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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was go to Pizza Hut on a Friday night.  For many years it was part of our family’s New Years Eve tradition.  One of the best things about Pizza Hut, obviously except for the pizza, was their arcade room.  My favorite was Wrestle Fest.  Back then, a game cost 50 cents.  Does anyone know the first game to cost that amount? Coincidentally, we just passed the anniversary.

June 19, 1983, The Dragon’s Lair arcade game was released.  It was the first arcade game to cost .50 cents.  In 1980, video games only cost $20-$30.  When I was buying and playing video games with regularity, I would’ve loved for them to cost that little.  I grew up in the era where the cheapest new videogame was $50.  A good used game would go for $30(less if it was a less-popular title). I’d say that the prime video game age for me was 11.  It was 1990 and the Nintendo Entertainment System was king.  An NES game in 1990 cost, on average, about $50.  In 2013, that cost would’ve been $89.  Your $70 Nintendo 64 cartridges in 1998 would require the equivalent of $100 today.

A Gameboy in 1990 would set you back $89.99.  I never got into Gameboy.  An original 4th generation Gameboy, released first in Japan April 21, 1989, then North America three months later, cost $89.99 in the United States.  The 2023 equivalent would be $221.  Gameboy was discontinued on March 31, 2003.  

Back to the early days, in 1971, future Atari founders Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney invented Computer Space, the first arcade game available on the market.  Computer Space was essentially a copy of the game Spacewar!-a two-player game that was created by Steve Russell at MIT in 1961.  It didn’t have much success as it was hard to play.

The game Pong was released by Atari in 1972.  Bushnell and Dabney founded Atari after leaving Nutting Associates, naming their new company after a word from the Japanese word game called Go.  Pong was a digital version of table tennis, involving two paddles and a white dot as a ball.  To win, players had to avoid missing the ball.  

The golden age of arcades was 1978-1983.  The “paddle game” era ended in ’75.  Arcade history suffered until 1978, when Taito released Space Invaders in Japan and the U.S.  The release of Space Invaders brought on the golden age of the history of arcades, beginning in 1978 and ending around 1983.  The golden age was very important, as it brought us Pac-man, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Tetris and many more. Many new arcade companies such as Namco, Nintendo, Konami, Sega and Atari entered the market, paving the way for modern gaming.

1985-1990 saw the comeback of arcades.  The comeback was driven by the new conversion software kit systems, including Sega’s Convert-a-Game system, Atari System 1 and the Nintendo Vs System.  The growing popularity of martial arts action games and sports games also influenced the growth period in arcade history.  Arcades declined in popularity in the late ‘80’s, as home consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)kept kids at home.  

One of my favorites, Street Fighter II, was released by Capcom in 1991 as a sequel to the original Street Fighter in 1987.  This game introduced several elements that were previously nonexistent.  Similar fighting games such as Mortal Kombat (another personal favorite) would follow.  Dance Dance Revolution (released in 1998), Mario Kart and others would follow. (

Many video games were released after 1998, including games for new consoles and critically acclaimed sequels. March 2000 saw the release of PlayStation 2.  2001 saw the release of GameCube and Xbox.  Playstation 3(11-3-06), 4(11-15-13), 5(11-12-20) soon followed.  Those consoles weren’t cheap, either.

The most recent arcade game I bought was a mini-arcade version of another favorite from when I was younger, 1988’s Bad Dudes.  You might be asking if I ever beat any of these games? I did beat the six-level Bad Dudes on the old NES.  I beat Mario(finally) and I’m sure a few others.  When I was a kid there were plenty of weekend gaming marathons.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at the history of videogames as much as I enjoyed researching it.  Below are the links to my podcast, Blendertainment. 


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