The evolution of gaming in the 80s is particularly fascinating, not only for the brisk pace at which new technology was developed but the fact that it all seemed to happen simultaneously. Dozens of enterprises and studios rose and fell over the years, and certain platforms and types of games came along only to quickly go out of fashion but by the end of the decade you could still play in the arcade, in the lounge-room, on the computer, and while in transit or on the toilet with your phenomenal new handheld device.
In the interest of complete historical accuracy, handheld gaming officially began around 1977 when Mattel introduced Auto Race, a game in only the most generous sense of the word, and virtually impossible to find in working condition today. Essentially you could control a bright blip on a tiny screen that was meant to represent a race car, and your goal was to race against the computer in the shortest time possible. To win, your time had to run under 99 seconds, as this was as high as the two-digit game timer display could go.
A few years later board-game giant Milton Bradley released the very first handheld console with interchangeable cartridges – the Microvision. Jay Smith’s design was a massive leap forward from Auto Race, and despite the fact that it made an appearance in ‘Friday the 13th Part 2′, technical issues and lack of software support meant that it was taken off the market only a short time later in 1981. The Microvision design effectively looked like a miniature arcade machine, and featured a mini joystick at the base of the device for game control.
In 1980, Nintendo began releasing its ‘Game & Watch’ series of handhelds. Created by designer Gunpei Yokoi, each device featured a single game on a dual LCD screen and a clock with an alarm – hence the name “game” and “watch”. Yokoi’s design featured a cross shaped directional pad (D-pad) for controlling characters within the game, a feature that would become standard on gaming consoles across the industry. Despite the limitations of the device, the series proved to be immensely popular, and Yokoi eventually began work on a followup device that, like Milton Bradley’s Microvision, would feature interchange game cartridges. After years of development, that device was released in 1989 under the name Game Boy.
The success of the Game Boy was unprecedented. In the U.S it sold a million units within weeks of its release, and to date over 118 million Game Boy products have been sold worldwide. Initially bundled with the puzzle game Tetris, hundreds of titles were released for the Game Boy, including many of the classic Nintendo franchises like Super Mario Brothers.
The design featured many similarities to Yokoi’s Game & Watch, including the D-pad, rounded B & A action buttons (similar to the G&W jump/start button) and select and start buttons, which were essentially elongated versions of the G&W Game A, B and time buttons. Overall, the Game Boy’s design was typically stylish and minimal, while also being slightly bubbly and cartoon-like. The design also featured a trademark rounded right corner, which housed a stereo speaker. Like all their consoles, Nintendo’s Game Boy was a singular and unique design, unlike anything else on the market.
While the Game Boy was ultimately the most successful of the handhelds in the 80s it wasn’t the only device on the market, in fact many of its competitors boasted superior technology and features, not the least of which was a colour screen. Almost ten years later, a colour Game Boy would be released, but the original device was given a simple square screen with dot matrix graphics in four glorious shades of grey.
The Atari Lynx, an early Game Boy competitor, had a large, backlit colour screen, and a wide body with similar controls, however sales were hampered by poor battery life, an expensive price tag and a lack of compelling titles. The Sega Game Gear improved on all those fronts, however it simply couldn’t compete with the overwhelming hype surrounding the Game Boy. Sega infamously tried to battle this with an anti-Game Boy ad campaign but despite decent sales, they simply couldn’t overcome the console giant.
Sega – Anti Gameboy Ad
The Game Boy series also saw numerous ad-on hardware and upgrades which kept users engaged with the device, including a link cable for multi-player sessions, a printer and a camera. The success of handheld consoles and the demand for mobile entertainment continues today. The Game Boy has since evolved into the Nintendo DS, and new handhelds like the PSP and the iPhone have again revolutionized the industry.
Even in their most primitive text-only form, PC-based games have had a richness and quality in their storytelling that is almost unmatched by console and arcade games, at least during the 80s.
