The Top 7… videogame legends we never want to hear again

Enough already! These tall tales may be true, but they've also grown repetitively tedious

The videogame industry has gotten a lot done in its short life. In the years since Pong and Spacewar!, game culture has evolved at an unprecedented clip to become an inescapable part of 21st century life. But it hasn’t had time to build up a huge back story.

What happens when you have a legion of fans desperate to revisit the history of an industry that’s barely been alive longer than them? You hear the same stories over and over ... and over. Here are seven tales that, with respect to gaming’s storied past, we can go our entire lives without ever having to sit through again. Please.

The story, one last time…

Behind the pre-Gorbachev Iron Curtain, state-employed programmer Alexey Pajitnov chances upon the formula for Tetris, an addictive puzzle game that quickly sweeps the entertainment-starved Eastern Bloc.

Overenthusiastic software publisher Robert Stein re-sells publishing rights for Tetris in the West to more than one company before actually nailing down the rights himself. This becomes important when Nintendo also licenses the rights. Heated bidding wars and lawsuits ensue, culminating in several groups of buyers enduring increasingly paranoid interrogations by the Soviet officials who still technically own Tetris. For a few days, the future of puzzle gaming reads like an extended Civilization bargaining screen. Eventually, good triumphs, Rocky beats up Ivan Drago, and both Nintendo systems (NES and Game Boy) get a killer app.

We’re sick of it because…

People look at Tetris and see a beautifully simple, elegant machine. It’s intriguing to think how such a thing came about – after all, it’s from Russia, that strange foreign land where they drink cold soup and wear bearskin hats and make booze from potatoes. But must we really take a good half hour to recount the labyrinthine details of the game’s ownership rights? Such a diatribe forces us to consider how radically different our entire lives would be if we’d grown up playing the Tengen version of Tetris instead of Nintendo’s. Not really a staggering thought. The two-player mode would have been nice, though.

Above left: A puzzle game, right: A strange alternate world scarcely comprehensible to man

If someone starts telling this story, say…

“I have already seen the BBC documentaryFrom Russia With Love. Are you going to be able to top 80 minutes of professionally produced, firsthand recollections? Then let’s just play Puzzle Bobble instead.”

The story, one last time…

In 1972, Nolan Bushnell founded Atari, a company dedicated to the fledgling computer gaming scene. The company’s first game was an arcade version (read: rip-off, basically) of Magnavox Odyssey’s Tennis, the clumsily-named Pong. Bushnell commenced trying to license the product to companies like Chicago’s Bally, a prominent pinball machine manufacturer. They didn’t bite.

Bushnell reacted by installing the Pong prototype machine at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California, but the tavern soon called back with a problem: Pong had broken! Engineer Al Alcorn, who had designed the machine, went to see what had gone wrong. On arriving at the tavern, the techie discovered that there was no fault in the machine. The bucket which had been placed within to catch players’ quarters was simply full to overflowing, and Capps’ staff had no idea how to empty it.

We’re sick of it because…

Yes, look, we get that this is the watershed moment where Nolan Bushnell, patron saint of videogaming, realized what tremendous potential his product had. Immediately after receiving the fateful coin-bucket call, he ditched the big pinball companies and went full-steam ahead marketing Pong himself (not even changing that stupid name).

But really? Pong? If the patrons of Andy Capp’s Tavern had just waited a while, they could’ve busted up the rinky-dink engineering on games like Space Invaders or Pac-Man; that is to say, good games. The fact that people in 1972 went nuts for Pong just goes to show that 1972 must have been really, really boring.

Above: Two of 1972’s favorite things

If someone starts telling this story, say…

“Making major decisions based on the inability of drunk people to fathom Rube Goldberg technology? Surely this is the last funny story we’ll ever hear about Atari!”


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