61 episodes

An award-nominated documentary and narrative 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. History doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it, and so with The Life and Times of Video Games journalist and historian Richard Moss draws those through lines to tell fascinating stories about the past that link right back to the present. 

The Life & Times of Video Games The HP Video Game Podcast Network

    • Leisure
    • 4.9 • 11 Ratings

An award-nominated documentary and narrative 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. History doesn't just vanish into the distance behind us; it casts a very long shadow that affects everything that comes after it, and so with The Life and Times of Video Games journalist and historian Richard Moss draws those through lines to tell fascinating stories about the past that link right back to the present. 

    The Tomb Raider grid (remastered)

    The Tomb Raider grid (remastered)

    To celebrate the 25th birthday of my favourite game franchise, I thought I'd pull out the old Tomb Raider grid episodes from Season 1 and merge them into one. I also put some time into cleaning up the audio, though it'll still sound rough compared to newer episodes — given the lower-fidelity recordings I was using then. Here's the original episode description:
    Every aspect of the original Core Design Tomb Raider series (and by extension the franchise's success post-Core) comes back to the grid that lies beneath it — the majority of the puzzles; the platforming; the cavernous chambers and ruins and outdoor areas that provide a sense of isolation, of solitude and discovery; and Lara Croft's iconic acrobatic movement style. And yet it never would have happened if not for one pragmatic choice made by a programmer early in the game's development.
    This is the story of how that came to be, and how it made Tomb Raider…well, Tomb Raider, based on interviews with Heather Stevens (née Gibson) and Gavin Rummery as well as my past work covering Tomb Raider's history as a freelancer. The second part, which was originally a separate release, also includes discussion of the place that such a grid system has — or might have — in game design today. 
    Thank you to my Patreon supporters for making this episode possible — especially my producer-level backers Carey Clanton, Wade Tregaskis, Seth Robinson, Rob Eberhardt, Simon Moss, Scott Grant, Vivek Mohan, and Joel Webber.
    To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. 
    My first book, The Secret History of Mac Gaming, is getting republished in October 2021 (this month!) by Bitmap Books in an "Expanded Edition", featuring a revised layout and design, more images, additional written content, and new sections including a timeline and icon gallery. Head to Bitmap's product page for more details. 
    My second book, meanwhile, Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet, has just been copyedited and will soon be going through design and typesetting phases. It'll be out around Q2 2022, but you can preorder from Unbound.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 1 hr 1 min
    MobyGames

    MobyGames

    There was no encyclopaedia nor fleshed-out database of video games in 1999. There were barely even any reliable or comprehensive lists of video games. Not until Jim Leonard decided he needed to build one.
    He called it MobyGames, and 22 years later it's the de facto source for credits, screenshots, and other general information about video games. It is the "IMDB of video games". This is its story.
    My thanks to the people who contributed to this story:

    Jim Leonard blogs at Oldskooler Ramblings and tweets @MobyGamer.

    John Szczepaniak's Untold History of Japanese Game Developers trilogy is on Amazon. There's also re-edited, prettified version called Japansoft available from Read-Only Memory.

    Clint Basinger runs the excellent Lazy Game Reviews YouTube channel, where he explores and discusses retro games and technology.

    Matej Jan blogs about pixel art and retro games at Retronator. He's also developing Pixel Art Academy, an adventure game for learning how to draw.

    These days John Romero is COO at Romero Games, a triple-A game studio he co-founded with his wife (and company CEO) Brenda. Their most recent title is Empire of Sin.

    Tomer Gabel is now a software architect and consultant. You can find out more about him and his work via his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.


    Thank you to my Patreon supporters for making this episode possible — especially my producer-level backers Carey Clanton, Wade Tregaskis, Seth Robinson, Rob Eberhardt, Simon Moss, Scott Grant, Vivek Mohan, and Joel Webber.
    To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. (I also accept commissions and the like over email, if you're after something specific or just don't want to deal through those platforms.)
    My first book, The Secret History of Mac Gaming, is getting republished in October 2021 (this month!) by Bitmap Books in an "Expanded Edition", featuring a revised layout and design, more images, additional written content, and new sections including a timeline and icon gallery. Head to Bitmap's product page for more details. 
    My second book, meanwhile, Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet, has just been copyedited and will soon be going through design and typesetting phases. It'll be out around Q2 2022, but you can preorder from Unbound.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 58 min
    Interview: Kate Willaert

    Interview: Kate Willaert

    I speak to games historian and graphic designer Kate Willaert about her research and current projects, as well as her efforts to turn this work into a job.
    We also voice our complaints about Google's Usenet archives, discuss the horrible world of YouTube publishing, the struggles of getting your work seen/read/heard as a content creator today, the value of a good hook for getting people interested in history, how to structure a historical narrative, our font choices for writing draft scripts, and much, much more.
    Interview conducted 1 May 2021
    Links:

    Kate has talked lots about her Carmen Sandiego research, both on Twitter and her blog. Here's one example.


