Back to Bed: A New Video Game Inspired by the Surreal Artwork of Escher, Dali & Magritte

If you’ve ever looked at a mind­bend­ing, impos­si­ble piece of archi­tec­ture designed by M.C. Esch­er and thought, well, I would love to play that, then you just might love Back to Bed, a video game for Win­dows, Mac, Google Play and Playsta­tion.

Sim­i­lar to last year’s aes­thet­i­cal­ly beau­ti­ful archi­tec­ture puz­zle game Mon­u­ment Val­ley, play­ers make their way through 30 lev­els of increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult land­scapes. You play a dog-like com­pan­ion that tries to stop his sleep-walk­ing own­er Bob from falling off into space by plac­ing objects in his path. But, as with these games, you must use log­ic to access some of the objects and think­ing sev­er­al moves ahead stretch­es the brain.

back to bed

The giant, green apples recall Rene Magritte, melt­ed watch­es are out of Dalí, and the voice that says “The stairs are not what they seem”? We have anoth­er Lynch fan in Bed­time Time Dig­i­tal Games’ crew. And the whole nar­colep­sy theme has a bit of the ol’ Cali­gari going for it.

The small com­pa­ny con­sists of for­mer stu­dents who cre­at­ed the game “in a freez­ing old ware­house on the har­bor in Aal­borg, Den­mark,” accord­ing to their bio. They forged ahead with the game after a Kick­starter cam­paign and what sounds like many years lat­er, they won the stu­dent show­case at San Francisco’s Inde­pen­dent Games Fes­ti­val. That attract­ed investors and with actu­al fund­ing, they’ve rewrit­ten the game to make it real­ly shine on HDTVs.

Despite the sus­pense­ful game­play, there’s much that’s relax­ing in the worlds of Back to Bed, from its chil­dren book graph­ic design—everything looks airbrushed—to its hyp­not­ic, hyp­n­a­gog­ic sound, includ­ing a very Bri­an Eno-esque ambi­ent sound­track.

“Back to Bed, the game says out loud in a drone, half-awake voice when you fin­ish a lev­el. But this addic­tive game might just keep you up lat­er than usu­al.

via Vice’s Cre­ator’s Project

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Meta­mor­phose: 1999 Doc­u­men­tary Reveals the Life and Work of Artist M.C. Esch­er

Play the Twin Peaks Video Game: Retro Fun for David Lynch Fans

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

Learn to Write Through a Video Game Inspired by the Romantic Poets: Shelley, Byron, Keats

Can a com­put­er game teach writ­ing and free up the cre­ative mind? Ele­gy for a Dead World, a Kick­starter-fund­ed game for Steam PC, Mac and Lin­ux sys­tems, hopes to do so. The cre­ators Ichi­ro Lambe and Ziba Scott brought the game to E3 last year and debuted it with a brief intro­duc­to­ry walk­through.

The game con­tains three post-apoc­a­lyp­tic worlds based on the works of a trio of Roman­tic poems: Ozy­man­dias by Per­cy Bysshe Shel­ley, Dark­ness by Lord Byron, and When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be by John Keats.

Play­ers explore the world by walk­ing and fly­ing through it like a reg­u­lar plat­form game, but encounter writ­ing prompts that begin to flesh out the back­sto­ry with the help of the player’s imag­i­na­tion. The devel­op­ers hope that by the third or forth prompt, the play­er will be invest­ed in the tale they are telling and per­haps ignore the prompts alto­geth­er.

Play­ers can share their sto­ries with friends. They can also print out their fin­ished work through sites like Blurb and Lulu.

It’s hard to know with­out spend­ing the $14.99 whether or not Ele­gy real­ly can lead you to some decent writ­ing. Expe­ri­enced writ­ers may find the worlds too lim­it­ing, but per­haps for a begin­ning writer it might help with the fear of the blank page. A lot was promised in the Kick­starter cam­paign:

You can read oth­er play­ers’ works, brows­ing through the most-recent, the best-loved, and recent­ly-trend­ing sto­ries. In our game­play tests so far, play­ers have expressed a vari­ety of thoughts about what hap­pened in each world — the sil­hou­ette of what looks like a tele­scope to one play­er looks like a rock­et ship to anoth­er, and a plan­et-destroy­ing weapon to yet anoth­er.

