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Looking back at one of the very first video game rivalries

Looking back at one of the very first video game rivalries

January 9, 2015 | By Alex Wawro




"I would like to believe that I was the first one to win a video game, because I kicked my brother’s butt. I'm certain of it."

Mark Baer, son of video game console inventor Ralph Baer, recalls being perhaps the first child in the history of the world to play video games with a sibling on their father's television.

Last year saw the passing of video game industry legend Ralph Baer, and his son Mark Baer shared some interesting anecdotes about life with the "father of video games" in an excellent article published today on Wired.

"I can recall sitting in [my father’s] bedroom, when he had an old black and white TV with the little pull-starter…playing some manifestation of early video games," the younger Baer told Wired, noting that of all the different video games his father invented, ping-pong was "the big one, right from the get-go."

The appeal of playing ping-pong on the Magnavox Odyssey (a modified version of Baer's original "Brown Box" invention) would eventually lead Atari founder Nolan Bushnell to hound one of his newly-hired engineers to create something similar in the early '70s. 

That engineer was named Allan Alcorn, and the game he created wound up being released as Atari's trailblazing hit Pong.

"The whole outcome of this thing in retrospect was kind of like the movie The Producers," Alcorn told Wired. "[Pong] was never supposed to be a successful game. So what’s the problem in copying something you’re never going to sell?"

Both Baer and Alcorn will be be honored with Pioneer Awards at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas next month, with Baer's son Mark accepting the award on his father's behalf.

Wired's article on the topic, which includes more excerpts from conversations with both Alcorn and Baer's son Mark, is worth reading over on the Wired website.



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