    Tetris: The Games People Play, a graphic novel about the history of Tetris


    The intro to Kate's (eventually) 50-part video series on playable female protagonists


    MobyGames tag for female protagonists (excludes games with multiple playable characters)


    Hardcore Gaming 101 feature on 1980s video game heroines

    The rules governing her 50-part playable female protagonists series are laid out in the intro video and this article


    Atari Compendium's collection of scanned magazines

    The Internet Archive's Magazine Rack


    The Usenet archives on Google Groups are now mixed in with the other groups and not easily browsable, but search still works


    The UTZOO-Wiseman archives on archive.org are a great resource for Usenet posts

    American Radio History

    newspapers.com

    newspaperarchive.com

    Kate's Moonlander article

    Kate's YouTube channel

    I didn't go into specifics on the many significant games made in 1973, so here are several off the top of my head:

    Maze, arguably the first first-person shooter


    Spasim, one of the earliest 3D games

    Airfight/Airace, the first computer flight combat sim (covered on this show in ep2)

    Moonlander

    Empire (the PLATO one)

    David Ahl's 101 BASIC Computer Games collection/book

    Lemonade Stand

    Kate's article/video on the origin of the term "gamer"

    Kate's Moonlander article has good info and sources for the electro-mechanical Lunar Lander game, but those of you looking for more detail may appreciate this article that contextualises its place in early coin-op game history (the article is about Nutting Associates, but Lunar Lander is mentioned at the end)

    Kate's best social media posts are highlighted in her newsletter. Two specific ones we mentioned:

    The "City Boy Mario" Twitter thread


    The Comic Sans Twitter thread


    As of August 9th, 2021, the best of these threads are available in an ebook that's part of a video game StoryBundle along with a bunch of other cool games books. Check it out.



    Here's an article with more info about the ideal number of characters per line

    They Create Worlds book — publisher website | My Amazon affiliate link


    They Create Worlds podcast


    The Ultimate Guide to Video Game History by Steven Kent

    We didn't talk about it, but the best big-picture, whole-industry history of games that I've read is Replay by Tristan Donovan

    (And while we're linking to books, note that my first book, The Secret History of Mac Gaming, is getting an Expanded Edition from Bitmap Books, and my second book, Shareware Heroes: Independent Games at the Dawn of the Internet, is currently slated for Q2 2022 publication.)

    Kate's Patreon page

    Thank you to my Patreon supporters for making this episode possible — especially my producer-level backers Carey Clanton, Joel Webber, Scott Grant, Rob Eberhardt, Simon Moss, Seth Robinson, Wade Tregaskis, and Vivek Mohan.
    To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. (I also accept commissions and the like over email or Ko-Fi, if you're after something specific.)
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 1 hr 34 min
    Flight Control, the simple little iPhone game that helped redefine an industry

    Flight Control, the simple little iPhone game that helped redefine an industry

    How a game designed in a week helped to change everything — for the company that made it, for a local industry in turmoil, and for a global industry in transition. 
    Features interviews with Defiant Development co-founder Morgan Jaffit and Firemint founder / Flight Control creator Rob Murray, along with a clip of former Touch Arcade editor Eli Hodapp.
    LINKS

    You can't get Flight Control on iOS or Android anymore, but the HD Mac and Windows port is still available on Steam — if your computer is old enough to run it.

    The clip of Eli Hodapp speaking on The Touch Arcade Show is from episode 222, published in September 2015 — shortly after Flight Control (along with many other EA-owned games) was delisted from the App Store

    For more from me on the early mobile games business, be sure to check out episode 1 - Race to the bottom as well as the extended interview I posted with Pocket Gamer co-founder Jon Jordan after that episode came out. I also briefly touched on early iPhone hit Trism in episode 6 - ROM Hack — which featured Trism creator Steve Demeter talking about his stint in the ROM hacking and translations community.

