Sunday, December 7, 2014

Too Much to Baer

I was planning on writing a brief review of my latest toy, the PSP-3000, but this is more important. Ralph Baer, the creator of the world's first home game system, passed away at the age of 92 yesterday. Not content to rest on his first important achievement, Baer also came up with the concept of video game digitization, later used to great effect in games like Mortal Kombat. Ralph's original idea was to let high scoring players leave behind a selfie instead of just their initials, but one play tester thought it would be fun to take a snapshot of his other end, forcing Baer to change his plans. 

His game ultimately evolved into Journey, starring the bobble headed members of the 80s rock band on a cosmic quest to retrieve their instruments. The game quickly faded into obscurity thanks to the crash of 1983, and was even openly mocked by Journey's irascible lead singer Steve Perry, but personally speaking, I really enjoyed it. It wasn't just the novel use of digitization that made it stand out, but the layered gameplay that went from cautious to frantic once a band member claimed his instrument. Imagine if everything on the screen- girders, barrels, ladders, and hammers- tried to kill Mario the moment he saved Pauline, and you'd have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Anyway! You'll be missed, Ralph. Say "hi" to all the other giants of gaming history we've lost.

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