The brand new Tilt Classic Arcade and Ale House in South Burlington, VT is a boon for northern nerds during the long winters. It features two floors of games, with pinball upstairs and cabinet games downstairs, as well as locally-sourced food and a large beer list. There are game-related drink specials (like the “Hadouken” with Habanero infused Green Mountain Vodka cut with Rookie’s Ginger Beer), and a “Game of the Week” game meat menu special.
The Asteroids machine was out of order when we arrived, but was quickly repaired and set to free play to compensate for the downtime. Our party of course took advantage of the reset to get our names on the board! There was a good mix of old and new pinball machines (Gorgar, Addams Family and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, as well as AC/DC, Metallica and Lord of the Rings) and lots of classic arcade games such as Centipede, Pac-Man, Galaga and Mortal Kombat 2.
Here’s the goal: having an Asteroids arcade machine at home, with authentic electronics and true vector display, but which isn’t the size of a refrigerator. Jürgen Müller in Hamburg, Germany, has built just that.
His half-scale Asteroids cabinet uses an original Asteroids game PCB and 9″ vector monitor from a broken Vectrex, housed in a custom-built cabinet. He also built a custom XY driver circuit to bring the Vectrex display up to the drawing speed required by Asteroids.
The project is well-documented on Müller’s website: http://www.e-basteln.de/asteroids/asteroids_intro.html
Tobii Technology has built a one-off Asteroids arcade cabinet, designed to showcase their eye-tracking technology. The game made its premiere at CeBIT in March, to demo eye-tracking on laptops. This is another step towards more natural human-machine interaction, and according to Tobii, much faster than hitting buttons or full-body motion sensors.
The full arcade version of Eye-Asteroids makes its debut on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, at the Dave and Buster’s in Times Square, New York, before heading off on a world tour. Known stops are London in late-November, and Las Vegas at CES next year.
The game is much closer to Missile Command than Asteroids, as you protect Earth from incoming ELEs (Extinction Level Events) by blasting them with lasers with your eyes. They could have used this technology to create Superman-Meets-Big-Buck-Hunter, but we approve of their choice.
The game’s debut corresponds with Tuesday’s near-Earth encounter with a real asteroid, that will pass by closer than the moon. Read about that here.
We’ll stop by Dave and Busters for a full review. Check back for that!
Engadget’s coverage of Tobii at CeBIT (includes video):
Pocket-lint’s report of Eye Asteroids:
Good times for east coast Barcade this week!
The original Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn opened seven years ago, and will be celebrating its anniversary on Thursday, October 13. But bigger news is that the third location just opened on Monday (today!) in Philadelphia. It houses Asteroids Deluxe, along with a whole slew of other classic arcade games and good craft beer. This follows on the heels of a Jersey City Barcade opening this past April, so if you’re meandering through the tri-state area with too many quarters and not enough pints, you know where to go.
Visit the Barcade website for more information about all three locations.
For decades, Atari Asteroids has been calling out for dramatic adaptation, and Jeff Lewonczyk has responded with his play, “Theater of the Arcade.” The work is five scenes inspired by classic video games, each written in the style of a different well-known playwright.
The official synopsis reads: “A violent brute holds an innocent young woman captive and attacks anyone who dares approach. A glutton eats everything in sight while running away from the ghosts that haunt him. A lone survivor forges a peril-ridden path towards a lush refuge he can never reach. Are these the plots of classic video games, or are they searing narratives of modernist drama?”
The Asteroids scene is entitled “Magdalene Magellan Mars,” and channels the voice of David Mamet. “Theater of the Arcade” was originally part of the 2010 Game Play festival, and is about to have its second staging in the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival, with 5 performances from August 13-27.
We spoke with Jeff Lewonczyk to find out more.
Atari Asteroids: What was your inspiration for Theater of the Arcade?
Jeff Lewonczyk: The Brick has been doing this video-game theater festival called Game Play for the past few years. Early last year, when we were discussing programming for the second (2010) edition, I casually blurted out that I thought it would be fun to do a play that actually treated the narratives of old-school video games as if they were the stuff of serious theater. Gyda Arber, the festival’s producer and curator and a good friend, immediately volunteered to direct it if I were ever to write it. So I kind of did it on a dare to myself.
As I worked more on each of the pieces, I grew more and more intrigued by what went into developing something essentially non-narrative into a story format. In order to make it work to the fullest extent, I realized that each of the plays needed to have an analogue in the theater world, and so I ended up using each game to parody a specific playwright with a highly recognizable style. The result ended up being a weird hybrid, which satisfied both gamers and theater fans, but in very different (though often highly overlapping) ways.
