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Memory Lane: 1980's kids show talks gaming craze

Ross Miller

In the early 1980's, Nickelodeon's talk show Livewire hosted a segment on the emerging arcade gaming scene. The episode, while appealing to kids and featuring a live audience of teens, stands in stark contrast to the ADD-addled television today: long-winded interview, news segments, etc. However, the most striking aspect of the 3-part YouTube collection is its relevance today.

The first part of the trio is more or less a throwaway, unless you wish to see a live performance of Buckner & Garcia's hit "Pac-Man Fever." However, part two shows a behind-the-scenes look at the construction of Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinets and talks with Bally Midway's Marketing VP Stanley Jarocki. There is a quote from him, found about three minutes in, where Jarocki expresses confidence on the future of the industry:

"At the moment I cannot foresee any great decline in the popularity of video games."

The year Jarocki was interviewed, 1982, is key. 1983 to 1984 signifies what is known as the video game crash, where U.S. and Canadian game business went bankrupt on a mass scale. Much of the cause by an influx of crap-tacular titles produced in the hopes of riding the gaming boom, and of publishers committing acts of espionage and reverse engineering to try and steal each other's secrets. Jarocki, who acknowledges Bally Midway's secrecy, gave a quote that in retrospect demonstrates situational irony at its finest -- it's like a planner for the Titanic remarking on the ship's safety hours before its voyage.

Later in part two, Jarocki appears live on the show to discuss Ms. Pac-Man's success with host Fred Newman. Jarocki opines that it's the game's simplicity and universal appeal that gives it an edge over the competition. His words sound an awful like Nintendo's current talking points, which makes us think of Reggie Fils-Aime sitting in Jarocki's seat with bad 1980's fashions. *shudders*

Part three not only includes another performance by Buckner & Garcia ("Do the Donkey Kong!") and a showdown between Jarocki and Ronnie Lamm, a PTA district president from New York. Lamm bemoans the evils of the games industry and tells stories about evil loan shark arcade owners who let kids keep tabs and gives them monthly bills upwards of $40. Jarocki defends the industry and suggests that parents should be responsible for the children, noting that the industry should be allowed to regulate itself. A then-31-year-old Jack Thompson must've been watching the story unfold.

Whether or not this validates the phrase "history repeats itself," the 3-part video is at least worth a look at all those crazy fashions from the eighties.

[via ... on pampers, programming, & pitching manure]

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