Following the first appearance of arcade video games in 1971 and home video game systems in 1972, the commercial video game market was exuberant with fast-paced innovation and profit. New games, gaming systems, and technologies flooded into the market until around 1983, when sales of home game systems dropped, thousands of arcades closed, and major video game makers suffered steep losses or left the market altogether. In Before the Crash: Early Video Game History, editor Mark J. P. Wolf assembles essays that examine the fleeting golden age of video games, an era sometimes overlooked for older games’ lack of availability or their perceived “primitiveness” when compared to contemporary video games.
In twelve chapters, contributors consider much of what was going on during the pre-crash era: arcade games, home game consoles, home computer games, handheld games, and even early online games. The technologies of early video games are investigated, as well as the cultural context of the early period—from aesthetic, economic, industrial, and legal perspectives. Since the video game industry and culture got their start and found their form in this era, these years shaped much of what video games would come to be. This volume of early history, then, not only helps readers to understand the pre-crash era, but also reveals much about the present state of the industry.
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Mark J. P. Wolf is a professor in the Communication Department at Concordia University Wisconsin. His books include Abstracting Reality: Art, Communication, and Cognition in the Digital Age; The Medium of the Video Game; Virtual Morality: Morals, Ethics, and New Media; The Video Game Theory Reader; Myst and Riven: The World of the D’ni; The Video Game Explosion: A History from PONG to PlayStation and Beyond; The Video Game Theory Reader 2; and the forthcoming two-volume Encyclopedia of Video Games. He is also founder of the Landmark Video Game book series and the Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group within the Society of Cinema and Media Studies.
Contributors: Jessica Aldred, Ralph H. Baer, Brett Camper, Karen Collins, Ross A. Dannenberg (Editor of Patent Arcade!), Leonard Herman, Erkki Huhtamo, Carly A. Kocurek, Sheila C. Murphy, Ed Rotberg, Tim Skelly, Carl Therrien, Staci Tucker, Zach Whalen, Mark J. P. Wolf