Friday, September 10, 2010


Took me a while to get to the second book...

Sopart's book is much lighter on the gaming strategies part, but of course it has to deal with a much broader market than Video Spiele covered two years before. The book not only introduces a big number of home computers, which had by then taken control of the market, but also consoles, LCD handhelds, "Mini Arcade" tabletops, even chess computers and the like.

While Videospiele gave me the impression that it was aimed at "gamers", Sopart has to spend 7 pages explaining "How he computer plays with humans".

Strictly speaking, computers are not ideal playfellows. From their makeup they bring neither intelligence nor flexibility, which are requirements for a good playfellows. But how could these devices became partners more demanding from the player than a human counterpart?

Picture with the funny caption "game for two", while the screen and the boxes above clearly show office applications.

Sadly, a lot of space is wasted with manual-like descriptions of stuff, but there are a few interesting points that kept being issues for many more years or even decades. So there's the reoccuring complaint about crappy boxes, evaluating plastic clamshells similar to VHS boxes (the winner here) vs instable cardboard boxes. Anyone who thought pro-gaming was a recent phenomenon is put into place by this argument in the joystick buyer guide: "Passionate gamers will be glad to hear that there are even joysticks that ship with interchangeable handles. Slowly, the industry is becoming more active for professionals."

Kinda defeats the purpose of a "wireless" controller, doesn't it?

From the chapter "Pictographs or cinema quality?":

You know them from so many images: The famous computer people. They are pictographs, stylized depictions. Computer games are still identified with pictographs. (...) Why?

Especially with the transition from pictographs to almost realistic figures [don't forget: this is 1984!] it becomes visible, how quickly computer games have developed [yes, perfect tense].

(...) Some of the things we get to see on our screens nowadays really almost look like movies [talking about home computers, so probably not even meaning Dragon's Lair. As it goes on:]

What does that mean for the computer gamer? He should know that these pictographs actually already belong into the realm of history, even if they're sometimes still sold.

And, most interestingly for retro gamers:

Game cassettes with pictograph-esque visualizations could, as scene insiders assume, become bestellers again already in a few years - as computer antiquity. For that one has to recognize, that we're still living in the beginning days of the computer industry, and thus also of computer games. In few years we will experience the same effect as with shellac records. Those classics from the founding years of the music industry are now en vogue. (...)

A similar phenomenon could soon become evident with computer games. Therefore, it is advisable to archive old games that don't satisfy the desired standards and quality today. This not only under an economic aspect (...), but also under consideration do be able to get a "notalgic effect" out of them in a couple of years.

On "war games":

There is no doubt: The bad reputation of computer games in some social strata is mostly due to the games, that contain elements of war. But there are differences world wide. In the USA war games are less strictly rejected by most of the population than in Europe and particularly in the Federal Republic [of Germany]. Yes, one could even say in the USA a greater group developed into downright fans of these kind of games. The special situation in Europe and most of all in Germany resulted from the experiences from two world wars.

In case you wondered how to get the best high scores:

Whoever wants to become a good or great gamer also has to be an adept with the joystick. So it's necessary to make exercises to strenghten the hand's musculature. Thereby, the hands tightly grasp an item [no, not what you're thinking] - a candle, for example.

"In this posture, you'll hardly achieve maximum performance on screen."

The book even has a chapter on game programming, but it doesn't do much more than listing a number of basic Basic commands...


  1. It just goes to show that some topics will never go out of style in the discussion of video/computer games.

  2. You have posted that and german magazines, hum...

    You should look at what our cousins do as well, in France, they have some nice magazines with a lively videogame press. The duo Joypad (Consoles aimed) and Joystick (PC aimed) is something - they are known for their rivality in the days and bitting humor now and then (at leasts from what i remember of Joystick).