People In The ’80s Had Awfully High Hopes For The Future Of Video Games

People In The ’80s Had Awfully High Hopes For The Future Of Video Games

Quick: What are video games going to look like in the year 2024? Will we be beaming games directly into our brains? Will eXistenZ or The Matrix come to be a reality? Will Half-Life 3 finally come out?

If we made our guesses now and wrote them down, future generations might look back on our predictions and laugh. Just as we can look back at this 1984 TV Gamer article — shared by Old Game Magazines — and drink in the outlandish predictions.

People In The ’80s Had Awfully High Hopes For The Future Of Video Games
People In The ’80s Had Awfully High Hopes For The Future Of Video Games
People In The ’80s Had Awfully High Hopes For The Future Of Video Games

The article, by Mr. Richard Porch, is titled “How to play Adventures in the 1990s.” In it, he imagines an outlandishly opulent (and surprisingly specific!) video-game arcade of the future, where games have finally left the basement-like arcades of the 80s and hit prime time.

The new arcades will stop inhabiting other people’s cast-off buildings with their faulty fluorescent lights, second-hand carpet-tile floors and Neanderthal arcade staff. Arcades of the 1990s will be purpose-built, computer-controlled leisure complexes, composed of gleaming ductwork, exposing servicing and steel supports. Acres of smoked mirror-glass will project an air of alien aerospace efficiency to the world, hinting vaguely at the almost incredible contests inside.

The descriptions just get more breathless as the article continues:

While-noise generators in overhead positions would create pools of quiet, in what could otherwise be a cacophonous environment. Gleaming steel escalators and glass lifts raise you through the main mass of the arcade assembly, giving you marvellous views through and over the terraced levels, alive with people colour and intriguing sound effects. The ‘whap-whap’ of the combat arcades mingles with the eerie cries and groans coming from the fantasy dome, as intrepid gamers confront Gothic doom in an urban arcade leisure complex. Winking neon signs advertising the latest software and fast-food bars catch the eye. Electronic news panels break the latest from the grim workaday world outside.

And of course, the games themselves sound pretty cool, particularly the ones we control with (what else?) our direct brain-waves:

In a still more advanced phase of the video games arcades’ future, you may be playing the game with the controls attached externally by electrodes to your skull. The game will take place directly inside your brain with minor electric shocks: the electrodes are strategically places to encourage the most startling mental imagery and confrontations, tapping resources from your subconscious mind.

Using such a direct form of game playing format would obviously make for a totally unique experience and a different game every time. All your senses would be engaged, even down to taste and small sensations.

I love everything about this article, particularly how it illustrates the ways the present informs our predictions about the future. In the 1980s, the arcade was king, so of course writers in the 1980s assumed that the future would simply mean more, better arcades. It’s perfectly logical!

To read the full text of the article (and for a lot of other fine nostalgia), head over to Old Game Magazines, where they’ve transcribed the entire thing.

You know what, now I actually am curious what you guys think gaming will look like in 2024. Gleaming escalators, skull-electrodes and Residential Games Motels? It could happen…

[Old Game Magazines via Dan Bruno]


  • Those crazy people in the 80’s, thinking in the future we would still be inserting more money into a game continuously to make the most of it…oh wait…

  • I saw this the other day and I was actually thinking Sega World wasn’t that far off. It didn’t last, but we nearly got there.

  • “…certain complex games will require the player to use headphones.” Easy there Nostradamus

  • I’m impressed someone still remembers eXistenZ (and how to spell it). I’m still waiting for the world to go down the Strange Days path………..

    • …I dunno why, but I still remember the meal scene where he builds the gun so vividly.

    • Oh my god Strange Days was such a good movie that so few people seemingly remember. Excellent reference sir!

      • Watched it on NYE (fitting, no?), it still holds up better than most sci-fi films from the mid nineties.

    • strange days now thats a movie i had forgotten about
      gunna go watch it again. i remember it being very disturbing

    • How could anyone forget it?

      A birthday is a special occasion. I will therefore bring the special for everybody!

      • Just out of curiosity… do you like Huey Lewis and The News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humour.

        • I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip to be Square”, a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself.

  • Um, you interestingly chose ot ignore the stuff they basically got right.

    They described machines that would take the form of the games they house. That’s eXACTLY what happened. When Daytona first came out, you literally sat in half a car.

    They actually nailed some stuff in there to go with the outlandish stuff. Hell, even the brainwaves thing, there are companies working on exactly that.

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