In a larg­er con­text, Ele­gy is anoth­er attempt by game design­ers to free play­ers from the deter­mi­na­tion of goal-based, nar­ra­tive video games. Leave a com­ment if you’ve played Ele­gy for a Dead World and if you cre­at­ed some­thing out of it. In the mean­time, watch game review­er Nate­WantsTo­Bat­tle for his own expe­ri­ence, and just rev­el in the beau­ti­ful graph­ics. We’re a long way from Type!

via Big Think

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

William S. Bur­roughs Teach­es a Free Course on Cre­ative Read­ing and Writ­ing (1979)

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Sev­en Tips From Ernest Hem­ing­way on How to Write Fic­tion

George Plimp­ton, Paris Review Founder, Pitch­es 1980s Video Games for the Mat­tel Intel­livi­sion

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

Play the Twin Peaks Video Game: Retro Fun for David Lynch Fans


They made a video game out of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalk­er, so why not Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks is, of course, a sem­i­nal cult TV series, a sur­re­al­ist soap opera spun out of the mind of David Lynch. When it came out in the late 80s, Amer­i­ca was seized with the show’s cen­tral mys­tery – who killed Lau­ra Palmer? A tor­tured blonde beau­ty queen who wound up dead, wrapped in plas­tic. Its first sea­son (US view­ers can watch it on Hulu) was eas­i­ly one of the best ever on tele­vi­sion with great char­ac­ters, inside jokes and just enough Lynchi­an weird­ness to unnerve a main­stream audi­ence with­out total­ly freak­ing them out. Too bad, then, that the qual­i­ty of the show’s sec­ond sea­son went off a cliff.

You would expect a video game about the series to be about the search for Lau­ra Palmer’s killer, but no. Instead, the game, an Atari 2600-style work called Black Lodge 2600, is a riff on the show’s final angry episode. In that episode, FBI agent Dale Coop­er delves into the oth­er­world­ly Black Lodge, which, in spite of its name, is dec­o­rat­ed pri­mar­i­ly in red cur­tains. There, Coop­er is con­front­ed by his dop­pel­ganger. Lynch’s Jun­gian obses­sions have nev­er been as bald as in that episode.

Basi­cal­ly, if you felt like your well-worn copy of Pit­fall was strange­ly lack­ing in busts of Venus De Milo and a per­vad­ing sense of the Unheim­liche, then this video game might be for you. The game’s man­u­al, which has way too many excla­ma­tion points, sets the stage:

A day in the FBI was nev­er like this before! You are Spe­cial Agent Dale Coop­er and you’ve found your­self trapped inside the Black Lodge, a sur­re­al and dan­ger­ous place between worlds. Try as you might, you can’t seem to find any­thing but the same room and hall­way no mat­ter which way you turn. Worse yet, your dop­pel­ganger is in hot pur­suit! You have no choice but to keep run­ning through the room and hall­way (or is it more than one?) and above all else, don’t let your dop­pel­ganger touch you!


You’ll find quick­ly that you’re not alone in the Black Lodge, though your friends are few and far between. Not only that, the Lodge itself seems to be active­ly try­ing to trip you up at all times! You’ll be dodg­ing chairs and crazed Lodge res­i­dents all while try­ing to keep your own san­i­ty. How long can this go on?

Based on this descrip­tion, I can’t tell if this game is com­pelling or if it will mere­ly evoke the same feel­ing of exis­ten­tial futil­i­ty I feel every time I call Time Warn­er Cable. Watch a video of the game below and judge for your­self. Or start down­load­ing the game and the man­u­al here.

Note: If you have prob­lems get­ting the game going on a Mac, then fol­low these Black Lodge trou­bleshoot­ing instruc­tions: Go to “Sys­tem Pref­er­ences”, open “Secu­ri­ty & Pri­va­cy”, click the pad­lock to allow changes, then click the “Any­where” option under “Allow appli­ca­tions down­loaded from.”

via Wel­come to Twin Peaks

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Lynch Presents the His­to­ry of Sur­re­al­ist Film (1987)

David Lynch Explains How Med­i­ta­tion Enhances Our Cre­ativ­i­ty

David Lynch Teach­es You to Cook His Quinoa Recipe in a Weird, Sur­re­al­ist Video

Dum­b­land, David Lynch’s Twist­ed Ani­mat­ed Series (NSFW)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Masterpiece Stalker Gets Adapted into a Video Game


Of all the movies out there, Andrei Tarkovsky’s mad­den­ing­ly oblique mas­ter­piece Stalk­er (1979) doesn’t seem like a like­ly choice to be adapt­ed into a video game. Yet it was.