Text-based adventure games had begun to appear in the early 70s, pioneered by programmers like William Crowther who co-created ‘Colossal Cave Adventure’, regarded by many as the very first text-adventure. As there was no HDMI or progressive scan on early PC computers, the visuals of these games had to be comprised entirely of either green or white text on a black screen. Of course writers and developers refused to allow technological limitations hinder the development of games that were not only entertaining but also thoughtful.
Progenitor games such as ‘Zork’ (which went on to spawn numerous sequels and spin-offs) allowed users to explore relatively detailed and complex worlds, through text and command input. These early text games could largely be considered as early interactive novels and featured the ability for users to journey through the story using basic commands such as ‘open mailbox’ or ‘take lamp’ as well as directional short-hand such as N, S, E, W for compass points or U and D to move up or down.
In 1980, a software studio called Sierra On-Line appeared in the emerging PC gaming world. Sierra was owned and operated by husband and wife team Ken and Roberta Williams and the pair had been hard at work on a text-adventure that also featured graphics. After three months of solid development, ‘Mystery House’ was launched. Despite the fact that the graphics were static, limited to only a few colours and were essentially little more than crude line art, the game was a massive success. It sold over 15,000 copies and is now considered to be one of the most important and influential games of all time.
At this time, PC gaming was almost the exclusive domain of hobbyists and hardcore geeks, due largely to the cost of early microcomputers. Despite this, the success of games like ‘Mystery House’ propelled writers and developers to produce new games and the computer companies began to develop cheaper, better computers, which were targeted at consumers. By the middle of the decade home computer technology had started to hit significant benchmarks. Systems such as the Apple II had helped evolve PC games from monochrome text adventure to immersive 16-colour psuedo-3D environments.
In the summer of 1984, Sierra On-Line released ‘Kings Quest’, which became an immediate blockbuster hit and another significant benchmark in the development of PC gaming. ‘Kings Quest’ saw over 2.5 million copies sold and spawned eight successful sequels. The complexity of both gameplay and graphics as well as the richness of the storytelling were again unprecedented in computer gaming. Like ‘Mystery House’, ‘Kings Quest’ was written by Roberta Williams.
With these new advances in game engines and animations, text adventures had evolved into simply ‘adventure games’ and the mid to late 80s were a golden era for this type of game. A plethora of new titles and development teams appeared after ‘Kings Quest’, including George Lucas’ new PC division LucasArts, who began releasing cutting-edge film tie-ins as well as introducing all new characters and concepts.
New computer systems began appearing which offered users the ability to not only play games, but to publish documents, create computer graphics and organize their day to day lives. Atari, Radio Shack, Tandy, Commodore, IBM and Apple all entered or returned to the market with revolutionary consumer machines.
Many of these early personal computers possessed features that the consoles and arcade machines of the time lacked including more memory, better graphics and more sophisticated sound capabilities. By the end of the decade developers were able to build their games in full 3D environments such as those used in ‘Wolfenstein 3D’.
Additionally, PCs used floppy discs and cassette tapes instead of cartridges, which meant that gamers now had a writable storage medium which enabled them to save their gaming progress. Of course this also meant that games and programs were now able to be pirated and distributed.
Of all the PC systems that defined computer gaming in the 80s, the most prized and significant is perhaps the Commodore 64. The C64 emerged as something of a computer/console hybrid. While it was a more than capable spreadsheet and word-processing machine (as well as animation and music tool) the C64 was primarily used for gaming and numerous popular titles were developed exclusively for it.
The genius of the C64 was that it was stocked in retail stores rather than boutique electronic stores like most early PCs. It could also be simply plugged into an existing television, which made it extremely desirable for families without any computer knowledge. As a result of the successful marketing, competitive pricing and the quality of the machinery, the C64 went on to sell over 30 million units, making it the best-selling single PC model of all time. The C64 effectively revolutionized the industry and brought computer technology into the home.
