Atari held its first arcade world championship tournament on Halloween weekend 1981 in Chicago. Video games were becoming hotter by the day, even though to play them, you had to go to an arcade and feed quarters into a console weighing hundreds of pounds. The hottest of the arcade games that year was Centipede, the first arcade game that appealed to women as much as it did to men. Centipede was the game chosen for the tournament. But that 1981 tournament had a lot more going on than gameplay, and you don’t even have to be familiar with Centipede to be sucked into the shenanigans of that weekend.
The tournament story is actually five stories. First, it follows three women who came to dominate the competition. They had very different backgrounds and very different motives. And after the tournament, they went on to very different yet fascinating lives.
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Another story concerns the inventor of Centipede. Game developer Dona Bailey was a fish out of water in the male-dominated Atari company, and she designed a game that appealed to her own taste. That it became Atari’s hottest game and the tournament choice that year was gratifying, but on that very weekend, she was called out to court to defend her creation from pirates hoping to cash in on the tournament. One of the challenges of that case was a judge who didn’t quite understand what an arcade game was.
The final story concerns the organizer of the event, who bluffed his way into the job and hoped to make enough money on the side to cover his house of cards financing before Atari found out they had hired the wrong organizer.
Read all those stories together at Truly Adventurous, or you can listen to it as a podcast at the same link. -via Damn Interesting