The movie, Tarkovsky’s last in the USSR, is dense and enig­mat­ic with none of the nar­ra­tive pay-offs that you see in most films. The sto­ry cen­ters on a region called the Zone, which after some unnamed dis­as­ter, has the pow­er to ful­fill your great­est wish. Nat­u­ral­ly, the area has been ringed off by the author­i­ties with razor wire and armed guards. At the film’s open­ing, a guide, called a Stalk­er, takes two clients, a writer and a sci­en­tist, into the Zone. And yet after near­ly three hours of mean­der­ing and philo­soph­i­cal mono­logues, none of the char­ac­ters make a wish nor are any wish­es grant­ed. The end. But the rea­son the movie has such a fer­vent, cultish fol­low­ing is not for its dra­mat­ics. Instead, the film’s pow­er is found in the cumu­la­tive effect of its hyp­not­i­cal­ly slow pac­ing, its spir­i­tu­al long­ing and its gor­geous imagery. You can watch the film online hereFind more Tarkovsky films here.

And there’s the uncan­ny fact that Stalk­er seemed to pre­fig­ure a glob­al dis­as­ter that struck sev­en years after the movie pre­miered. It is just about impos­si­ble to look at those eerie pho­tos of irra­di­at­ed ghost towns with­in Chernobyl’s 30 square kilo­me­ter exclu­sion zone and not think about Stalk­er.

Enter Ukrain­ian game devel­op­er GSC Game World, which explic­it­ly con­nect­ed the dis­as­ter with Tarkovsky’s movie when, in 2007, it released S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shad­ow of Cher­nobyl, the first in a whole series of games. (The title might just fea­ture the most tor­tured acronym this side of the USAPATRIOT Act, stand­ing for Scav­enger, Tres­pass­er, Adven­tur­er, Lon­er, Killer, Explor­er, Rob­ber.) On first blush, the game and the movie seem to have lit­tle in com­mon aside from the name. There are rel­a­tive­ly few machine gun bat­tles or zomb­i­fied mutants in the film. Yet Gabriel Winslow-Yost argues in The New York Review of Books that there are more sim­i­lar­i­ties than might be first appar­ent.

As games, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series are remark­able.… While they all have the ele­ments of a stan­dard action game—guns, mon­sters, mis­sions, traps, loot—much of the player’s activ­i­ty is odd­ly in keep­ing with Stalker’s spir­it, some­times even man­ag­ing to expand upon it. […] Watch­ing Stalk­er, one is occa­sion­al­ly brought up short by remem­ber­ing that it was not filmed in Cher­nobyl, so per­fect an ana­logue does that event seem for the film’s images of tech­nol­o­gy and nature, beau­ty and dan­ger in strange alliance. The games, at their best, can seem like a sort of mir­a­cle: a dead man’s mas­ter­piece, come home at last.

Stalk­er was based on a novel­la called Road­side Pic­nic by Arkady and Boris Stru­gatsky. Winslow-Yost points out the games are actu­al­ly more in keep­ing with the source mate­r­i­al than Tarkovsky’s film. “The stalk­ers are numer­ous and mer­ce­nary. The ele­ments of the Zone are many, and named, if not quite explained—there’s ‘Mos­qui­to Mange’ and ‘Burn­ing Fluff,’ ‘Full Emp­ties’ and ‘Black Sprays.’ In the film most of these are not present—Tarkovsky leaves in only one, the ‘meat­grinder,’ though his Stalk­er is clear­ly ter­ri­fied of many more.”

The games proved to be so suc­cess­ful, espe­cial­ly in Rus­sia, that they were turned into nov­els. No word if any­one has both­ered to buy the film rights to those books. If you want to see what the game looks like, there’s a video of it above.