There are few more uniquely Australian musical exports than pub rock. For the uninitiated (all two of you) the term has a fairly literal meaning – rock music, that is played in pubs. More specifically the hot, sweaty, beer-stained inner-city and suburban pubs of Australia. The beloved institutions that become second homes to locals, for the better part of their adult lives.
Up until the 70s most live music in Australia was held in non-licensed venues such as churches and community halls. It wasn’t until the baby boomers began to come of age and governments began to loosen their restrictive licensing laws that public bars even began to resemble today’s pubs. In the early days of pub rock, owners began providing live music for free, to draw in crowds. This saw an influx of new Australian bands, many of whom would go on to national and international stardom. Pubs like the Civic Hotel in Sydney, the infamous Star Hotel in Newcastle and The Station in Melbourne helped to create a circuit for bands, allowing them to travel up and down the east coast of Australia and as the pub rock phenomenon exploded, they were able to travel further west to the other capital cities.
The venues were small, the crowds were drunk and the style was no frills, high octane rock ‘n’ roll. There were very few solos or histrionics, just fist pumping and head banging anthems for those unforgettable nights that you just can’t seem to remember.
Cold Chisel live at the Star Hotel 1981
From the late 70s to the early 90s there were hundreds of bands that emerged from the pub rock scene. Many of them didn’t go anywhere beyond a few shows, others are still with us today. Leading the charge in the 80s were perennial favourites Cold Chisel, who mixed political angst with working class machismo and turned it into art. ‘Swingshift’, their 1981 live album, captures singer Jimmy Barnes on stage, mid-song, and really encapsulates the essence of not only the band’s sound and personality, but the energy and atmosphere of an 80s pub rock show.
The photo was taken during the band’s 1980 ‘Youth In Asia’ tour (also where the album was recorded) which saw the band play an astounding 64 dates in 15 cities over 88 days. The name ‘swingshift’ was so chosen, according to the band, for being the midnight to dawn shift in mental asylums, the shift that staff dread as it’s usually when the inmates are at their most out of control.
Before Jay Z, Metallica and Prince, there was AC/DC who released ‘Back In Black’ in 1980 – their first studio album after the death of singer and founding member Bon Scott. The cover features little more than the band’s logo and album titled embossed on a jet-black cover, and was designed by long-time collaborator Bob Defrin. It’s a striking way to commemorate the passing of a beloved member, and the beginning of a new era. AC/DC are arguably the most successful and influential pub rock band of all time and they continue to be one of the most profitable touring bands in the world. ‘Back In Black’ itself is one of the highest selling records of all time, and is commonly regarded as one of the best rock albums ever recorded. Quite a feat for a little group from Sydney who cut their teeth in the early days like so many others.
Another big name in pub rock from Adelaide, The Angels released a similarly classic and starkly designed record in 1980. Dark Room features the band’s name and album title running along the entire top and bottom of the cover (set in album art go-to font Eurostile Wide) and peering out from the darkness are a pair of eyes, possibly belonging to singer Doc Neeson. It’s an eerie and striking image and the influence the cover art seems to have extended far and wide, most notably with defunct stoner rock group Tumbleweed paying tribute on their 2000 swan-song ‘Mumbo Jumbo’.
Not all pub rock is about screaming into a microphone and sweating on the front row though, and by the end of the decade the sound and the the style had definitely evolved. INXS helped usher in a new era of cool with their skateboards & leather cover for 1987s ‘Kick’. While the traditional pub rock scene was still thriving, INXS and others had began to break away into a movement that was more concerned with fashion than fist-fighting. Designed by Nick Egan (who also photographed the band and directed a number of their music videos) it really captures the zeitgeist of the late 80s, taking its cues from youth and street culture.
