Notes from a retro game designer

Photo: moparx/Flickr

The Atari 2600, or Video Computer System (VCS), introduced in 1977, would ultimately become the first commercially successful video game console that accepted plug-in ROM cartridges, allowing the consumer to expand their library of games without having to buy a new console.¹


Adventures in Toy Design: Part 2

Wildfire Pinball by Parker Brothers (1979) — side panel of box
Wildfire Pinball by Parker Brothers (1979)

In 1979, when this story began, I had not yet completed college and I had never written a computer program. The closest I had come to writing a real program was fooling around with my TI-58 programmable calculator. Here’s a sample of what a program on that device looked like.¹…


The Making of Donkey Kong for the Atari 2600

Life is strange.

In the summer of 1982, I spent about three months creating a list of 4,096 numbers, meticulously ensuring that every single number was the right value, and in the correct place in the list. …


Geoffrey the Giraffe and the Tale of Two Cheeks

Crossbow Arcade Game © 1983, Exidy, Inc.
Crossbow Arcade Game © 1983, Exidy, Inc.

I’ve been in the video game industry for 40+ years, starting in 1979. The first video game system I developed games for was the Atari 2600. My first two 2600 games were Space Jockey, for U.S. Games, and Donkey Kong, for…


I don’t like when my computer hides things from me.

As a software/video game developer, I see tech tips everyday. Most of the time I will read the ones that sound interesting, but I find that I rarely, if ever, have the occasion to use the tip in the future…


My first job (1969) — NYC, teletypes and espionage

I read an article today in the Guardian about a new book coming out, “American Kompromat” by Craig Unger, about Russia’s (alleged) 40-year effort to cultivate Donald Trump as a Russian asset. Yuri Shvets, a former KGB spy, was a key source for Unger in writing the book.

What caught…


The amazing story of its development.

Is there anyone left who hasn’t played the game where you remove tiles, one at a time, to clear the board?

Shanghai ® Copyright 1986, Activision

Have you ever wondered where it came from? I’ll bet we’ve all seen and/or played a game like this, as it’s probably been put on every computer, game system…


Adventures in Toy Design: Part 3

Picture of an open briefcase holding the electronics of a toy prototype, and closeup of a remote control with a fire button

In the 1970’s, Bill Dorhmann had arguably one of the most fun corporate jobs in the world. Bill was the Vice President of Research and Development for Parker Brothers, of Monopoly fame, and one of the most successful toy companies in the work. …


Adventures in Toy Design: Part 1

We had this toy idea for a voice scrambling helmet.

It was 1979 (or thereabouts). The helmet would cover your face completely (think Darth Vader™), have an internal microphone and headset, and an external microphone and speaker. The child would put it on their…


And Got Over My Fear of Out-of-Tune Game Toons

When I first saw the Atari 2600 and played a few of the early games, one of the things that stood out to me was just how bad it sounded when a game attempted to play music.

Atari 2600 Video Computer System

Before I started developing for the machine, as a consumer, I never questioned…

Garry Kitchen

Garry Kitchen is a retro video game designer whose titles include Donkey Kong (2600), Keystone Kapers, GameMaker (1985) and Bart (Simpson) vs the Space Mutants.

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