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The cultural contradictions of early video games: a medium for family fun (but mainly for middle-class boys), an improvement over pinball and television (but possibly harmful) Beginning with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and Pong in 1972, video games, whether played in arcades and taverns or in family rec rooms, became part of popular culture, like television. In fact The cultural contradictions of early video games: a medium for family fun (but mainly for middle-class boys), an improvement over pinball and television (but possibly harmful) Beginning with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and Pong in 1972, video games, whether played in arcades and taverns or in family rec rooms, became part of popular culture, like television. In fact, video games were sometimes seen as an improvement on television because they spurred participation rather than passivity. These “space-age pinball machines” gave coin-operated games a high-tech and more respectable profile. In Atari Age, Michael Newman charts the emergence of video games in America from ball-and-paddle games to hits like Space Invaders and Pac-Man, describing their relationship to other amusements and technologies and showing how they came to be identified with the middle class, youth, and masculinity. Newman shows that the “new media” of video games were understood in varied, even contradictory ways. They were family fun (but mainly for boys), better than television (but possibly harmful), and educational (but a waste of computer time). Drawing on a range of sources—including the games and their packaging; coverage in the popular, trade, and fan press; social science research of the time; advertising and store catalogs; and representations in movies and television—Newman describes the series of cultural contradictions through which the identity of the emerging medium worked itself out. Would video games embody middle-class respectability or suffer from the arcade's unsavory reputation? Would they foster family togetherness or allow boys to escape from domesticity? Would they make the new home computer a tool for education or just a glorified toy? Then, as now, many worried about the impact of video games on players, while others celebrated video games for familiarizing kids with technology essential for the information age.


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The cultural contradictions of early video games: a medium for family fun (but mainly for middle-class boys), an improvement over pinball and television (but possibly harmful) Beginning with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and Pong in 1972, video games, whether played in arcades and taverns or in family rec rooms, became part of popular culture, like television. In fact The cultural contradictions of early video games: a medium for family fun (but mainly for middle-class boys), an improvement over pinball and television (but possibly harmful) Beginning with the release of the Magnavox Odyssey and Pong in 1972, video games, whether played in arcades and taverns or in family rec rooms, became part of popular culture, like television. In fact, video games were sometimes seen as an improvement on television because they spurred participation rather than passivity. These “space-age pinball machines” gave coin-operated games a high-tech and more respectable profile. In Atari Age, Michael Newman charts the emergence of video games in America from ball-and-paddle games to hits like Space Invaders and Pac-Man, describing their relationship to other amusements and technologies and showing how they came to be identified with the middle class, youth, and masculinity. Newman shows that the “new media” of video games were understood in varied, even contradictory ways. They were family fun (but mainly for boys), better than television (but possibly harmful), and educational (but a waste of computer time). Drawing on a range of sources—including the games and their packaging; coverage in the popular, trade, and fan press; social science research of the time; advertising and store catalogs; and representations in movies and television—Newman describes the series of cultural contradictions through which the identity of the emerging medium worked itself out. Would video games embody middle-class respectability or suffer from the arcade's unsavory reputation? Would they foster family togetherness or allow boys to escape from domesticity? Would they make the new home computer a tool for education or just a glorified toy? Then, as now, many worried about the impact of video games on players, while others celebrated video games for familiarizing kids with technology essential for the information age.

30 review for Atari Age: The Emergence of Video Games in America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Levent Pekcan