We take quite a big jump across rock ‘n’ roll in the 80s, from the early riotous rock ‘n’ rollers to the image conscious and disaffected bands that round out the decade, but ultimately the principle stays the same – people playing loud music for people who love to listen to it. The pub rock and live music scene have taken some serious blows over the last few decades, from the proliferation of poker machines to the changing liquor and noise restriction laws, and so there are increasingly fewer opportunities for new and unknown bands to play. Just think how different the music industry would be now if AC/DC and INXS had never been given the chance to play outside the garage.
What is the definitive image of the Australian experience and how would you choose to represent it? By urban skyscrapers or suburban housing estates? Through rural farmlands or coastal vistas? How about by our expansive deserts or uncharted tropics? Australia provides a rich and diverse landscape and its inhabitants are even more varied, so finding one unique way to represent the entire country can be challenging. Numerous bands stepped up to that challenge during the 80s, with their own unique take on what Australia is, and what Australians look like.
For Mental As Anything, at least on 1983’s ‘Creatures of Leisure’, it’s all about the suburban experience. The band is seen gathered out the front of a typical Australian home, engaged in all manner of listless activities – from reading the paper, to lawn mowing, to waxing the car or simply relaxing in the afternoon sun. It’s an image most Australians would be familiar with, right down to the red roof tiles and astro-turf, but it’s hard to tell if it’s a parody or a celebration of the shared experience. Knowing the band’s tendency towards the silly and surreal, you can’t help but feel they’re poking a bit of fun, but there’s an authenticity and straightforwardness to it all that is hard to deny.
The cover shot was taken by designer and photographer Syd Shelton, a London based graphic designer who began his career in Sydney in 1972, as a photo-journalist for newspapers such as The Age and Nation Review, a progressive arts publication that ceased publication in 1981. Shelton went on to photograph life in Sydney’s working class, as well as numerous international punk superstars such as The Clash, The Undertones and Elvis Costello.
Assisting Shelton with design and illustration are band members Martin Plaza, Greedy Smith and Reg Mombassa – all visual artists in their own right, who have contributed in some way to nearly all the Mental As Anything covers. Mombassa is most famously known as the illustrator behind most of the early Mambo graphics.
There’s no mistaking the intention behind Goanna’s ‘Spirit Of Place’ (1982), which takes us from the outer suburbs right to the centre of the country. A massive jet plane flies out over the top of Uluru, a quintessential Australian icon. Behind it is a blazing sunset, and before it are endless flat plains of desert.
From what I’ve been able to gather, the cover was designed and illustrated by Goanna’s own in-house art and design team Goannart – featuring band members Judi Kenneally and Neil Curtis. The style closely echoes early 20th Century tourism ad art, and the use of a strict yellow, red and black palate is a clear tribute to Australian Indigenous culture. The band’s name and album title are emblazoned across the top and bottom in giant serif capitals, and as overtly patriotic graphics go, this one is all class.
While their location’s couldn’t be any different, there’s a similar composition at work with both Australian Crawl’s ‘The Boys Light Up’ (1980) and Cold Chisel’s ‘Circus Animals’ (1982). Both depict a serene, desolate view of their location, with the band featured in the distant background. The horizon sits high up in the image, and we get the feeling we’re only seeing a small glimpse of a massive landscape.
For Cold Chisel, the location of choice is the harsh, dry Lake Eyre, a salt lake in their home state of South Australia. The band is gathered around a tiny caravan, providing only the smallest amount of shade. It’s quite a cinematic image, and unusual for an album cover.
For Australian Crawl it’s back to the beach, and ‘the boys’ are photographed in slightly surreal fashion, half submerged in water, looking back at a sunbathing woman on the shore. Additionally, ‘The Boys Light Up’ is probably the third most famous album cover to feature a big beach umbrella, closely following Supertramp’s ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ and Neil Young’s ‘On The Beach’.
