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Gaming History You Should Know – The Halcyon Laserdisc Gaming Console June 26, 2017

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I know we are a day late but I want to welcome all of you back to Gaming History You Should Know, where we feature incredible content from across the web to educate our readers on gaming’s greatest true stories.  I know we had to take a few weeks off due to E3, but now we are back and we’ve got plans to release all new articles throughout the summer!

These days, voice recognition integration is quite common, as it is included in a wide range of electronic devices like the Amazon Echo, the iPhone or the Xbox One. We like to think of this feature as something that has only been possible within the last few years, but in reality creative programmers have been trying to bring it to the mass market for decades. One of the more unique attempts were looked into by YouTube Channel RetroGamerVX with his feature video about the voice controlled laserdisc game console the Halcyon.

During the 1980s, the laserdisc format was considered to be the gold standard for high end home theater systems. It not only offered superior picture and audio quality to VHS, it had the ability to seek out specific scenes or frames of a movie just like you could play a specific song in a CD.  The Halcyon was the brainchild of Rick Dyer, whose name you might remember if you’re a long-time follower of this site, since he worked on the laserdisc based arcade game Dragon’s Lair…which we are still trying to find a working cabinet to play.

I’ll let RetroGamerVX tell you the rest of the story.  The video includes some pretty rare footage of the machine in action and interviews with Rick Dyer. Enjoy!

Hope you all enjoyed the video, we plan to resume our schedule of featuring great content from across internet every week. Special thanks to RetroGamerVX for letting us feature him on the site!  If you haven’t checked out his YouTube channel yet, you should totally give it a look!


Gaming History You Should Know – Floppy Disks June 4, 2017

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It’s Sunday and that means its time for another Gaming History You Should Know. This time, we are going to get a little personal. I got into computers back in the early 90s and I can’t remember a time before PCs included floppy disks as a standard storage peripheral.  To the young me, those disks, which could allow people to take their data anywhere, had an almost magical quality. As I got older I discovered just how little data those disks could actually hold and the magic behind them eventually faded.

So how did floppy disks work?  I’ll let David Murray, who hosts a phenomenal YouTube Channel called The 8-Bit Guy, do what he does best and talk about it.  However, I would be neglectful if I didn’t also mention he did a full video on an earlier form of magnetic storage, cassette tapes.

With that bit of history out of the way, here is David’s video about floppy drives. If you ever wondered how a floppy drive worked, how many different form factors disks had over the years, or why disks had to be formatted in a certain way, watch this.

Die-hard Nintendo collectors will certainly remember that time Nintendo used disks as a storage medium for a product that was sadly only released in Japan.  While Nintendo Disks couldn’t store much more data than a traditional cartridge, disk games were cheaper, offered better sound, the ability to save, and could be rewritten. I’ll let Norman Caruso, who you know better as The Gaming Historian, tell you all about it.

Sadly this technology never made it to the US, because I would have loved to see those disk rewriter stations in my local Sears.  As for my own history with floppy disks, I kept a 3.5″ floppy drive installed in every PC I owned up until the release of Windows Vista SP1.  After that, I’ve only needed to use them while trying to replay older games.

Floppy Disks were a very useful technology in their heyday but they were eventually eclipsed by rewritable CDs, DVDs and now USB storage.  I don’t have a floppy drive in my PC anymore, but I keep a drive in storage just in case I need to use it again. While these newer storage mediums would offer superior storage and speed, it’s always good to look back at our roots.

Hope you’ve been enjoying our look back at Gaming History You Should Know, the closest thing we’ve ever had to a weekly series on this site.  Due to E3, there may not be a new article next week but there will always be great content to feature from across the web and we promise to bring it back to you once E3 ends!

Gaming History You Should Know – Death of Hellgate London May 28, 2017

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It’s Sunday, and that means it’s time for yet another Gaming History You Should Know. Let me tell you about the PC single-player title with an integrated MMO component, Hellgate London.

Hellgate London was a game with so much promise. It was a technological marvel developed by a team of industry veterans. It had a massive marketing campaign with a lot of hype leading up to release.  It had market crossover potential with novels, comic books and figurines ready in time for launch.  However, the game suffered from bad management and was also fated to get released at the wrong time.

By the time the game reached shelves there were already a slew of potential Game of the Year contenders sitting on the shelf next to it. The fact that it was such a buggy game at launch didn’t help much either.  That’s such a shame because this game had a lot of promise and I don’t regret buying it about a month after it launched.