AA: What drew you to the games that you ended up adapting?
JL: Mostly, they were the games I grew up with. I was never a skilled gamer per se, but I had a friend who had an Atari 2600, and going over there and playing it – or, more likely, watching him play it – was like a window onto another realm. Also, these games were just in the air at that time, pop-culture wise – cartoons, cereal, novelty music, you name it. I was always attracted to the iconography of those early games, and they retain a high nostalgia value for me. However, I think a reason I found myself drawn to adapting those, as opposed to later-generation games, is that they’re wide open to interpretation. Like, what kind of story is Pac-Man, really? Who the hell is this yellow guy, and why is he consigned to a haunted maze where all he can do is run around and eat? Or take Asteroids – who exactly is flying this ship, and why is he (or she?) trying to blow up all these space rocks? There were a lot of possibilities.
AA: What can you tell us about the Asteroids play, “Magdalene Magellan Mars?”
JL: Well, I don’t want to give TOO much away, since we’re about to open in a remount of Theater of the Arcade at the New York International Fringe Festival on August 13, but I will say that it’s about the question I asked above: who’s flying these ships, and why? It’s essentially a power struggle between two pilots, an old pro and a younger hotshot, who are both called in for questioning to find out which one of them is shirking his duties and not blowing the asteroids into small enough pieces. There’s also a sexual element, since the interrogator is female, and there hasn’t been a woman on their base in years. Excitement!
AA: And what’s the connection between Asteroids and David Mamet?
JL: The truth is, it took me a while to fall into that combination. I had known from the beginning that I wanted one of the pieces in the show to be one of the outer-space games, but I couldn’t decide between Asteroids, Missile Command or Space Invaders. When I started thinking about playwrights, I realized that Mamet would be a great choice, since blowing things up is an inherently masculine activity that brought to mind the testosterone-fueled real-estate world of Glengarry Glenn Ross. The clincher for Asteroids, though, was nearly abstract – Mamet’s intentionally choppy and fragmented language reminded me of the ever-smaller pieces of detritus that result from blowing up asteroids. The combination of fragmented space rocks, fragmented language, and the fragmenting of human beings when they’re isolated on a remote base on another planet destroying things for a living all came together into a single storyline.
AA: Brilliant. Now beyond your background knowledge, growing up around the Atari 2600 and reading plays, what sort of new research did you do in creating this piece?
JL: I played the game online quite a bit, and I read up on its history via Wikipedia and a few other gaming history sites. The truth is, though the piece is riddled with references to the game play, there were some things I wasn’t able to incorporate without being awkward or contrived. The UFO, for instance, doesn’t make an appearance, nor does the hyperspace function. I definitely had some purists grouse about that to me after the show, but what can you do? It’s a work of fiction – sometimes you need to sacrifice details for the big picture.
AA: Have you done anything else like this play?
JL: Not exactly. Everything I’ve ever worked on has had elements of pastiche, but not to the extent of doing direct parodies of existing playwrights or adapting existing entities into a new form like this. Still, I’m in love with the idea of reinventing the things we see in our culture and the world into new terms and seeing where the transformation leads, and this show definitely falls into that. I’ve had people suggest that I could just keep churning out short plays based on games, but I feel like I’d run out of truly archetypal games rather quickly, and that it would lose its luster fast. That being said, I do still kind of want to do Space Invaders as a big musical dance number, or a Shakespearean Joust, or – and this is the one that I actually spent a while trying to accomplish for the original run – a Chekhovian take on Tetris. So maybe I’ll return to the idea at some point – only time will tell.
There’s been a flurry of geekblog talk about the iCade cabinet for the iPad, which will turn your Apple device into a bluetooth-controlled mini arcade. But almost 30 years ago, a group of folks near Boston built the Mini-Cade to house a Vectrex.
Only seven exist. The Vectrex Museum has the full story here.
For one weekend each year, California Extreme pulls together a giant collection of classic arcade video and pinball machines. It’s supposed to be amazing. This year it’s at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara on July 9-10, where a ticket at the door buys you all the games you can eat.
Asteroids (with Asteroids Deluxe and Lunar Lander multikit mod) and Asteroids Deluxe are on the list. Last year it was in a cocktail cabinet.
Guess what! This week at E3 Expo 2011 we will be holding a contest to give away an Atari Classic Arcade Cabinet each day to the person with the highest score on the respective machine. (The games are: Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command). These babies are collector’s items for sure so make sure you get your butts to the Atari booth at E3!
Atari will be holding the contest for Missile Command on Wednesday, and Centipede on Thursday.
(Photo from @Atari)
[UPDATE 2] LA Weekly article on Atari at E3 here.