Black and white photography is possibly the easiest and most effective way to elevate a single image to the status of ‘art’. With stark contrasts, rich tones and the expressive interplay of light and shadow, there’s no better way to define the mood of a photograph than to strip it of its colour. Black and white photography commands attention, it implies meaning and depth and the viewer can’t help but take its subject matter seriously. There have been some incredible examples of monochromatic photography used in album art over the last few years from Antony & The Johnsons to Massive Attack but the 80s certainly saw their fair share too, particularly in Australia.
The great Nick Cave has always been a prime candidate for the black and white. His early persona of the dark and tortured poet is expressed beautifully in this portrait, used as the cover of the second Bad Seeds album The Firstborn Is Dead (1985). The photo was taken by German photographer Jutta Henglein, who also took a number of studio shots of Cave and band during the recording of the album. In this image, it appears as if Cave’s entire body has been swallowed by darkness, leaving only his head and hands visible. There’s a dignity and artistry to the image that’s undeniable, and it’s made all the more powerful by the complete absence of any typography or illustration. The album itself is infused with Cave’s love of the blues and Southern America, with the title refering to Jesse Garon Presley, the stillborn identical twin of Elvis.
Of course not all black and white photos require seriousness and gravitas – as proven on John Farnham’s 1986 landmark album Whispering Jack. Former Little River Band vocalist Farnham had enjoyed modest but flailing success in his previous album however Whispering Jack was a monumental success featuring hit after hit single as it quickly became the highest selling record in Australia by an Australian. The cover shot was taken by Melbourne photographer Louis Petruccelli and features Farnham himself whispering into the ear of a young woman. There’s nothing innocent about this cover though and on the back we see the aftermath with the woman slapping Farnham across the face, presumably due to his indecent whisperings. It’s a cheeky cover, composed beautifully with minimalist typography and not a splash of colour to be seen. Interestingly enough, Whispering Jack was the first Australian-made album to be released on CD – another landmark event for the 80s.
Wendy Matthews’ album Emigre (1989) again puts the artist front and centre with a moody black and white shot only this time it is framed with a series of abstract photos featuring flowers, pomegranates and close-up shots of Matthews’ hair, neck and back. It’s a beautiful cover, feminine and poetic, and it’s deftly finished with some bespoke typography. A somewhat gothic, almost religious looking W is flipped upside down to form an M, and flipped again on its side to make an E.
And finally we have the classic album Starfish (1988) by The Church, which features the band’s biggest hit Under The Milky Way. The cover of Starfish features not one but four moody black and white photographs, each with a different member of the band. These photos were taken by noted music and lifestyle photographer Caroline Greyshock and they’re presented in raw form as negatives, complete with film strip borders intact. These images are sandwiched between the handwritten band name and album title finishing quite a beautiful, understated and completely monchrome cover.
The migration of gaming from the arcade to the lounge-room caused a huge sensation during the early 80s, although it wasn’t until the middle of the decade that the movement stabilised and began to grow into the billion dollar industry we know it as today. Leading the charge at the start of the decade was Atari, and their flagship console the 2600, which boasted game titles and industrial design superior to its dozens of imitators and competitors. The design that most people would be familiar with is the third generation of the console, released in 1980.
The casing was fairly minimalist, predominately black with wood-grain paneling and featured four switches and a cartridge port (the first to do so). In these pre-control pad years, the 2600 came with a joystick that featured one big bright orange button that was able to withstand furious thumb thrashings. While the console received numerous design refreshments and system upgrades during its time, this classic casing remains one of the most iconic from the decade.
The Atari logo was a carry-over from the 70s and is still one of the most instantly recognizable in the industry. It is made up of one straight line running down the middle and a curved line on either side, both joining the centre line at the end. The Atari font, which was also used on the majority of their game packaging is a bespoke design, largely influenced by the Bauhaus family of typefaces. It has that quasi-futuristic feel of science fiction books and films of the period. Packaging for the 2600 carries many of the hallmarks of the decade including the use of a rainbow motif. In the case of the 2600, it’s a fairly restrained single block line beneath the logo, however if you look at any console packing or advertising from the decade, you’re bound to see rainbow colours used (and overused) in some way.
