, there is “From Cutoffs to Pinstripes”—the incredible saga of the company that started it all, Atari. In the 12-page special anniversary section (pp. 37-50), you will read about the $500 investment that became a $2 billion business in 10 short years, and about many of the company’s early Roger Dionne players who got lost in the corporate shuffle. Also, we present a photo gallery of 27 of Atari’s most memorable coin-op games. (Special thanks to Jamie Pinto at Atari who donated many lunch hours to gather all the materials.)
On a lighter note, Roger Dionne returns to these pages with a revealing account of his ordeal writing A Buyer’s Guide to Home Video Games 1983 (which should be in bookstores sometime in October) in the Book Beat section (page 60), and a lively interview with fellow author and sometimes gambling partner Ken Uston (page 22). Dionne’s own story is an interesting one as well.
Born and raised in Connecticut some 40 odd years ago, he graduated Yale and earned his Master’s at Georgetown en route to becoming an English professor. After 15 years of teaching the art of writing to college students, Dionne decided it was time to be a writer himself and so, in 1975, he left the comforts of campus life behind for the carefree existence of a freelance scribe. Dionne soon began writing a weekly book review column for the Los Angeles Times and landed an editorial position at the magazine Gambling Times. Since then, he’s written more than 200 articles for 40 different publications.
Dionne is a gamester in the true sense of the word. He’s as happy battling sundry video creatures (Astrocade’s Wizard is his current favorite) as he is sitting at a poker table (though he’s sometimes more animated about the latter-see the Book Beat column). But writing is his real love. “Great writing,” he explains, “can appear in a book on video games as surely as it can in a novel or poem.”
Roger, I know exactly how you feel.