One of the titans of retro video gaming evangelism and business sense within the industry has left us. I’m very sorry to report that Keith “Mr. Intellivision” Robinson, one of the organizing forces who kept the “Blue Sky Rangers” team behind the Intellivision working together both during and after the classic console’s heyday, has left us.
The photo you see at the top of this article is a prime example of Keith doing what he did best – not only was he involved in the Intellivision during its salad days, he evangelized the system and its software (and the many products that kept those games alive on more modern hardware) more capably than an army of Intellvision fanboys could. That was Keith at the 2003 Classic Gaming Expo, introducing a new generation to the menacing mazes of Night Stalker. Now, I can tell you that the time I’ve spent with Night Stalker on the Intellivision in my lifetime has probably reached into the dozens of hours, but watching Keith hand that unique Intellivision controller over to a new recruit was enough to make me want to play it some more.
Believe it or not, he was a better pitchman than George Plimpton. Courtesy Intellivision Productions
Keith Robinson was warm and genuine; he was comfortable being almost a caricuature of himself at gaming events, while simultaneously being totally himself – he was that outgoing. If you were lucky, he might temporarily bestow upon you the cherished Burgertime Chef Hat, as he did here, crowning CGE organizer John Hardie the new Intellivision king for one night.
I crown you Burger King!
He was one of the nice guys of gaming, and yet doggedly sought out new opportunities to continue bringing the Intellivision IP to new audiences – cell phone games, PC and Playstation compilations, plug-and-play Intellivision handhelds and new miniature replicas of the original units, you name it. This not only kept Intellivision alive, but kept cash coming in both for himself and his fellow Blue Sky Rangers, the people who’d originally programmed the games in the first place and had bought the rights to the Intellivision architecture, software and hardware from Mattel Electronics in the late 1980s. As the president of newly christened and independent Intellivision Productions, Robinson was the group’s spokesman, and a powerful organizing force. The difference between Intellivision Productions and nearly every modern IP holder who has acquired game platforms after the fact is that Keith engaged with the fans, and never lost sight of why some of us loved the Intellivision.
…and the pitch!
And it’s off into the stands!
At the end of a gaming convention, any Intellivision swag left over would be chucked into the eagerly awaiting crowd by Mr. Intellivision himself.
You had to love a guy like that. Keith Robinson was the beating heart of the Intellivision community. And the best thing about it was that, hanging out with him, you’d hear some of the best stories – and because his storytelling was near-legendary, you still can.