Atari rose to prominence with their console adaptation of Pac Man, still one of the most recognisable and successful game franchises of all time. Pac Man became a cultural phenomenon and helped the Atari 2600 reign at the top of the console heap. While the Atari 2600 dominated the first half of the decade, it met its demise during the video games crash of 1983, a commercial disaster that Atari played a huge hand in. Ultimately the combination of rushed, poorly designed titles, such as the colossal flop E.T – an almost unplayable adaptation of the film – and a market which had become flooded by consoles, lead to the industry effectively coming to a screeching halt.
It wasn’t until two years later when Japanese company Nintendo released their breakthrough device, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), that the industry began to roar back to life. This next generation of consoles were remarkably different beasts to those that came earlier in the decade, making those forerunners look like relics in just a few short years. Designed by Masayuki Uemura, the NES featured a much more futuristic look than the 2600, with the black and woodgrain superseded by grey, white and red, and the cumbersome, inflexible joystick replaced with a more logical flat control pad.
It was a little Italian plumber named Mario who helped Nintendo cement their place in video game history, and to continue as one of the world’s most successful console and game development studios to this day. Following his modest but unforgettable first appearance in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, the character and his universe was expanded into the game Super Mario Brothers, the first of many breakthrough hits for Nintendo. The graphic and sound design of this and other new titles blew away anything that came before. While still primitive by today’s standards, they featured sprites and animation that actually began to resemble real life objects and interactions. These developments combined with advances in plot and characterisation were ultimately more immersive and enjoyable for the gamer.
Numerous studios and developers soon jumped on this new wave, with even Atari introducing new consoles in an attempt to climb back to the top. Their 7800 model, the result of thousands of focus groups and market studies, featured much sleeker design, expansion ports, and the ability to play 2600 games. Newcomers Sega would release no less than three major consoles before the end of the decade, the Master System, it’s successor the Mega Drive and finally the Genesis. While all three units were technically superior to the NES, boasting better graphics and sound quality, they simply didn’t have the blockbuster titles of Nintendo. Sega also seemed to lack the design finesse and clear vision of Nintendo, and both systems looked considerably more dated than the NES.
Both Sega and Nintendo launched highly desirable accessory upgrades over the years, including steering wheels, 3-D glasses and laser guns. Most famous (or infamous) of these was the disastrous Power Glove, a cumbersome, imprecise and hard to use controller that was literally worn as a glove. Despite the poor critical and commercial reception of the glove, the technology behind it paved the way for the revolutionary Nintendo Wii.
While the start of the decade was all about funky colour and cartoony design, the second half seemed more concerned with presenting a vision of the future. Nintendo had a particularly active and aggressive campaign, which featured bolts of lightning, exploding televisions, eerie mists and the message that you the gamer could harness the power of new technology. It may seem incredibly cheesy now, but ultimately it must have worked, as the company continued to dominate the Japanese, American and world markets well into the early 90s.
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80s illustration in Australia was dominated by artists such as Reg Mombasa, Ken Done, Alex Stitt and Michael Leunig, all bringing their unique, expressionistic take on Australian life to the world stage. There seems to be a genuine attempt to try and create an ‘Australian style’ of illustration during this time. You can see the influence of the colours and shapes of the Australian landscape, as well as the movement and cultural diversity of the cities throughout the illustrations of this period. It’s all brilliantly rendered with the use of strong palettes, bold line work and rich texture.
While it might not be the aesthetic most commonly associated with 80’s album covers, you don’t have to search too hard to find some incredible examples of illustrated art created for some of our biggest musical exports. With their simple concepts, honest design, and masterful illustrations, these are some truly unforgettable covers.
