The Internet Archive - known for the development of The Wayback Machine - this week revealed another initiative designed to ensure that we don't forget the past. It's known as the "Console Living Room," and it's designed to remind us all of an era when eight-bit games first made the transition from the cabinet to the couch. It was an age before Steam, before Cloud Computing, before MMORPGs, and, most importantly, before the Console Crash of the 80s.
"For a generation of children, the most exciting part of a Christmas morning was discovering a large box under the tree, ripping it apart, and looking at an exciting, colorful box promising endless video games. At home! Right in your living room!" explains Jason Scott of the Internet Archive.
Such a concept seems novel to modern-day gamers, who dwell in a games industry which is all about digital downloads. Platforms like Steam, Origin, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network are quickly surpassing brick-and-mortar stores as the primary source of digital entertainment, while the idea of a game that can be played in the living room is old hat. Decades ago, this definitely wasn't the case.
Back in the 70s and 80s - back when gaming was still very much in its nascent stages - video games were the domain of video arcades, occupying rows upon rows of massive arcade cabinets. In an era where we're able to carry the sum total of the world's knowledge in the palm of our hands, it seems an almost foreign concept. The Internet Archive wants to make sure it's not entirely forgotten.
This week, the initiative launched its "Console Living Room," which offers in-browser emulations of a huge number of classic video games. These games were once widespread and widely acclaimed, played on consoles developed by firms like Atari, Coleco, or Magnavox. The initiative itself "hearkens back to the revolution of the change in the hearth of the home, when the fireplace and later the television were transformed by gaming consoles into a center of video game entertainment."
The games, which include titles like Red Baron, Asteroids, Ms. Pac Man, and Ninja Golf, are incredibly crude by today's standards. The graphics are simple, the sounds are digitally-manufactured chiptunes, and the gameplay is straight-to-the-point. Honestly, though? That's part of their charm.
Of course, not ALL the games are worth remembering...
There is no heady narrative, no over-the-top epic storyline, million-dollar voicework or sweeping orchestral score to escort you through the game.It's just you, a controller (or in this case, a keyboard), and the screen. The titles are thus somewhat elegant in their simplicity - and a great teaching tool if you're looking to see how the industry used to look. They are, Scott explained, "being adapted by an army of volunteer elves who will be improving them across the next few days. Sound is still not enabled, but coming soon."
Check out the Console Living Room here, and experience a bygone age of gaming.