But the real ques­tion is what oth­er art house land­marks are going to get remade into video games? A ver­sion of Sec­ond Life inspired by Yasu­jiro Ozu’s Tokyo Sto­ry? A mash up of Grand Theft Auto and Jean-Luc Godard’s Week­end? Last Year at Marien­bad as a first-per­son shoot­er?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Tarkovsky Films Now Free Online

Watch Stalk­er, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mind-Bend­ing Mas­ter­piece Free Online

The Mas­ter­ful Polaroid Pic­tures Tak­en by Film­mak­er Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Film­mak­ers: Sac­ri­fice Your­self for Cin­e­ma

A Poet in Cin­e­ma: Andrei Tarkovsky Reveals the Director’s Deep Thoughts on Film­mak­ing and Life

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

Free: Play 2,400 Vintage Computer Games in Your Web Browser


Had I known as a grade-school­er that the day would come when I could play all the com­put­er games I then want­ed to, any­where I want­ed to, with­out pay­ing for them, installing them, or even wait­ing any sig­nif­i­cant amount of time for them, I would have sim­ply put myself into cryo­genic sleep, set­ting the year of awak­en­ing to 2015. The Inter­net Archive, which had already made over 900 clas­sic arcade and con­sole games avail­able, has made all this pos­si­ble with their MS-DOS games col­lec­tion, which con­tains much, if not every­thing, you remem­ber from child­hood — if your child­hood, like mine, revolved around com­put­er games released between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. The youth-reliv­ing gamers of Metafil­ter have already descend­ed upon the col­lec­tion, pulling out such acknowl­edged clas­sics as Prince of Per­sia, Lem­mingsScorched Earthand Waste­land. (More than a few have also dug up true obscu­ri­ties — Tongue of the Fat­man, any­one?)


Right there at the Inter­net Archive, you can play genre-defin­ing first-per­son shoot­ers like Wolfen­stein 3D, plat­form­ers like Com­man­der Keen, dri­ving games like Lam­borgh­i­ni Amer­i­can Chal­lenge, sim­u­la­tors like Sim­C­i­ty (which played sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle part in mak­ing me into the city-obsessed adult whose words you now read, though I would­n’t mind revis­it­ing it), strat­e­gy games like Dune and its more pop­u­lar sequel, and class­room favorites/cultural touch­stones like The Ore­gon Trail.

At this point, even those not expe­ri­enc­ing a Prous­t­ian onrush of child­hood mem­o­ry may feel a tad over­whelmed, so why not have a look at the Inter­net Archive’s MS-DOS Show­case, “a hand-picked set of selec­tions from the MS-DOS Soft­ware Library of the Inter­net Archive,” cho­sen because “they rep­re­sent major parts of the MS-DOS sto­ry, because they are par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive, and” — in the case of the best of these games, the most legit­i­mate rea­son of all — “because they’re fun.” The games can all be played in your brows­er. If you run into any prob­lems, please read the Inter­net Archive’s FAQ.


h/t to our loy­al read­er Daniel B.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Inter­net Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vin­tage Video Games in Your Web Brows­er (Free)

Play The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Video Game Free Online, Designed by Dou­glas Adams in 1984

Learn to Write Through a Video Game Inspired by the Roman­tic Poets: Shel­ley, Byron, Keats

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Existential Philosophy of Kierkegaard, Sartre, Camus Explained with 8‑Bit Video Games

By this point in his­to­ry, many of us grown-ups did our grow­ing up while play­ing video games. Most mem­o­rably, we did it while play­ing the col­or­ful, pix­e­lat­ed video games of the mid 1980s through the ear­ly 1990s, the hey­day of the “eight-bit” con­soles. These titles and their char­ac­ters — the Mar­ios, the Zel­das, the Mega Men — remain cul­tur­al touch­stones not just for those of us who have land­ed solid­ly in adult­hood, but also for those of us too young to have played them while they were new. Many of us have put away these child­ish things, but many more of us have kept them out, keep­ing them right along­side our grown-up pur­suits, result­ing in projects like the video series 8‑Bit Phi­los­o­phy, which we fea­tured in Novem­ber.

