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The Life & Times of Video Games

Technology Podcasts

An award-nominated documentary audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today. The Life and Times of Video Games combines context, analysis, interviews, and thoughtful reflection that ties every story back to the present day, because history doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it. The things that happened in the games industry 10, 20, 30 years ago all have a lasting legacy — sometimes small, sometimes large — and journalist and historian Richard Moss here tries to draw those through lines in the course of telling fascinating stories about the past.

An award-nominated documentary audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today. The Life and Times of Video Games combines context, analysis, interviews, and thoughtful reflection that ties every story back to the present day, because history doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it. The things that happened in the games industry 10, 20, 30 years ago all have a lasting legacy — sometimes small, sometimes large — and journalist and historian Richard Moss here tries to draw those through lines in the course of telling fascinating stories about the past.

Location:

Australia

Description:

An award-nominated documentary audio series about video games and the video game industry — as they were in the past, and how they came to be the way they are today. The Life and Times of Video Games combines context, analysis, interviews, and thoughtful reflection that ties every story back to the present day, because history doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it. The things that happened in the games industry 10, 20, 30 years ago all have a lasting legacy — sometimes small, sometimes large — and journalist and historian Richard Moss here tries to draw those through lines in the course of telling fascinating stories about the past.

Language:

English


Episodes

Soundbite: a one-stop shop for (shareware) games

6/30/2020
Glenn Brensinger, former sysop of Software Creations, talks about how his then-boss Dan Linton's "Home of the Authors" Software Creations bulletin-board system (BBS) served as a sort of prototypical Steam. The interview was done as part of my research for my upcoming book Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet, which is on Kickstarter until July 8th. To get access to supporter-only soundbites, and early access to soundbites like this one, you can subscribe via...

Duration:00:05:18

Interview: The CRPG Addict

6/8/2020
The man behind The CRPG Addict, a blog dedicated to playing through the entire history of computer role-playing games in roughly-chronological order, discusses his decade-long (and counting!) conquest and the roots of his passion. We also explore how his approach has changed as he's learnt more about the genre's history, the merits and failings of a scoring system for comparing games, the value of talking about a tiny niche within a niche in such detail, how he learnt to stop feeling guilty...

Duration:01:26:55

25 - Pimps at Sea

4/16/2020
It began as an impromptu April Fools' Day gag, but Pimps at Sea was the joke that kept on giving. This is the story of how a chance encounter on the streets of Chicago led to a semi-annual tradition, an industry/fan-favourite insider joke, and a cult classic multiplayer game. As you'll hear in the episode, Pimps at Sea went through many iterations and received several "development" updates. You can find the original website archived on the Wayback Machine at...

Duration:00:39:09

Interview: Phil Salvador (The Obscuritory)

3/31/2020
I speak to librarian, games critic, and blogger Phil Salvador about his website The Obscuritory and his research and writing on games unplayed and unknown. In a far-reaching interview, conducted in late February, 2020 (and thus before the full brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the West), we explore the challenges, rewards, and lessons we've each found in writing about little-known areas of games history, as well as the importance of being kind and much, much more. This is the third entry in...

Duration:01:45:05

Soundbite: Gail Tilden on working at Nintendo of America in its early years

3/17/2020
Nintendo Power founding editor and former Nintendo of America marketing executive Gail Tilden remembers her beginnings at the company — before the NES, before Nintendo Power, and even before desktop publishing. Head to https://lifeandtimes.games/episodes/files/soundbite-gail-tilden for a full transcript of the soundbite. This interview was conducted for an article about the launch of the Game Boy, Tetris, and Pokemon in the West — which you can find at...

Duration:00:08:02

24 - Bully (Canis Canem Edit)

2/27/2020
How 2006 PS2 hit Bully (aka Canis Canem Edit) showed an alternate future for Rockstar and the open-world genre, with its compromised-yet-brilliant schoolyard satire — here I dive deep into the game, not for its overblown controversies but rather for its struggles against technological limitations and its triumphs in world-building, satire, and focused, more intimate and structured open-world game design. And I wonder why, nearly 15 years on, open-world games continue to strive for bigger and...

Duration:00:27:37

Interview: Alex aka Blackoak from Shmuplations.com

2/11/2020
I speak to the creator of Shmuplations.com, a large repository of translated interviews with Japanese game developers, about his approach to doing the translations, his insights on the Japanese games industry, and the highs and lows (and struggles) of running a time-intensive side hustle. This is the second entry in a new series of interviews I'm running alongside the main show — every month(ish) I'll talk to a different person who's exploring games history, in one way or another, to learn...

Duration:01:36:48

23 - The Fog of War

1/29/2020
In war, no information is complete. No intelligence absolute. No view of the enemy unobstructed. There’s no such thing as perfect knowledge. It is a realm of uncertainty, where decisions are made on flawed and often outdated data — as though looking through a fog. Hence the term, the fog of war, a military phrase with origins in the musings of a 19th century Prussian general called Carl von Clausewitz. A phrase that’s since found its way into video game lexicon, and video game design, as we...

Duration:00:27:29

Soundbite: Bruce Shelley's "inverted pyramid of decision making"

1/10/2020
Here's some great game design wisdom from one of the legends of the business. This interview excerpt is plucked from my set of Age of Empires history interviews that I did while putting together an oral history on the AoE series for Ars Technica a while back. Bruce Shelley has been in the industry for some 30-odd years, with credits including co-creator of Sid Meier's Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, and Age of Empires, as well as key roles in Halo Wars and F-19 Stealth Fighter, among other...

