“Dissertation Notes” is the oh-so-clever name of my (semi) regular segment briefly highlighting the interesting, unusual, or thought-provoking materials I have come across while working on my dissertation. Aimed at a broad audience that includes media scholars, general interest readers, and gamers looking to know more about their hobby/obsession, I intend to demonstrate through a variety of sources the complex history of video games in America and their complicated, at times hotly-contested, relationship with larger debates over leisure, technology, and mass culture.
At the height of the video game craze of the early eighties, many clambered to jump on the bandwagon in hopes of bringing in some of the dollars being spent while America was in the grip of “Pac-Man Fever” and other gaming-related ailments. Third-party companies grew like mushrooms, pouring out titles and setting up the industry for its dramatic and inevitable crash, and an assortment of game-related merchandise flooded shelves as companies churned out every kind of video game product from third-party accessories to strategy guides to t-shirts and stickers.
One of the stranger products I have come across during my research appeared in an ad published in the December 1982 issue of Electronic Games: The Grand Stand.
Marketed by the Grand Stand Company of Studio City, CA, as a “joystick stabilizer support and score enhancer,” the Grand Stand was basically a narrow wooden podium upon which a player rested his or her controller. As to what made it so grand for players to rest their controller on a $35 miniature table players had to stabilize themselves with their feet compared to say putting it on one’s lap or simply holding it, I am not prepared to say. However, for the joystick jockey of refined tastes, one could also spend a little extra for one made of “exotic hard woods.” Needless to say, the Grand Stand was one of the weirder ways people attempted to capitalize on the video game craze.