Just over a week ago I had the opportunity to speak at Drexel University’s W.W. Hagerty Library. Before an audience of interested visitors, library staff members, and some members of one of the University’s tech clubs, I talked about ome of my dissertation research, followed by a lively discussion among the audience. We discussed the boundaries of ownershi and who has the right to define usage, the producers who create and distribute thevarious games and systems or the hackers and homebrewers who develop their own content using said games and software. It was a lively, but civil debate, and while we reached no true consensus I think it got people thinking about video games in a different way.
Let me thank the Drexel University Libraries staff and all the great people who came out to come talk about video games, homebrewing, and ownership. It was a great event all around and I felt privileged to be a part of it. I hope to have more opportunities to share my research in the future.
For those of you who missed it, fear not, for if you look below you will find video file of the presentation and discussion.
[If the link doesn’t work, you can also see the presentation here.]
My presentation focused on the Bally Professional Arcade aka the Bally Home Library Computer aka the Bally Computer System aka the Astrocade. The system is one that doesn’t readily come to mind when one thinks of video gaming in the 1970s and 1980s (most are more familiar with systems made by companies whose names rhyme with Smatari and Fintendo). However, the Arcade was a marvel in its own right, as it inspired a robust and active fan subculture who used the system for homebrewing. When Bally and Astrovision/Astrocade did not deliver new hardware and software, the fans took it upon themselves to pick up the slack, making their own games and even their own hardware expansions. Their were an active group, one that is still active thanks to Adam Trionfo and the great guys over at Bally Alley who have taken u the task of preserving the system’s history. Without them, my presentation would have never been possible.
I plan to turn the presentation into a chapter of my dissertation, a cultural history of video games that focuses on negotiations over meaning (i.e.: what does it mean to use/own video games, who are video games for, what can video games do, etc.). It may also morph into an article so be sure to stay tuned. In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye out here for an introduction to the Arcade. Video games exist simultaneously as consumer goods and technological artifacts and producers and users engage in a complex negotiation over what video games are. My research into the Arcade was and continues to be exciting and has got me into contact with some really great people. Here’s to new adventures.