Video Game Music Choir

The Video Game Music Choir sing Donkey Kong, Pokemon and more!

Video Game Music Choir

I love video game music and I’m really very fond of musicals and so I’m always thrilled when the two combine. The Video Game Music Choir are obviously high on my listening list and they’ve just released a new set of tracks on Bandcamp called “The Loft”.

You can hear the music below – I recommend the DK Medley or Pokemon Gold/Silver – and if you like what they are doing, please consider making a purchase. You should also check out their other work which is always sublime, including free tracks such as Tetris and a World of Warcraft medley.

And if you love them as much as I do, they have a great Youtube channel, with gems like this one:

An evening of gaming, cake and voices – what more can you ask for!

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MattelElectronics

A Brief History of Mattel Electronics

MattelElectronics

I have a soft spot for defunct toy companies. Ideal. LJN. Worlds of Wonder. Coleco. Kenner. And my personal favorite, Mattel Electronics. Whether its specific products, the logos or the retro technology, Mattel Electronics is one of those extinct brands that instantly ignites nostalgia in me.

Simply put, Mattel Electronics was just what the name implies. It was a subsidiary of Mattel, founded in 1977, that focused on the creation of electronic games. It was an innovator in handheld electronic games, most notably Football, and evolved into one of the pioneers of the home video game boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s with the introduction of the Intellivision and corresponding games and accessories.

As the video game industry grew, so did Mattel Electronics. The company grew from 100 employees to 1,000 in 1982 as a response to demand for creating their own game titles.

Since many of us have strong memories of the Intellivision it is easy to forget that Mattel Electronics wasn’t in business for very long. Due to heavy competition from Atari and new consoles, like the Colecovision, and market saturation, Mattel Electronics suffered from the Great Video Game Crash recording $394 million in losses by 1983.

Those losses were too much for Mattel so it had no choice but to sell or close all of its non-toy-related subsidiaries. On Jan. 20, 1984, Mattel Electronics ceased to exist. Even though the company lasted less than 10 years, it wasn’t without its impact on pop culture.

Beginning in 2013, I have started to collect anything with the Mattel Electronics name on it. Through a series of articles I will be highlighting different aspects of the company. Whether its specific products or product lines, there is a lot to reminiscence about Mattel Electronics.

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Art of Bits, Bits of Art: Fine Art from Classic Video Games

Last week via Facebook I received an invite to an art show titled “Art of Bits, Bits of Art,” which took place at a local art gallery in Oklahoma City. The show consisted of works of art dedicated to classic video games. The show was free and consisted of some fantastic creations, like the Mario and Donkey Kong cut you see above. I shot somewhere around a hundred photos at the show but will just share a few of them.

Along with Donkey Kong, there were many traditional classic figures including this oil painting of MegaMan.

Unlike the peril he was facing, Mario’s cottage looked much more relaxing.

A few modern video game characters found their way into the exhibit, like these creepers from Minecraft.

The creepers were mounted above Nerf dart guns, which visitors were encouraged to shoot the creepers with.

Some of the works of art, like this hand-blown glass Mario, were very small…

…while others, like this airbrushed painting of Earthworm Jim, were quite large.

One of my favorite things is re-purposed items, like this old skateboard with a ferocious-looking Pac-Man chasing ghosts painted on it.

The kids and I spent over an hour wandering around the gallery. Next door, some locals artists were performing a glass-blowing demonstration while other local DJs remixed 80s video game tunes. It was a great experience that really got me thinking about how 8-bit video games really were art. We stayed until Pac-Man told us it was time to go.

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High Scores Arcade in Alameda, CA

I just learned about a new arcade in my area, and I ventured out today to give it the once over. It is called High Scores Interactive Arcade Museum, and it is located on the east side of the SF Bay in Alameda, CA.

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High Scores has a host of classic games in very beautiful, well-preserved cabinets. I overheard the owner saying that the most recent game there is from 1994, and all the others are far earlier than that. I played Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, Tron (which was awesome), Punch-Out, Millipede, Centipede, Popeye, and Space Invaders Deluxe. I also saw Missile Command and Star Wars. A few of the cabs had several games on them, but I didn’t try any of those. All the games are set to free play, and entrance to the museum is $5 an hour or $10 for all day. The place is easy to get to (about 5 minutes off 580 in good traffic), the venue is great, and the games really are in great shape. I particularly loved how the games are grouped in sets, with all the Nintendo games together, Millipede and Centipede together, Tron next to Star Wars, etc.

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The owner saw me taking a picture of the outside marquee and asked me to spread the word, which I’m more than happy to do. I’ll definitely be heading back to High Scores, and if any retrarians here are heading that way, hit me up. I’d love to meet you over there.

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Action Max

The closest I ever got to an Action Max video game console was the closest I got to a lot of toys: the commercial. I never saw an Action Max in person. Maybe I saw one in Toys R Us. Maybe not. But I definitely saw this commercial many, many times.

Action Max was brought to us by Worlds of Wonder, the same company that produced Lazer Tag, Teddy Ruxpin, and the Stuff-It Binder. It was a video game console in the truest sense of the word. The games it ran were actual VHS video that had to be played on your VHS deck.
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Because the games were actual VHS videos, they never changed and had limited replayability. Still, the commercial made them look cool. I was especially interested in the Pops Ghostly game.

As I understand it, there weren’t a whole lot of these games, and they were all shooters. But like all things Worlds of Wonder, it was great in theory even if it wasn’t that great in practice.