Duration:00:04:01

22 - Wololo

12/24/2019
The sound designers from Age of Empires I and II, brothers Chris and Stephen Rippy, tell the story behind the iconic "wololo" priest chant — for converting enemy units to your side — that's since become a popular meme, as I delve into its strange legacy. All sound effects in this episode come from Age of Empires or Age of Empires II, except when otherwise noted. Music is a mix of my own stuff and a few tracks from the Age of Empires soundtrack, plus snippets from Babes Wodomu's Wololo,...

Duration:00:24:00

[Bonus] The Rise & Fall of Ambrosia Software, '90s Mac Legends - PAX Aus 2019 talk

12/5/2019
While I'm away on my honeymoon, here's my complete talk from PAX Australia 2019, on the rise and fall of legendary shareware publisher Ambrosia Software — the most underrated of the '90s indie publishing giants. You can find accompanying slides at https://tinyurl.com/paxausambrosiatalk as well as my full script on the accompanying blog post at lifeandtimes.games. So please, enjoy, and I'll see you in a couple of weeks. The synopsis: For Mac gamers in the 90s, the people of Ambrosia Software...

Duration:01:01:58

21 - Pitfall Harry, the Jungle Runner

11/22/2019
It’s strange to think of a time before jumping was a standard video game action, to be expected whenever and wherever you have control over an individual character. A time before you could hop onto enemies’ heads and not die, or swing on ropes, or move back and forth across a vast level — many times wider than the screen. But these ideas were rare, and just beginning to find their way into video game lexicon, when David Crane came along and with one single game turned them into tropes. With...

Duration:00:33:47

20 - RealSound™ and Voice Characterisations

11/7/2019
How a quest to put sound in a couple of games in the mid-1980s led to a revolution in computer game audio design and production. *** These are, in a sense, the sounds of a revolution in video game history, the sounds of a change so profound that it opened the door to entirely new genres. They’re digitised audio samples, a recorded analogue waveform converted into a digital signal — and then back into analogue audio through your headphones, in this case, via a couple of Macintosh games from...

Duration:00:36:11

Interview: Tom Lenting (Games History of the Netherlands)

10/4/2019
I interview Gamegeschiedenis van Nederland 1978-2018 (Games History of the Netherlands) author Tom Lenting about his book and the history of the Dutch games industry. This is the first in a new series of interviews I'm running alongside the main show — every month I'll talk to a different person who's exploring games history, in one way or another, to further our understanding of how this wonderful medium (and the industry that's built around it) has come to be the way it is now. Links: A...

Duration:00:45:55

19 - Premier Manager

9/3/2019
On the rise and fall of the Premier Manager series of soccer management games — a former PC gaming juggernaut that lost its way amidst a shuffle of developers and publishers — and the part it played in the broader consolidation/homogenisation of sports games (of all kinds) over the past 20 years or so. All music and sound effects in this episode were composed and performed by me, except for the bits that came from the Premier Manager games (the football commentary clips and a couple of...

Duration:00:30:24

Soundbite: Former Sega CEO Tom Kalinske on telling the US Senate games aren't "just for kids"

8/15/2019
When the United States Senate held congressional hearings on video game violence in 1993 and '94, Sega CEO Tom Kalinske went to bat in defence of the industry — and the medium. But he faced major obstacles just getting the senators to understand that the audience for video games was much broader than teenage and pre-teen boys. In this excerpt from an interview I conducted with Tom earlier this year, he describes the experience and lays out his frustrations with the senators. For more on the...

Duration:00:05:47

18 - Hogs of War

7/24/2019
Far from a mere "Worms in 3D", Hogs of War was its own breed of madness. Hear the story of how it evolved from a concept of "Command and Conquer with pigs", what made it such a well-designed satire, and how this underrated PlayStation game saw the funny side of serious global conflict. All music and sound effects in this episode were composed and performed by me, except for the bits that I lifted out of Hogs of War. Hogs of War is available for Playstation 3/Vita/PSP via PSN, and its PC port...

Duration:00:28:48

17 - Super Mario Kart

7/1/2019
How Nintendo and its mascot created a genre, and a combat-racing franchise heavyweight, and in the process gave us a masterclass in game balance, with the best-selling 1992 Super Nintendo game Super Mario Kart. All music and sound effects in this episode were composed and performed by me, except for the bits that I lifted out of Super Mario Kart. If you enjoyed this episode, you might like to consider listening to the previous entry this season, on Sega Rally Championship. Or for other...

Duration:00:27:20

16 - Sega Rally Championship

6/8/2019
Sega Rally Championship changed everything for the racing genre, and the 1995 off-road arcade hit was an incredible game too. This is the story of its development, critical reception, and long-term legacy. If you're keen to grab one of the Sega Rally games on Amazon, please use my affiliate link so that I get a small portion of the sale price. The Life & Times of Video Games on the Web and social media Website: lifeandtimes.gamesTwitter: @LifeandTimesVGInstagram: @lifeandtimesvgYouTube:...

Duration:00:23:34

Soundbite: Henk Rogers on randomness and dilemmas in Tetris

6/6/2019
For the 35th anniversary of Tetris' original Russian version, I pulled out this clip from my interview with Henk Rogers — co-founder of The Tetris Company and the dude who got Tetris handheld and console publishing rights back in the 1980s (and also creator of what was arguably the first JRPG, The Black Onyx). Listen for Henk's memories about the strategy inherent in the game's scoring system and the story of how they fixed a bias in the Game Boy version's random number generator. The...

Duration:00:05:25