YouTube Channel nerdSlayer chronicles the rise and fall of MMOs in his series Death of a Game.  This guy does an in-depth amount of research on the games he covers, and his videos feature a peek into some of the behind the scenes drama that goes into managing such an expensive genre.  Here’s his video on the death of Hellgate London:

Video games that use an online component can be discontinued at any time, and while Hellgate London has continued to remain playable, tons of other games aren’t as lucky.  This should go on to become a cautionary tale for game developers everywhere.

Special thanks to nerdSlayer for letting me feature his videos this week. If you want to hear more about the rise and fall of other MMOs like Star Wars Galaxies or Tabula Rasa, you can check out his great videos here!

Gaming History You Should Know – The Rise and Fall of the Comic Empire May 21, 2017

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It’s Sunday, and you know what that means, it’s time for this week’s Gaming History You Should Know!  Since last week was Free Comic Book Day, I was reminded that the gaming industry owes a lot to comic books. For decades, the comic industry has told tales of superhumans living among us doing good, doing bad, and were otherwise relatable to regular people.  This made them a perfect medium for the video game industry to adapt, and over the past thirty years there have been numerous cases of comic book inspired video games with various degrees of critical and financial success.

I grew up in the 90s, referred to by many comic historians as the dark age of comics. I know that there have been many people over the years, myself included, who wondered what was going on behind the scenes at these companies, and why they told the now-notorious stories that they did.

Internet legend Chuck Sonnenburg, who is better known online as SF Debris, did an incredibly detailed history of the modern comic book industry.  The video is in fifteen parts (including its introduction and epilogue) so I’ve embedded his official YouTube playlist. You’ll have to set aside some time to watch this, but it’ll be totally worth your Sunday.  Enjoy!

If you’d like to see more videos by SF Debris, visit his website. It is now fully back up and running after recently upgrading his video player.  While he is mostly known for his weekly reviews of Star Trek episodes (with a new one out every Saturday) he also does great film, video game and television reviews.  He’s also chronicled the history behind the loss of 108 classic Doctor Who episodes, and the ongoing quest to recover them. Trust me, when you visit his site you’re going to find yourself unable to leave until you’ve watched every one of his videos!

Gaming History You Should Know – Dungeons and Dragons Hysteria May 14, 2017

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Welcome back to the return of our regular Sunday staple, Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight and feature some of the best content from across the web. This week, we’ve been talking a lot about the greatness that is Dungeons & Dragons, but I felt the need to tell you about a time when D&D was under attack.  Video Gamers should be plenty familiar with this tactic, as video games were attacked in nearly the same way a decade later.

A lot of what laid the bedrock for what became the Western RPG can be attributed to Dungeons & Dragons.  It was a game which sparked the imagination of many young people and promoted essential social skills and team-building exercises.  However, to the small-minded layman who had never had any actual contact with the game, hearing it included content like demons and magic spells was misconstrued as immoral…somehow.  This misguided moral crusade ended up getting picked up by the mainstream media who was more than happy to spread it like wildfire.

YouTube user Phil, who calls himself El Conquistadork, did a great job chronicling this dark time in gaming.  You should totally check out his well-researched video called The History of Dungeons & Dragons Hysteria!

I don’t think I need to put into words just how stupid this fear mongering was. In fact, in this day and age, actual psychiatrists with actual degrees have openly welcomed using Dungeons & Dragons as a tool to help them with diagnosis and treatment.  Here’s a TED Talk about it:

Hopefully, in the future the mainstream media will excercise better restraint before covering utter nonsense and demonizing an entire generation of people just because of something completely harmless they chose to do with their spare time.

Special thanks to Phil for letting me feature him this week!  You can check out his YouTube Channel here!

Gaming History You Should Know – The History of the D-Pad April 30, 2017

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The D-Pad, an abbreviation of the term “Directional Pad”, is a universally included feature in any modern video game peripheral’s control device.  However, it wasn’t always like that.  In the early days of gaming, player control was done with joysticks and buttons. Even controllers for early game consoles like the Atari would follow suit and offered a joystick or dial-type controller.  It would not be until Nintendo launched the NES (or Famicom in Japan) that the D-pad was featured on a console controller, and by the time the Game Boy was released, it was obvious players could not live without it.

So who is responsible for creating the D-pad?  That would be the great Gunpai Yokoi.  Yes, the late father of the Game and Watch and Metroid can be credited with creating the most important controller feature in the past thirty years.