    Açıkçası okuması biraz zor oldu. Piyasaya çıkması planlanmış bir kitaptan çok, doktora tezi tadında bir çalışma. Konu benim özellikle ilgimi çeken bir alan olduğundan zaman ayırıp okudum, ama benden başka kaç kişi okur bilemiyorum. Kitap genel olarak bilgisayar oyunlarının ilk ortaya çıkışlarını ve insanların hayatına girişlerini araştırıyor. Teknik detaylar vs. söz konusu değil, cihazların oyun salonlarına ve daha sonra da evlere girişi konu edilmekte. Yani oyunların teknik değil sosyolojik boy Açıkçası okuması biraz zor oldu. Piyasaya çıkması planlanmış bir kitaptan çok, doktora tezi tadında bir çalışma. Konu benim özellikle ilgimi çeken bir alan olduğundan zaman ayırıp okudum, ama benden başka kaç kişi okur bilemiyorum. Kitap genel olarak bilgisayar oyunlarının ilk ortaya çıkışlarını ve insanların hayatına girişlerini araştırıyor. Teknik detaylar vs. söz konusu değil, cihazların oyun salonlarına ve daha sonra da evlere girişi konu edilmekte. Yani oyunların teknik değil sosyolojik boyutu ele alınmakta. Ele alınan dönem, 1970'lerin son yıllarıyla 1980'lerin ilk bir iki yılı arasında, dolayısıyla günümüze kadar ulaşan bir araştırma söz konusu değil. Ancak o yıllarda ABD toplumunu meşgul eden "bilgisayar oyunları çocukları hasta ediyor" gibi bazı konuların günümüzde hala konuşuluyor olması enteresan. Özgünlüğünden ötürü 3 yıldız verdim, ancak okunuşu açısından 2 yıldız alacak bir kitap.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    Subtitled 'the emergence of video games in America', Michael Newman's book aims to examine the impact of 'early video games' on culture and society. It does so to an extent, but despite covering a really interesting subject, it could have been better written. There’s a certain type of academic writing that takes pages to say something relatively simple. Here, Newman takes around 30 of them to tell us that pinball machines were considered dubious and working class, while video games were consider Subtitled 'the emergence of video games in America', Michael Newman's book aims to examine the impact of 'early video games' on culture and society. It does so to an extent, but despite covering a really interesting subject, it could have been better written. There’s a certain type of academic writing that takes pages to say something relatively simple. Here, Newman takes around 30 of them to tell us that pinball machines were considered dubious and working class, while video games were considered neater and middle class. Strangely, it is the section on pinball machines as a precursor to the electronic gaming industry that provides the most interesting content, as we never got this 1970s resurgence in the UK. Apparently, in the US, the exposure of pinball in the Who’s Tommy, plus the introduction of more sophisticated electronic effects saw a brief pinball renaissance in the second half of the 70s, while in the UK, the games never got past that feeling of being something (wonderful if, like me, you loved them) from an earlier age. Newman spends a lot of time on the transition in arcades to electronic machines, and then on the introduction of video games into the home, initially as extensions of the TV viewing experience, then as limited copies of the arcade games and finally blossoming as home computers - even if no one was quite sure how they would be used... other than to play games. There are definitely some interesting observations here. About the way, for example, that initially video games were portrayed as being far better than the mind-numbing, non-interactive experience of watching TV (perhaps this says something about the quality of the TV pumped out by US networks the 1960s). We are repeatedly exposed to the idea that despite original sales pitches being family oriented, there was a shift to the young male perspective that would come to dominate the way that gaming was portrayed. This gives Newman the opportunity to single out Pacman as being something standout (probably more so than it actually was), noting that the game had far less gender bias in its users than most of its competitors. To be fair to the author, he makes it clear that he is not trying to provide a history of video games themselves, but even so the approach taken combines piling in far too much evidence on small details for a popular account (never describing one ad campaign, when we can hear about five, for example) with a glacially slow construction of the arguments. The result is a rather frustrating take on a topic that should have been electrifying.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Natiuk