These grown-up pur­suits include not just the study of phi­los­o­phy, but reflec­tion upon the seri­ous exis­ten­tial ques­tions that the sub­ject reveals: Does ratio­nal­i­ty give life mean­ing? Do we enjoy being free? Why should­n’t we com­mit sui­cide? Luck­i­ly, 8‑Bit Phi­los­o­phy has come up with episodes deal­ing with exact­ly these top­ics. For the first ques­tion they turn to the ideas of Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th cen­tu­ry thinker con­sid­ered the father of exis­ten­tial­ism, as illus­trat­ed by Shat­ter­hand, a slight­ly obscure plat­former I great­ly enjoyed in my own youth. For the sec­ond, we see how two for­mi­da­ble bod­ies of work — that of Jean-Paul Sartre, and that of the Final Fan­ta­sy role-play­ing games — come to bear on the issue. For the third, they bring out none oth­er than Albert Camus (who died 55 years ago yes­ter­day), plac­ing his trench­coat­ed, Gauloise-smok­ing avatar into the suit­ably Sisyphean Don­key Kong.

If you’ve put in the hours play­ing both eight-bit video games and read­ing the rel­e­vant philo­soph­i­cal texts, you’ll sure­ly find these videos’ Nin­ten­don­ian aes­thet­ics as impec­ca­ble as their encap­su­la­tions of Kierkegar­rd, Sartre, and Camus’ posi­tions are con­cise. You can find more from 8‑Bit Phi­los­o­phy on Youtube, includ­ing their vin­tage gamer-friend­ly ren­di­tions of Friedrich Niet­zsche on time as a flat cir­cle and what sci­ence has to do with truth.  They cov­er oth­er areas of phi­los­o­phy, too, but some­thing about old video games them­selves — with their end­less cycles of death, regen­er­a­tion, and not inher­ent­ly mean­ing­ful chal­lenges — leads my mind straight into exis­ten­tial­ism every time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 130 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es: Tools for Think­ing About Life, Death & Every­thing Between

8‑Bit Phi­los­o­phy: Pla­to, Sartre, Der­ri­da & Oth­er Thinkers Explained With Vin­tage Video Games

Exis­ten­tial­ism with Hubert Drey­fus: Four Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Friedrich Niet­zsche & Exis­ten­tial­ism Explained to Five-Year-Olds (in Com­i­cal Video by Red­dit)

Wal­ter Kaufmann’s Clas­sic Lec­tures on Niet­zsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre (1960)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Blade Runner Spoofed in Three Japanese Commercials (and Generally Loved in Japan)

Blade Run­ner’s vision of a thor­ough­ly Japan­i­fied Los Ange­les in the year 2019 reflects the west­ern eco­nom­ic anx­i­eties of the ear­ly 1980s. And while that once far-flung year may not have come quite yet, Japan — giv­en the burst­ing of its post­war finan­cial bub­ble and the “lost decade” of the 1990s that fol­lowed — looks unlike­ly to own a frac­tion as much of the Unit­ed States as Rid­ley Scot­t’s Philip K. Dick adap­ta­tion (and many oth­er futur­is­tic sto­ries besides) assumed it even­tu­al­ly would. Still, the film’s cul­tur­al proph­esy came true: even dur­ing its eco­nom­ic stag­na­tion, Japan exer­cised more “soft pow­er” than ever before, turn­ing the world to the unique claims of its cul­ture, from the refine­ment of its cui­sine to the hyper­ac­tive exu­ber­ance of its music and ani­ma­tion to the match­less ele­gance of its tra­di­tion­al aes­thet­ics.

Even as Blade Run­ner showed us how much Japan­ese style would one day influ­ence, the style of the film had, for its part, an imme­di­ate influ­ence on Japan. Though famous­ly unap­pre­ci­at­ed by west­ern­ers on its ini­tial release (“a waste of time,” said Siskel and Ebert), its pro­to-cyber­punk sen­si­bil­i­ty won the hearts of Japan­ese view­ers, and Japan­ese cre­ators, right away. The video at the top of the post col­lects three Japan­ese tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials that both spoof and pay homage to Blade Run­ner: the first for the Hon­da Beat, a Japan-only road­ster; the sec­ond (an astute par­o­dy of a par­tic­u­lar­ly mem­o­rable scene) for Meni­con con­tact lens­es; and the third for mobile ser­vice provider J‑Phone.