I’ll let Norman Caruso, better known to the internet as The Gaming Historian, take it from here.  He has an incredible YouTube Channel filled with a plethora of well-researched videos on the history of gaming and I encourage all of my readers to check it out!  So sit back, relax, and enjoy his tale of the history of the D-pad.

The only comment I think I could add about this that the Historian didn’t mention is that I remember seeing a commercial for a third-party NES controller that referred to the D-Pad as a “rocker switch”.  It was likely called this due to the fact the button rocked back and fourth on each axis.  I don’t think it would be officially regarded as the D-pad until after the 16-Bit generation launched.

Gaming History You Should Know – Video Game Inspired Game Shows April 23, 2017

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It’s Sunday and we are back for more Gaming History You Should Know.  Let me tell you about the YouTube Channel Grid 19 Productions. It features a fantastic ongoing series called The Game Show Reviewer, where a man trapped in space and time reviews some of the most memorable game shows in the history of television.  You name the show, he’s probably reviewed it. Jeopardy, The Price is Right, and Press Your Luck are just a few examples of adult game shows he’s reviewed. Heck he’s even reviewed memorable kids game shows like Legends of the Hidden TempleGUTS and Double Dare.

You’re probably wondering why I would feature The Game Show Reviewer on a website devoted to video games, and to answer that I need to take you back to the 90s.  When I was growing up I always had a thirst for new information, regardless if it was historical or pop culture related, and two shows were about to air that would change my life.

By the early 90s there was no escaping the phenomenon that were the Carmen Sandiego PC video games.  Created by Brøderbund, Carmen Sandiego was a thief who stole the world’s most precious historical artifacts while leaving a trail of clues in her wake. Depending on the game, following the clues and solving each case required a knowledge of history and world geography. This focus made it a perfect fit for the PBS network who adapted the video game into a daily game show I used to love watching it after school every day.  Later on, the series actually got a sequel show. Here’s his review of the Carmen Sandiego game shows on PBS. Now, I finally can say what I’ve always wanted to say, “Do it Rockapella!”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the dial, the first kids’ network Nickelodeon was dominating children’s programming with an influx of unique sitcoms, cartoons and game shows. It was the early 90s and the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles were dominating with their superior graphics and sound. Competitive gaming was being openly discussed among people who never even played video games before and Nickelodeon had plans to capitalize on the craze.  However, if they were going to make a tv show about games they weren’t just going to show kids playing video games, they were going to put kids IN THE GAMES!  With that in template mind, the show Nick Arcade was born and here is his review.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the classic game shows that made up my childhood. Special thanks to The Game Show Reviewer for letting me feature him on this site, I can’t wait to see what videos he has in store for the future.

Gaming History You Should Know – Eric and the Dread Gazeebo April 16, 2017

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It’s Sunday, and that means it’s time for another story of Gaming History You Should Know.  The pen-and-paper RPG series Dungeons & Dragons has been around for decades and like with anything popular among nerds it has inspired its share of humor.  That’s right, in fact it has inspired so much humorous content it would take me a week just to feature everything I could find in a single Google search that I thought was funny!

Among all of these jokes and all this humor, people wonder what is the story that is probably the most recognized in all of D&D lore?  The answer to that question would be the story of Eric and the Gazebo, or as its more often called online, Eric and the Dread Gazebo.

The original story of Eric and the Gazebo was written by Richard Aronson and was printed in 1985 or 1986.  It detailed a team of adventurers who come across a gazebo for the very first time. While the story is fictionalized it was based on real events from a D&D session Richard had once played.  It was later copied online some time in the 1990s under the name of Eric and the Dread Gazebo where it was further recopied and spread like wildfire.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, here’s a pretty good version of it presented as voice over.

So there you go, the history behind Eric and the Gazebo, that same story your RPG group will occasionally reference during games.  If you’d like us to highlight more of our favorite Dungeons & Dragons inspired humor, post a comment below!

Gaming History You Should Know – The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter April 9, 2017

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It’s Sunday and it is time for us to bring back our now weekly feature Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight the great work of content creators from all across the internet.  Today, we will be discussing something pretty special, a theme park attraction.  Let me tell you a story about ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, one of Walt Disney World’s most controversial and yet still fondly remembered rides over a decade after it closed for good.

