• magisterrex Retro Games

    I've been gaming since the days of Pong and still own a working Atari 2600. I tend to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. Sometimes I digress. Decades after earning it, I'm finally putting the skills I learned while completing my history degree from the University of Victoria to good use. Or so I think. If you're into classic old school gaming, this blog is for you!

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Advertising From Yesteryear…Game Genie

Long before there was an Internet to search for clues and codes to hack your way through a stubbornly difficult game, Codemasters brought a product into the game market which permitted access to your video game’s code, thereby letting you add unearned lives, power-ups, and so forth. The Game Genie was an accessory that you could insert into your game console, and then the game would attach to the Game Genie, allowing the Game Genie to act as an intermediary between the console and the game.

Many gamers found this helpful, and different Game Genies were produced for a variety of game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Nintendo GameBoy, the Super Nintendo, the Sega Genesis, and the Sega Game Gear. Two different companies distributed the Game Genie over the years it was being manufactured: Galoob and Camerica, one of which (Galoob) was actually sued by Nintendo in an effort to prevent the Game Genie from being sold. Fortunately for many gamers, Nintendo lost their legal battle and had to pay Galoob for damages.

Time marches steadily on, however, and the Game Genie is now in the dustbin of gaming history, while Nintendo continues to be a gaming powerhouse.  All we have left of the Game Genie are the few units that can be found here and there in the retrogaming marketplace, and our memories. Speaking of which, see if the following ad brings back memories of how you salivated over the thought of finally mastering that one irksome game, if only you got a Game Genie. Click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!

Full page advertisement for Game Genie

Advertising From Yesteryear…Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster Series

Just about everyone who loves board games or war games knows about Axis & Allies, Milton Bradley’s strategy board game that came in a large box and was filled with tiny plastic playing pieces.  The game was part of a special line-up of similar products that the giant board game company released throughout the 1980s, some of which are certainly much more obscure than others!  The Gamemaster series included the aforementioned Axis & Allies (the WWII game released in 1981), Broadsides & Boarding Parties (the Age of Sail strategy game released in 1982), Conquest of Empire (a Roman Empire wargame released in 1984),  Fortress America (an alternate universe wargame released in 1986, where America fights off an invasion from the rest of the world), and Shogun (a 1986 game set in feudal Japan, later renamed Samurai Swords).

To remind you of those fine games, here is a full-color, full-page ad from Milton Bradley found in the September, 1986 issue of the classic Dragon Magazine.  Incidentally, it is the first time I’ve ever seen Conquest of the Empire advertised in any format. Click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!

1986 Ad for Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster series.

Advertising From Yesteryear…Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, published by Sierra Studios (Sierra On-Line), was an interesting and unique game set in a fantasy world that was entering an industrial revolution. All the standard trappings of fantasy RPGs were included, but with a steampunk edge.  It was designed by Troika Games, a developer composed of some of the same people who were behind one of the big software hits of the 1990s – Fallout, the RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world that spawned multiple sequels. The game was at least the equal of Fallout in scope and eye-candy graphics, yet Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura never realized the same level of success. Perhaps it was because of its incredibly lengthy title, perhaps it was because the Steampunk movement had not yet reached critical cultural mass. Whatever the reason, the game is well-worth picking up and playing!

In the meantime, here is one of the original full-page color advertisements used to sell Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!

Full page ad for Arcanum

Advertising From Yesteryear…Dungeons and Dragons Pinball

I was leafing through an old issue of Dragon Magazine from 1988, less for the articles and more for the study of the gaming Zeitgeist that the magazine offered, when I spotted an ad for the Bally Midway Dungeons & Dragons pinball game. The ad copy was brilliant: “The Realm of Fantasy Enters the World of Reality Via Ball Midway’s Fantastic Dungeons & Dragons Pinball!” Who could resist the call of two gaming juggernauts somehow fused into one nigh-holy gaming entity?

This 225 lbs (102 kg) pinball arcade system designed by Ward Pemberton with art by Pat McMahon.  It had a couple of interesting features worth noting. First, there was a mechanism called “teleport” wherein the player shot the ball into specific Teleport lanes, and the ball would vanish, only to reappear elsewhere on the table. The ball was lowered under the playing area, then a new ball was fed into the shooter lane. This captured ball could be released again, but only if the player sent a ball into the Dragon’s Lair, activating the “summon help” feature.  For even more ballsy fun, if both Teleport lanes had a captured ball, and the player entered the Dragon’s Lair, all three balls could enter play!

