Gamer Koala

Things ’80s Gamers Will Remember

Video games were a more than a little different back in the 1980s… and we don’t just mean pixel graphics and simple gameplay. Everything was different, from where you heard about them to where you bought them!

Join us as we look back to the beginnings of the video game era and celebrate just how different it was for the original video gamers.

Speech in Games Was the FUTURE!

Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64

In the ’80s, games usually made simple sounds… bleeps and bloops. Actual speech wasn’t much of a thing. So when players heard digitized speech suddenly occur during a game, it was unexpected and shocking. It usually wasn’t a long monologue, either. Typically, a voice might scream the score at you. The game Ghostbusters screamed its famous title.

Everybody Tried to Sell Them

Early 1980s Walgreens

Back in the 80s, long before GameStop, video games for sale showed up all over the place, not just computer shops like Eggheads, Toys “R” Us, or Blockbuster. You’d see them at convenience and liquor stores and other seemingly unrelated shops. It was also typical to see them at swap meets and street markets. Everyone was trying to get in on this popular new fad.

Buying Games Based on Box Art

Atari Warlords

Just like the artwork on album covers sold music, the same phenomenon happened with video games in the 1980s. It was common to come across a videogame box that had no screenshots. It also might have very little description of the game itself. Therefore, the artwork was all you had to go on to make a purchasing decision.

Snapper the Pac-Man clone

Before popular games were properly ported to home consoles, rogue programmers would create their own versions that were similar to popular arcade games. You could find these everywhere. Games like Hopper (Frogger Clone), Arcadians (Galaxian clone), and Snapper (Pac-Man clone). Clones filled a need until official versions and home consoles became widespread.

Multiplayer Always Meant “In The Same Room”

Although a completely foreign concept today, back in the 80s and even into the early 90s, if you wanted to play against other gamers – you had to be in the same room. Either you had to go to your local arcade or a friend’s house. Some arcade games allowed 4-player gaming. But home consoles only typically had 2 joystick ports.

First Learned That “Movie Games” Are Usually Terrible

ET the Extra-Terrestrial Atari cartridge
Ebay | Couture Supreme

We had the lucky distinction of being the first generation to discover that video games based on movies suck. From the very beginning, these games lacked vision and were generally rushed. Some of the worst were 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (which Atari famously buried unsold copies in a landfill), 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China, 1987’s Predator, and 1985’s A View to a Kill.

Had to Read Magazines for Game News and Reviews

Electronic Games Magazine
Digital Press

In the 1980s, except for word-of-mouth, gaming magazines were your only source of acquiring information about new games and hardware. Gaming TV shows didn’t come along until the 1990s. If you had a limited allowance, you might have to borrow magazines from a friend or look at them together at school. After all, you had to save your own cash to buy new games, too!

Copied Games Mercilessly

Video game cassette
Science Museum Group

Back in the 80s, some games used an audio cassette to transfer data to a computer to load a game. Interestingly, the audiocassettes were easy to copy. Not only could you make a backup, but you could give copies to your friends. Gamers were warned that copying games would bring down the industry, but obviously, gaming only got bigger.