Strong Fellowship – Day 2

Today was my first day in the archives. I received a Strong Fellow badge that gets me in through security and into the archive on the third floor. JP Dyson offered me a ride in, and I took the Magic: The Gathering books and Sumerian Game artifacts in for the collection (should hear back later if they want to keep all the books).

First order of business was to wheel out a cart packed with Play Meter magazines. This is one of the official coin op industry journals and covers not just video and pinball games, but also jukeboxes and ‘kiddie rides’. I started with 1982 and will be checking the collection up through the end of 1985.

Being an older magazine, the issues are in pretty bad shape, with pages peeling out – some issues, such as March(?) 1986, also had pages cut up! It was a little distressing to see these magazines falling apart as I flipped the pages…but on the other hand, if the pages lie perfectly flat, that makes it easier to photograph. On that note, there won’t be many more images for awhile since I’m not allowed to use images from these for anything other than research.

The first things I noticed was an awful lot of coverage on movements to either regulate or outright ban coin op videogames in many laces around the US. Regulation is a prolem that affected the coin-op industry long before videogames – pinball was banned in New York and LA in the 930s and 1940s as a reaction against organized crime and to prevent ‘corruption of te youth’ – in fact, many arcades received poor reputations as being considered warrens for drugs, prostitution, gambling, and other forms of corruption. Videogames often produced the same fears.

I am still unconvinced this played a major role in the collapse of arcade industry profits in 1982. The editors suggested it had more to do with purchasing large numbers of machines and thus oversaturating the market with not only duplicates of the same machine, but also clones and knockoffs. It’s kind of hard for your copy of Defender to make a profit when your competitor has two machines two blocks down the road. Sales of coin-op machines might have been up, but operator profits were down.

Other interesting concerns were theft of arcade machines. Still, the editor of Play Meter did suggest that threats of regulation and legal cases against arcades was a major problem and perhaps the largest threat the industry faced.

I am a bit concerned with the speed at which I go through these journals. In addition to finishing about eight issues of Play Meter, I also dug through a box of electronic games flyers, which wasn’t terribly useful, since they were from 1988-2000. JP Dyson informed me that most researchers end up rushing for the last few days to try and cram everything in. I have an incredible amunt of matrial to go through, so I can’t afford to read each article carefully and instead just photograph.

That said, in order to prepare for tomorrow, I will need to bring my battery charger, as my rechargeables almost ran out. Not too concerned with photo storage though since I have a 32GB flash card, a backup 8GB card, and a 16GB USB drive. However, I can’t read anything taken off the camera unless I plug it in to a computer. In this regard, my iPad is far more useful, but just doesn’t have the capacity.

Excited for what I’ll find tomorrow! Other cool findings included interviews with the presidents of Sega and Taito and Minoru Arakawa of Nintendo of America.

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