IN THE BEGINNING
What do the following words mean to you? Paddle, Prinztronic, Tele-tennis, Sportel, Pong?
If they ring a bell (or you hear a short beep, plop or an irritating snatch of electronic jingle), you can start telling your grandchildren that you remember the birth of the video-game era. If you can't remember it, visit "Re-Play", which opens at the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) this Friday, so that you can bluff it.
The pastime of video-gaming is currently undergoing its first wave of mass nostalgia; cutting-edge 64-bit Nintendo systems are temporarily forgotten as hardcore video gamers download the latest, most authentic version of "Asteroids" from the Internet. And with Re-Play, MOMI is capitalising on this surge in interest in Asteroids, Pac-man, Space Invaders and all the rest of the "old skool" games.
In one hallowed corner of the exhibition you can even find the first successful video arcade game, Pong (1972), the electronic equivalent of Puma Gazelle trainers or an original 1970s nylon Adidas tracksuit. Expect to find a tight knot of fortysomething visitors milling around this exhibit, reliving the hypnosis-inducing challenge of trying to stop a silently rebounding white dot from leaving a monitor screen, with only a small white line to help them. There will no doubt be mutterings of "They don't make 'em like they used to" and "Was it really only 20 years ago?" from groups of erstwhile arcade afficionados, as they relive the experience of their collective misspent youths.
Re-Play features a number of arcade machines from the past 30 years, all set up on "free-play" mode. You can play Pong, Missile Command, Space Invaders, Galaxians (the first colour game) and Defender. The exhibition also gives an insight into the world of the games programmers; normally shadowy characters who tend to be alternately portrayed as social misfits with only their computers as friends, or as modern-day versions of the starving artist, giving birth to a dynamic end-product through an impenetrably mysterious process.
As far back as 1979, 111 youngsters were taken into protective custody by police in Japan after committing offences to enable them to feed their video-games habit. And Japan also ran out of 100 Yen coins...
ANY OLD IRON?
In association with Re-Play, The National Film and Television Archive is appealing for video-games of the 1970s and 1980s to add to their collection. Games, hardware and any relevant information (to be eventually used for a CD-ROM Interactive Encyclopedia) will be gratefully accepted.
Contact Tony Hetherington, Videogame Researcher, BFI, 21 Stephen Street, London W1P 2LN.
For the Guardian's prophecy on video-games, see `What The Papers Said' on page 44Reuse content