But the movie’s effect on Japan did­n’t stop at the adver­tis­ing indus­try. The 1987 ani­mat­ed series Bub­blegum Cri­sis, which fol­lows the adven­tures of a cyborg-bat­tling team in the “Mega Tokyo” of 2032, plays so much like a home­grown Blade Run­ner that a fan could cre­ate the sec­ond video above: an ani­mat­ed recre­ation of Blade Run­ner’s trail­er, using all its orig­i­nal sound, with Bub­blegum Cri­sis’ footage. The 1988 video game Snatch­er stars the decid­ed­ly Har­ri­son-For­dian Gillian Seed, a detec­tive in pur­suit of the tit­u­lar killer androids in the “Neo Kobe” of 2044. You can still semuch of what the film inspired, and what inspired in the film, in major Japan­ese cities today. Even Los Ange­les has made strides here and there toward the Blade Run­ner future, though I regret to admit that we still await our tow­er-side geisha.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Mak­ing Blade Run­ner: See the Orig­i­nal Sketch­book, Sto­ry­boards, On-Set Polaroids & More

The Blade Run­ner Pro­mo­tion­al Film

Blade Run­ner: The Pil­lar of Sci-Fi Cin­e­ma that Siskel, Ebert, and Stu­dio Execs Orig­i­nal­ly Hat­ed

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

George Plimpton, Paris Review Founder, Pitches 1980s Video Games for the Mattel Intellivision

plimpton mattel

Space, choose Atari; sports, choose Intel­livi­sion. So went the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom of ear­ly-1980s home video gam­ing, where the Atari 2600 enjoyed an insur­mount­able advan­tage when it came to blast­ing alien invaders, but where the Mat­tel Intel­livi­sion — putting aside the sheer dis­com­fort of those wonky con­trollers — could sat­is­fy the elec­tron­ic sports­man like no oth­er con­sole.

For Mat­tel, win­ning over the jocks and the nerds at once would require a del­i­cate mar­ket­ing bal­ance, one attempt­ed by the hir­ing of George Plimp­ton, the man who per­son­al­ly pitched against the Nation­al League, sparred with Sug­ar Ray Robin­son, trained with the Detroit Lions, tend­ed goal amid the Boston Bru­ins, hit the PGA Tour in the hey­day of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nick­laus, and helped found the Paris Review. (The name did stand for “intel­li­gent tele­vi­sion,” after all.)

“Who bet­ter to vouch for the real­ism of a sports video game than some­one who had actu­al­ly suit­ed up and played for real?” asks “His per­sona became the per­sona of Intel­livi­sion: a mix of smug supe­ri­or­i­ty with a healthy touch of self-dep­re­ca­tion.” He starred, as “Mr. Intel­livi­sion,” in quite a few mem­o­rable tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials such as the one at the top of the post, where we see him sit down at his trusty type­writer to announce the small­er, cheap­er Intel­livi­sion II; the one just above, where he pre­sides over a direct com­par­i­son with Atari to reveal the Intel­livi­sion’s sport­ing advan­tage (Mat­tel had pro­vid­ed him both con­soles to play so he could hon­est­ly sign an affi­davit con­firm­ing his pref­er­ence); and spots like the one below, where he even trum­pets the supe­ri­or­i­ty of Intel­livi­sion space shoot­ers. Plimp­ton’s influ­ence on clas­sic gam­ing sur­vives him, most recent­ly in the online “retro” game George Plimp­ton’s Video Fal­con­ry. Some­one even cut togeth­er a fake 80s com­mer­cial for it, though they inex­plic­a­bly made it a game for the Cole­co­V­i­sion. Come on — nobody bought a Cole­co­V­i­sion for the sports games.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Run Vin­tage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Soft­ware in Your Web Brows­er, Thanks to

The Great Gats­by and Wait­ing for Godot: The Video Game Edi­tions

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

David Lynch’s Sur­re­al Com­mer­cials

Jean-Luc Godard’s After-Shave Com­mer­cial for Schick

Ing­mar Bergman’s Soap Com­mer­cials Wash Away the Exis­ten­tial Despair

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.