Atari Design: Impressions on an Everyday Cultural Form, 1972 – 1979
Atari Inc. was a Silicon Valley tech-startup company that launched in 1972 with a single product, the coin-operated video game, Pong. In its first fiscal year, Pong generated over $3 million, essentially creating the video game industry. Innovative game design played a key role in this success – from Pong to Asteroids and beyond – but fun, challenging, and exciting game play was not unique to Atari. What then set Atari apart from its competitors, like Bally/Midway and Nintendo? Guins argues that the answer is the company’s innovation in cabinet design. The coin-op cabinet wasn’t simply a container for a game, it was a medium of communication designed to facilitate user experience, gameplay context, corporate identity, product harmony, and acceptance at a wide-range of public spaces. Built from extensive interviews with former Atari employees and deep archival research, Atari Design: Impressions on an Everyday Cultural Form, 1972 – 1979 is a historical study of industrial and graphic design practices and processes responsible for shaping the experience of game play at the beginning of the era of the video industry.
Raiford Guins is Professor of Cinema and Media Studies in the Media School. He has written two books—Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife and Edited Clean Version: Technology and the Culture of Control. Guins has also edited several other collections and serves as co-editor of the Game Histories Book Series at MIT Press.