Back in the mid-90s the then CEO of Disney, a man named Michael Eisner was bringing the company back from a near bankruptcy and into a whole new era of dominance.  Disney owned bi-costal theme parks, and while they were considered by many to be the finest theme parks in the world, Eisner felt they could be doing even better.  He wanted to build thrill rides that would appeal to teenagers inside the Magic Kingdom and had some bold ideas for making it happen.  In 1994, Disney unveiled their plans for what would become the scariest ride in the Magic Kingdom, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.

This Sounds like a lot of information, but I have to admit that’s just a tiny sliver of the ride’s complete history for you.  I’ll let Rob from the YouTube Channel Rob Plays talk about the full history behind the ride.  Rob really did his homework and you can tell he misses the ride when you hear him talk about it.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter went through several changes as the imagineers fine tuned it for the general public. I’ll let the guys from Park Ride History tell you more about it.  It’s a very detailed video which breaks down the ride’s history and even includes examples of the new audio which was added to improve the ride.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened in 1995 and after such a massive promotional campaign, there was no shortage of people who wanted to ride it.  For those of you who didn’t get the chance to go on the ride while it was in operation, here’s a look at the full ride and preshow courtesy of Martin’s Videos.

The video is fantastic but video alone really can’t get across how scary it was to actually sit in one of those chairs.  After the ride opened to the public, everyone was talking about it.  How many people were people I knew talking about this ride?  Let me tell you something, I remember my sixth grade science teacher talking about it during class one day, and she had enjoyed it too!

What does this now defunct theme park ride have to do with gaming? In retrospect, a whole lot!  The same technology which helped make the ride such a thrilling experience is now very commonly found in home gaming setups.  The ride’s atmosphere was a lot more than what you saw when you walked in, sound played a big part in the experience. The creative use of stereo speakers built into the theater’s chairs could easily make a ridegoer believe a hungry, vicious alien was hunting them down.  Nowadays I don’t know any gamers who won’t play games without surround sound equipment of some kind, and speaker equipped gaming chairs can easily replicate that same type of setup!

One other thing to remember is both Rob Plays and Park Ride History talked about how Alien Encounter could have been an interactive shooting game similar to MIB: Alien Attack at Universal Studios Orlando.  We don’t know how long that design was in place, but it made me wonder if this experience could be replicated with modern VR headsets?

Now you’re probably going to ask me if I was lucky enough to go on the ride myself, and sadly the answer is no.  I visited Disney World in 1995, when Alien Encounter was just beginning operation, but I didn’t go on it. By this point the word was out just how scary this ride was, and thought I was way too young at the time to enjoy it.  I had heard stories later on about parents dragging their kids onto this ride, but my parents never forced me to go on it.  I planned to eventually check it out a few years later when I was older, but I didn’t go back to Disney World again until 2007, and by that point the ride had been replaced with Stitch’s Great Escape, one of the worst rides in the history of the park.  Take my advice, if you get the chance to go on a ride, take it because you’ll never know how much longer it’ll be around!

With Stitch’s Great Escape now getting put into a high capacity only phase, people have started to talk about what will replace it. I say they should bring back Alien Encounter. Disney still has nothing like it on any of their properties, and the demand is there from people who would take a trip to Florida just for the chance to experience the ride for the first or even next time!

What do you think Disney should do?  Post a comment below with your thoughts and thanks again to everyone who contributed to this article!

Gaming History You Should Know – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Buyers Guide April 2, 2017

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CT GamerCon Day 2 starts in a few hours and among the video games being played at the event is a loyal segment of pen and paper games.  I’ve been trying to get into the legendary pen and paper RPG Dungeons & Dragons for at least a few years now. In fact, I recently picked up the 5th Edition Starter Set with the intention to finally begin playing the game, but after buying the Starter Set I had no idea what 5th Edition books I should buy next.  Thankfully, someone online has produced a great video of exactly what I needed to know, and that person is WASD20.

This 5th Edition Buyer’s Guide video includes a deep look at all of the current books published by Wizards of the Coast, including the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and several different modules. I highly recommend it to prospective role players interested in 5th Edition, so give it a watch!

Thanks so much to Nate from WASD20 for posting this video because it has pointed me in the right direction for which books I should seek out.  You can check out his YouTube Channel here.

If you’d like access to the PDF files featuring the 5th Ed Players Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide mentioned in the video, you can find them to view, download and print right here.  These files are hosted on the official Dungeons and Dragons website and Wizards of the Coast freely offers these files to view, print and copy for personal use only.  If your computer can’t read the documents, you might need to download the Adobe Reader.