The second interesting feature of the Dungeons & Dragons Pinball machine was the ability to keep a ball from dropping out of play by initiating the “Magic Save” function. When the ball was in peril of going down one of the left or right side lanes and disappearing from play, the player could press one of the the buttons located under the left and right flipper controls, which caused a small block to appear in the middle of the lane, re-routing the ball back into play. Even better, the player could earn more “Magic Save” opportunities with the right sequence of actions!

If you ever played this pinball machine, I hope this ad brings back fond memories, and if you didn’t, but desperately want to, save your pennies, as they tend to sell handily for a few thousand dollars!  In the meantime, click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!

Full page ad for Dungeon & Dragons Pinball by Bally Midway

Advertising From Yesteryear…Tiger Electronic Games

Tiger LCD video games contain all the thrills and excitement of your favorite video hits in a size perfect for travel.”

Back in the heady days of 1989, these marvels of miniature electronic gaming were the perfect gifts for the Nintendo player who needed his NES fix on the go. Double Dragon, Gauntlet, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and Jordan vs. Bird Basketball, as well as a slew of others, were available from Tiger Electronics for around the ten dollar mark, meaning that you weren’t going to get that Nintendo GameBoy you wanted from your parents as long as these babies were being sold somewhere close to the Nintendo display!  But enough bitterness: it’s time to check out this old full-page color ad from a December, 1989 back issue of The Green Hornet. Enjoy!

Advertising From Yesteryear…The GEnie Network

Back in 1992, the Internet was still primarily a government-funded entity comprised of research and educational websites. It wasn’t until Delphi began a national online provider service targeted for the consumer mass market that same year that the Internet as we know it today began to take root.  This was an incredible time of experimentation, and the possibilities seemed endless.  Businesses recognized the Wild West nature of the online world, and tried to be the Railroad Barons of their day, while others simply tried to fill a niche for modest profit.

One of the services offered was the GEnie (General Electric Network for Information Exchange), which began in the mid-1980s as a way of capitalizing on the little utilized time on the GEIS mainframe (which primarily served up business applications during business hours).  By 1992 GEnie was offering multi-player games with “100% Organic Opponents” over their service, which you could access with your 300, 1200 or (if you were wealthy) 2400 baud modem. Games included BattleTech (MechWarrior), Air Warrior, and the Dragon’s Gate RPG.  These were heady times, when you could blow a lot of money playing an online game ($36 per daytime hour!). With a user-base that could only grow as PCs made their relentless march across the North American landscape, GEnie seemed like a free money…to any other business than General Electric, that is. In another case of stuffed-shirt executives unaware of the technological changes taking place, GE’s management team did not expand the service’s infrastructure, and eventually sold it off to a company with even worse management, and by 1999 the Internet waved farewell to GEnie forever.

But enough of the doom and gloom of foolish executives and the remains of their companies strewn across the landscape of the Mighty Al Gore Superhighway!  Instead, let us look back at GEnie’s advertising from 1992 (found in an issue of Dragon Magazine), when the world was puddle-wonderful with potential! Enjoy!

Get your lungs ripped out on GEnie in 1992

Advertising From Yesteryear…Star Wars: Jedi Arena

Comic books in the 1980s and 1990s provided game publishers to market their wares to a  receptive audience, using the power of crisp comic book art to sell games, distracting potential buyers from the small windows of real screens. Sometimes the realms of comic books, video games, and Hollywood intertwined, such as in 1983, when Parker Brothers advertised their Atari 2600 game, Star Wars: Jedi Arena on the back page of Marvel Comics’ The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones. What a combination: the movie magic of Steven Spielberg’s & George Lucas’ Indiana Jones brought to a comic book format, the Star Wars universe, and the Atari 2600 gaming system, all intertwined simultaneously! How could the game be anything less than awesome?!?

Well, it turned out that Star Wars: Jedi Arena was a dog of a game, and proof that just because Parker Brothers had a movie license and made great board games, didn’t mean that they could make great video games.

As always, click on the image below to see an enlarged version, and enjoy the trip into yesteryear!

Ad for Star Wars: Jedi Arena


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