Dissertation Notes: Put ‘Er, um, there: The Atari Secret Handshake

“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.

Are you a true Atari fanatic?

A real one?

Come on, be honest?

Let’s put it to the test. Show me the handshake!

Video game companies and enthusiasts laid the foundation for our modern game fan culture during the early eighties by launching “fan club” magazines. Official fan club magazines, such as Atari Age, Activisions, Odyssey2 Adventure, and Intellivision Game Club News were basically extensions of the various companies’ marketing departments, but they represent the early cultivation of video game fan culture. They provided “insider” information on current and upcoming titles, sponsored contests (one of which will be the subject of a later “Dissertation Notes”), and encouraged readers to submit high scores and fan-created materials such as poems and fan art. None of the early magazines survived the Crash in 1983-4, but Nintendo picked up where they left off when it launched Nintendo Fun Club News (later renamed Nintendo Power) in 1987.

One of the stranger materials to come out of one of these fan club magazines appeared in the December 1982 issue of Atari Age (Vol. 1, No. 4): The Atari Secret Handshake.

According to an article dramatically revealing the secret handshake:

“We met recently with an Atari Vice President (who prefers to remain anonymous), and in the course of our conversation, she let slip the secret of the ‘official’ Atari handshake which has been making the rounds at Atari headquarters. It’s too good to keep to ourselves, so we’ll share it with you–but remember, we’re swearing all of you to secrecy on this!”

I’ll let the following diagram speak for itself:

The Atari Handshake, Atari Age, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Nov-Dec 1982), pg. 7

The Atari Handshake, Atari Age, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Nov-Dec 1982), pg. 7

So tell your friends, the secret appears to be out. See if they are a true fan as well.

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About kevinimpellizeri

I'm a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Delaware where I am studying the social and cultural impact of video games in America. When I'm not studying history or playing video games I offer my voice on 91.3 WVUD Newark and review bad horror movies at www.horrorsofhorror.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @KDImpellizeri
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