    If you're curious what these guys are up to nowadays, you'll find Eli at GameClub carving out deals to pull more old iOS and Android games out of purgatory and into their subscription catalogue. Rob is a stay-at-home dad, years deep in a bigger-than-he'd-expected project to design his family's new house. And Morgan is also enjoying the home life after winding down Defiant in 2019, happy that it had served its purpose and was no longer needed. He says he's also writing a script for a new game some ex-Defiant people are building, consulting on various upcoming game projects, and writing short stories (which he describes as a "very nice" change of pace, as he can get a story done in days rather than the years most games he's worked on took to complete).
    Thank you to my Patreon supporters for making this episode possible — especially my producer-level backers Joel Webber, Vivek Mohan, Seth Robinson, Simon Moss, Carey Clanton, Scott Grant, Wade Tregaskis, and Rob Eberhardt.
    To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. (I also accept commissions and the like over email, if you're after something specific or just don't want to deal through those platforms.)
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 43 min
    Interview: Andrew Borman (Strong Museum of Play, PtoPOnline)

    Interview: Andrew Borman (Strong Museum of Play, PtoPOnline)

    The Strong Museum of Play's digital games curator Andrew Borman describes his deep passion for uncovering and preserving cancelled, unreleased, and prototype games. This is so much more than a vocation for him, and here you get to hear all the stories and insights he shared with me when I interviewed him for the season 4 finale, The Ghosts of Games That Never Were.
    Highlights include the stories behind cancelled Halo and Elder Scrolls games, an unreleased version of Until Dawn, an early version of Resident Evil 2, and some in-depth discussion about the significance of finding and sharing these stories. We also talk a bit about Andrew's work at The Strong and the amazing power and value of institutional backing in games preservation.
    Interview conducted January 14th, 2021.
    Links (many of these go to YouTube):

    I can't find a surviving archive of Andrew's Resident Evil 1.5 post, but here's a great Eurogamer article about the game and the community quest to preserve it

    The Strong Museum of Play

    Research fellowships at The Strong


    This page on The Tomb of Ash has info, screenshots, and download links for Core Design's cancelled Tomb Raider 10th Anniversary Edition


    Episode 31 of this show also included a segment on said 10th Anniversary Edition

    Tomb Raider's video game hall of fame entry

    Andrew has multiple videos on the Haggar Xbox demo build for a Halo Mega Bloks game. Here's the most recent one. And here's the first one.


    A video Andrew made about the Sonic Extreme skateboarding/hoverboarding game that turned into the Sonic Extreme we actually got

    Elder Scrolls Oblivion cancelled PSP game

    Andrew's Star Wars Battlefront 3 unseen PC footage video


    Andrew's video on Until Dawn's unreleased PS3 version


    VICE Gaming/Waypoint has an excellent Halo 1 oral history


    Manse was mentioned four times in Ambrosia Software's newsletter before its quiet cancellation

    Here's the Wikipedia page on Captain Comic


    Andrew's Stargate SG1: The Alliance hub page from his old website has both articles and videos

    Women in Games exhibit at The Strong

    Andrew Borman is @borman18 on Twitter


    I am @MossRC and @LifeandTimesVG on Twitter

    Thank you to my Patreon supporters for making this episode possible — especially my producer-level backers Carey Clanton, Joel Webber, Scott Grant, Rob Eberhardt, Simon Moss, Seth Robinson, Wade Tregaskis, and Vivek Mohan.
    To support my work, so that I can uncover more untold stories from video game history, you can make a donation via paypal.me/mossrc or subscribe to my Patreon. (I also accept commissions and the like over email or Ko-Fi, if you're after something specific.)
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 58 min
    Chris Crawford on thinking in processes vs facts

    Chris Crawford on thinking in processes vs facts

    When I interviewed the legendary game designer and GDC founder Chris Crawford for episode 30, on his famous Dragon Speech, I asked him if he'd have pursued this dragon had he known he'd still be chasing it three decades later. He admitted that he probably would have not. He'd have instead put his energy into making more simulations, teaching people to think in a way that he only recently realised is rare.
    He calls it process-intensive thinking, and here, in this excerpt from our interview, he explains what that means, why he thinks it's rare, and how he believes it will eventually reshape our society.
    He's also written multiple short essays about this idea on his website. Here are links to a couple of them:

    https://www.erasmatazz.com/personal/self/i-really-blew-it.html

    https://www.erasmatazz.com/library/course-description-2018/object-versus-process.html

    You can find a full transcript of this soundbite at lifeandtimes.games/episodes/files/soundbite-chris-crawford-2
    To support The Life and Times of Video Games, please remember to share your favourite episodes with other people. You can also donate to the show via paypal.me/mossrc or sign up for a monthly subscription on patreon.com/lifeandtimesofvideogames (which will get you various tier-dependent bonus perks like an ad-free podcast feed and research and production notes).
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    • 10 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
11 Ratings

11 Ratings

maddie@podcastingyou ,

So insightful!

Really love the approach to gaming from a historical standpoint, Richard and his guests are super knowledgeable and I find that the information shared remains relevant to today’s gaming industry.

TChan Games ,

Amazing

The Realsound episode was great with high production value. Richard format was easy to understand. Digital sound in Macintosh helped paved the way forward to modern sound. It’s crazy the challenges they faced like only one sound could be played at a time, file sizes, and had to create new software. Great work Richard!

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