February 18, 2008


If you still own a copy of Pitfall! for the Atari Video Computer System then there's a chance that you're a geek. But when it's autographed by game designer David Crane, such a cartridge serves as legal proof of inexorable geekery in most states. I recently stumbled upon this monogrammed game of mine which inspired me to track down and blog photos of my visit to the 1999 Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas where I earned this nerdiest of treasures. My search yielded disappointingly pathetic results. Even so, I'll go ahead and present you with two unremarkable photos and a scan of the cover of the official expo program.

David Crane signs a game cartridge. Why did I even take this? Why not just wait for him to finish so that he could look at the camera? Anyway, I got a kick out of hearing panel discussions on the golden years of home gaming. Activision was the first company to credit individual game designers and in turn, they were treated like rock stars. Million dollar parties accompanied each new game release. Multiple hotel ballrooms were filled with foliage and live jungle animals for the debut of Pitfall! and when Barnstorming came out, creator Steve Cartwright landed at the red carpet in a real biplane.

They also discussed the sudden downfall of the industry in 1983. The panel cited a massive influx of inferior games as the primary cause of the crash. One programmer recalled how he knew it was all over when he saw copies of Parker Brothers Star Wars series of Atari games on sale at Toys "R" Us for $3.00 apiece– and each box advertised a $5.00* mail-in rebate! (*Those numbers may not be exact, but I know they're close)

This shoddy snapshot pretty much sums up the dealer floor– tables and tables of old software and software related ephemera. I quite enjoyed it, and I did come home with that Q-Bert coin bank in the foreground. But the real purchasing action took place deep in the night in the designated trading room. I got some crazy-good deals one night from a fellow who was gleefully liquidating his collection at near giveaway prices. Ah, vacation memories.

As promised, here's that program booklet. Having seen this display of memorabilia, I'm confident that you now feel as though you were actually there.


Devlin Thompson said...

Is that one of the fabled "Treasures of Enarc?"

iamchief said...

*sorry...didn't realize I was signed in under my wife's name!

As I was saying...

I LOVED Pitfall!! I can remember a certain high scoring contest they had...if you reached 1,000,000 I think...you had to take a picture of the tv screen & send it in.
I finally reached the 1 mil mark, took a polaroid snapshot of my tv, but never sent the photo in to claim my riches.
I've regretted it ever since.

Oh, and remember to always jump on the very back of the alligator heads... you'll never make the full leap across all three of them.

narvista said...

Yeah!! I remember the Activision contests. You had to reach a certain score, take a picture of the screen and send it in—and Activision sent you a full-color badge to sew onto your jacket proclaiming your glorious achievement.

There are two people I distinctly remember having Levi's jean jackets copmletely covered with those patches. An ubergeek in junior high and a 40-something ubergeek at the 2005 Comic Con. Maybe it was the same kid?

narvista said...

I just found the "Explorer's Club" Activision patch, sent to those scoring 20,000+ pts. It's for sale on Atari2600.com, as well as a whole bunch of other cool stuff...

Click here!


Kirk D. said...

devlin- ha, yes in every sense of the word.

iamchief- ha, I still have my photo too! Those patches sounded so cool and I wish I had one.
Yes, the worst was when you thought you were standing on the back of the alligator heads but then the mouth opens and you realized weren't quite far back enough.

narvista- Thanks for the visial! I don't think I've ever seen the design. It's good to know it's not too late to get one of those patches. (I just looked and some of the originals have recently gone for up to 50 bucks on ebay too!) Oh, man I'll bet that jacket guy was the envy of comic con.

Todd Franklin said...

I guess that makes me a geek since I still have my Pitfall.

The Activision guys were kind of like the greek gods sending us mortals new and exciting games and we felt like we knew them from the instruction booklets. Activision carts were always on the top of my want list, especially if it was a game designed by Crane, Cartwright and Miller. So it’s very cool that you met and got an autograph of David Crane!

I’m afraid I also have some TV score photos that I never sent in for my patch. I was such a procrastinator!

Geary Don Crofford said...

I never had an Activision, only a Mattell Intellivision, loved it!