    A detailed, and in-depth look at the history of video games from the angle of societal influence AND impact. I thought this book differentiated itself well from much of video-game history, which tends to look at just the games, designers and companies. Atari Age doesn't just the when and how videogames came about, but analyzes the social constructs, attitudes and perceptions of the time. At times it's a little bit challenging to organize the vast breadth of popular culture to put things in proper A detailed, and in-depth look at the history of video games from the angle of societal influence AND impact. I thought this book differentiated itself well from much of video-game history, which tends to look at just the games, designers and companies. Atari Age doesn't just the when and how videogames came about, but analyzes the social constructs, attitudes and perceptions of the time. At times it's a little bit challenging to organize the vast breadth of popular culture to put things in proper context, and the author does a good job of bringing in many sources to support his analysis. There were sometimes I felt the topics quite broad, and example after example tended to actually meander instead of zero in. Perhaps more chapters with a tighter focus would've helped. It must be hard to write about social context from 40 years ago now... how does one put themselves back in that specific moment in time and look at the landscape of society? Not easy. Speaking anecdotally, as one who lived through the times being discussed, the author's text does at times suffer from overreach. Sometimes things just happened, not for deeper meanings... not for bigger reasons other than fun & profit. But definitely overall, especially for those who didn't get to live during this early videogame history, when Atari was the home king, and the Arcades were where all the most exciting, innovative games were found... I recommend reading this book. It covers up to around 1983 and the first big North American video game crash. The memorable and hopefully never lost emergent years of video gaming.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Bethea

    A look at the culture of america related to the creation and rise of video games, both how they affect and are effected by each other. Can be frustrating to read because it has a lot of interesting observations, but often doesn't tie them in to any specific point, so it feels like a lot is being implied but very little said - at times. It's not always like this. It's interesting to read about how long arcades existed before video games, and the way they were viewed before and after games, as wel A look at the culture of america related to the creation and rise of video games, both how they affect and are effected by each other. Can be frustrating to read because it has a lot of interesting observations, but often doesn't tie them in to any specific point, so it feels like a lot is being implied but very little said - at times. It's not always like this. It's interesting to read about how long arcades existed before video games, and the way they were viewed before and after games, as well as how that related to home consoles. A lot of the observations have to do with gender, which is obviously a big factor in the culture, but it doesn't do a lot to relate those things to the culture as a whole, and looks a lot at advertisements of the era, which aren't necessarily the actual culture. So it can feel weird at times, like it's missing some pieces. Lots of the writing is also overly academic, is very long winded and takes forever to get to a point, and uses overly long words and phrases, so it can be a chore to read. But for all that, it is often interesting, and is interesting to get a glimpse of the news coverage of the day and to see what the concerns of the time were, as well as what people hoped it would lead to.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Using contemporary newspaper articles, magazines, commercials, and industry trade press Michael Z. Newman throughly illustrates how video games were made mainstream in American culture and consciousness and how much of the discourse surrounding video games mirrored that of previous technologies including radio and television. The book offers an engaging and intellectually stimulating history of video games and how their incorporation into American culture altered the fabric of the home, public s Using contemporary newspaper articles, magazines, commercials, and industry trade press Michael Z. Newman throughly illustrates how video games were made mainstream in American culture and consciousness and how much of the discourse surrounding video games mirrored that of previous technologies including radio and television. The book offers an engaging and intellectually stimulating history of video games and how their incorporation into American culture altered the fabric of the home, public spaces, and gendered identities. If you were a kid in the 80s who played Atari or visited Aladdin's arcades then this is a must read because Newman reveals the complicated and hidden back stories behind generation X and its relationship to technology.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Ugh. Informative on the culture of how games became a thing, but not for me. Just a slow mind numbing read. I should have stopped at chapter three during the long lecture of the dynamics and terminology of family, living, rumpus, etc rooms and where games fit into these. Interesting from an anthropological perspective, but not for me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steven Hart

    An interesting read, but long amd gets bogged down on a few tangents, as well as a rather naseous SJW conclusion. Appears to suffer occasionally from mistaken causality.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Before this book, I didn't think there was anyone out there that could make the topic of video game history boring to me. I was wrong.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James

    Good Book on 80s culture.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marta

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  14. 5 out of 5

    Georgiann

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robin Powell

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

  17. 5 out of 5

    Davo

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cameron Fontaine

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christina Zeitman

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Schmuck

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emma Crowley

  22. 4 out of 5

    Srmanna

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ang Hill

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sam Corey

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo Pescador

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris Quinn

  27. 5 out of 5

    Salomon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Peters

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

  30. 5 out of 5

    eduardie

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