The classic Icehouse record ‘Man of Colours’ (1987) has one of the decade’s most iconic and striking covers, featuring a barely-there outline of a man holding three coloured flowers. Designed by band mates Iva Davies and Robert Kretschmer, it’s a striking example of both minimalist design and illustration.
In contrast there’s all the beautiful detail, complexity and theatricality of Crowded House’s self-titled debut (1986), with illustration and design by bassist Nick Seymour. Seymour went on to illustrate all future Crowded House records, creating one of the most original and beloved identities for an Australian band.
Little River Band’s ‘Monsoon’ (1998) and the Hunters & Collectors 1984 album ‘Jaws of Life’ both compliment each other nicely, respectively taking their visual inspiration from the outback’s extreme wet and dry seasons. There’s an almost primitive approach to the illustration, with simple forms drawn in a rough, raw style. The texture of the materials used becomes part of the illustration itself.
Illustrated typography is also a strong feature on most of these covers and is beautifully integrated on both the Crowded House and Little River Band covers.
The history of the arcade machine spans nearly 100 years, with its roots in coin-operated, turn-of-the-century amusement park midway games. By the 1950s pinball machines (sans electronics) had well and truly become a phenomenon, setting the foundations for both the burgeoning youth gaming culture and the billion-dollar games industry. While the revolution had been slowly gathering momentum, it become a juggernaut by the end of the 70s following the introduction of the computer chip and Nolan Bushnell’s revolutionary cabinet design.
Attempts to harness the seemingly limitless potential of computerized gaming began in earnest in the early 80’s. Leading the charge was PacMan, not only a massively popular game but a worldwide cultural phenomenon spawning every conceivable form of spin-off merchandise. While the graphics and gameplay had evolved only slightly from 70’s classics like Pong and Space Invaders, the real jump in evolution was character design. In many ways PacMan set the template for the game franchise.
Following PacMan was another gaming legend, Donkey Kong. Again only a small step forward in both graphics and gameplay, but a leap ahead in storytelling and character development. Donkey Kong also featured the first appearance of Mario, then known simply as Jumpman. From these humble beginnings, Mario went on to become a fully realized character, arguably the most endearing in gaming history, with his own universe and cast of supporting characters. Mario continues to to sell dozens of his own titles, and has appeared in an endless stream of merchandise tie-ins, including a feature film.
The enormous success of these early arcade pioneers saw massive developments in all areas of game design. The limitations of the early games, which largely consisted of pushing a joystick around to move a pixelated character around the screen and out of danger, soon became far more sophisticated and immersive. Games such as Pole Position, Street Fighter & Dragon’s Lair all contributed to revolutionizing every aspect of gameplay. The minimalist, two button machines of the 70’s with their Bauhaus inspired typography and monochrome interface swiftly became antiques, replaced by bold and brash game franchises, with rich pixelated worlds to explore and joysticks, guns and steering wheels with which to explore them.
Arcade cabinets also received numerous design revisions. Hoods became recessed, screens became larger, and more sophisticated controls were added. By the end of the decade there were entirely new game machines including ride on bikes as well as ski and boxing emulators. More attention was also given to graphic design and illustration, with cabinets literally covered in game franchise art. While these advancements in design and technology were fully embraced by gamers, a great part of the arcade experience was standing before one of the more traditional machines with a crowd of people behind you cheering you on.
The culture of arcade gaming exploded throughout the decade. Arcade machines were everywhere – shopping centres, take-aways, bars, movie theaters and of course in their own arcade stores. It became a social sport, with high scores as the ultimate goal. Towards the middle of the decade, the console revolution began to take gamers out of the arcades and back into the lounge-room, however the massive popularity of arcade machines and amusement centres like Playtime continued into the early 90s. While the home gaming experience offered numerous advantages, anyone who stood in front of an arcade machine during the 80s with a pocket full of change will fondly recall the sensory overload of flashing lights, buzzing noises, and the thrill of getting your three-letter name abbreviation in the high score charts.