21st Century Hatfields and McCoys

The first brand feud I can remember is Atari vs. Intellivision.

Note Major League Baseball endorsement. And misspelling of product name in quote. Superior, my Aunt Fanny.

Some kids had an Atari 2600 game console; some kids had an Intellivision. (Some kids had an Odyssey 2 or a Vectrex, but not for very long.) Atari kids hated Intellivision kids, and vice versa. The TV commercials for both brands stoked this hatred; George Plimpton appeared in an ad for Intellivision, which he explained meant “Intelligent Television”. Ergo, kids who played Atari were stupid.

Can you believe this shit?

Kids whose parents had gifted them one console would recite stats that proved theirs was the superior machine. It was all rather arbitrary for the most part, and designed to capitalize on children’s natural love of competitive sports (at least in the early ’80s). You got what your family bought you. Children and parents who were electronics-savvy did not exist. It was wholly down to whichever advertisement worked on your family.

After the Great Videogame Crash of 1983, this dichotomy was rekindled, with Nintendo vs. Sega. This conflict is likely fresher in your memory. If not, there’s Microsoft vs. Mac; same, exact thing. Advertising whipping one team up against another. That’s all it is.

“MOM!!! It comes with a ROBOT!!!”

(Note: The NES came with “Robotic Operating Buddy” so that it could be sold as a toy, and not a video game console. This gained Nintendo the foothold that carried them through the Crash, and it’s an indication of how poorly video game consoles were regarded at the time.)

Now it’s done with people and politics. To be fair, twas ever thus, but here’s the difference; people are pretending it’s not happening now. They do this because they can’t admit to themselves that we’re in this mess because of the division. You can look at the long view and see that this rampant feuding helps no one, and only ushers in a monopoly once one team “wins”.

Look at how Nintendo handles one game, which was released 29 years ago.

So ingrained, no one ever calls it a stereotype.

Assuming you don’t have a vintage NES and a Super Mario Bros. 2 cartridge, go and find a way to play that game. Good luck. Don’t try any workarounds, and expect to spend money and lose interest. I think Nintendo has an expensive new thing you can stand in line waiting for. Maybe the game is on there.

Fifteen years ago, I had programs on my computer than emulated the Atari 2600, the Sega Genesis and the NES. You could download “ROMs” for free, because the software that made these beloved console games was primitive and took up little bandwidth. As soon as the game companies saw that people still wanted to play their ancient titles, they had their lawyers destroy all the ROM sites, and suddenly Atari and Intellivision collections were available for Xbox and Playstation 2. That’s the way that goes.

I quit with the ROMs because it was too easy to hide malware in them. I guarantee that’s what took out the rest of the online Atari enthusiasts. Much safer to spend money on a certified collection, anyway, even though the console I play it on will go obsolete in ten years.

Meanwhile, people still want to play these games. And people don’t even play Halo anymore. Remember that? How folks were chaining Xboxes together, and playing Halo marathons in huge warehouses? What happened with that?

Oh yeah. PSN and Xbox Live happened.

If pornography teaches us anything, it’s that when people are given the option to get something privately that they’d normally have to get outside, they’ll always take it. You can be the worst sort of person on Xbox Live, and no one will physically assault you for it.

You can’t be a total loser if you’re among several other people, outside of your room.

People will pay for the privilege of having something all to themselves. Online gaming costs money, whereas connecting Xboxes required only the ownership of the console and the game from each player (and controllers in sufficient quantity). Games like Halo were used to pull players into the world of Downloadable Content; if you wanted to keep up with the franchise, you had to take your console online. So you get to pay for everything twice. And thank them for the privilege.

If you’re cool with that, you’re spoiled, and you’re destined for some very unpleasant realizations in the future.

What was the hottest piece of junk going ten years ago, that set the world on fire, from the people who brought you Super Mario Bros. 2?

This thing.

Desire was so feverish for the Nintendo Wii, a woman died trying to win one in a radio contest, by holding in her piss while guzzling water. Players accidentally whipped the controller into the screen of their new federally-mandated HDTVs, spawning what became a tired joke in cartoons. Admittedly, it was a lot of fun; why wouldn’t it have been, with its pedigree? I can’t remember the last time I saw one.

This is one of the sneakier aspects of the advertising industry. If they get you by the emotions, they can force you to outgrow something. It breaks my heart when I see kids- especially girls- naturally having fun playing video games, and then seeing that abused by the companies that produce them. The Wii romanced a generation of females into the world of video games, where they could glimpse the terrible realities behind the wonder. Then all at once, a generation of females said pass and outgrew the whole enchilada. Back to games for infants with no frame of reference.


That’s what Atari did, before they went out pretty much for good. They had a slate of Sesame Street games that were no better than the Pac-Man and E.T. cartridges that most critics associate with their demise. Intellivision bit the digital dust in 1984. Sega (“Service Games”) hasn’t made consoles for decades, and I’ll be surprised if Nintendo ever brings out another one. The overwhelming focus on online gaming moved it right back onto home computers, which is exactly what everyone said would happen. Once a console could browse the Internet, why not just use a computer and cut out the middleman?

Oh yeah; paid privileges. People feel stupid abandoning a service they’re used to paying for. How smoothly did that Obamacare thing go? There’s your example.

That brings me back to my original point, which wasn’t really about video game consoles, but about how and why people feud. Americans are natural feuders; most humans are. What’s nefarious is how this feuding is fomented and stoked by advertisers. Now, in 2017, Americans are feuding on skin color. Again.

That’s the cumulative result of the past 30 years of commercials.

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