The Life & Times of Video Games

The Life & Times of Video Games

lifeandtimes.games
Audio documentaries about the history and culture of video games


26 - The Nostalgia Box
Aug 3 • 40 min
I go inside Australia’s only permanent video game console museum and find that what makes it special is more than just the size of its collection — or the fact that it exists. Links The Nostalgia Box website The Nostalgia Box is @nostalgia_box on Twitter…
Interview: Kelsey Lewin (Video Game History Foundation and Pink Gorilla Games)
Jul 24 • 95 min
I speak to Kelsey Lewin, a video game historian and collector, retro games store owner, and self-proclaimed Wonderswan enthusiast, about the challenges — and also the merits — of researching and archiving the artefacts connected to games development and…
Soundbite: a one-stop shop for (shareware) games
Jun 30 • 5 min
Glenn Brensinger, former sysop of Software Creations, talks about how his then-boss Dan Linton’s “Home of the Authors” Software Creations bulletin-board system (BBS) served as a sort of prototypical Steam. The interview was done as part of my research for…
Interview: The CRPG Addict
Jun 8 • 86 min
The man behind The CRPG Addict, a blog dedicated to playing through the entire history of computer role-playing games in roughly-chronological order, discusses his decade-long (and counting!) conquest and the roots of his passion. We also explore how his…
25 - Pimps at Sea
Apr 16 • 38 min
It began as an impromptu April Fools’ Day gag, but Pimps at Sea was the joke that kept on giving. This is the story of how a chance encounter on the streets of Chicago led to a semi-annual tradition, an industry/fan-favourite insider joke, and a cult…
Interview: Phil Salvador (The Obscuritory)
Mar 31 • 104 min
I speak to librarian, games critic, and blogger Phil Salvador about his website The Obscuritory and his research and writing on games unplayed and unknown. In a far-reaching interview, conducted in late February, 2020 (and thus before the full brunt of…
Soundbite: Gail Tilden on working at Nintendo of America in its early years
Mar 17 • 7 min
Nintendo Power founding editor and former Nintendo of America marketing executive Gail Tilden remembers her beginnings at the company — before the NES, before Nintendo Power, and even before desktop publishing. Head to…
24 - Bully (Canis Canem Edit)
Feb 27 • 27 min
How 2006 PS2 hit Bully (aka Canis Canem Edit) showed an alternate future for Rockstar and the open-world genre, with its compromised-yet-brilliant schoolyard satire — here I dive deep into the game, not for its overblown controversies but rather for its…
Interview: Alex aka Blackoak from Shmuplations.com
Feb 11 • 96 min
I speak to the creator of Shmuplations.com, a large repository of translated interviews with Japanese game developers, about his approach to doing the translations, his insights on the Japanese games industry, and the highs and lows (and struggles) of…
23 - The Fog of War
Jan 29 • 27 min
In war, no information is complete. No intelligence absolute. No view of the enemy unobstructed. There’s no such thing as perfect knowledge. It is a realm of uncertainty, where decisions are made on flawed and often outdated data — as though looking…
Soundbite: Bruce Shelley’s “inverted pyramid of decision making”
Jan 10 • 3 min
Here’s some great game design wisdom from one of the legends of the business. This interview excerpt is plucked from my set of Age of Empires history interviews that I did while putting together an oral history on the AoE series for Ars Technica a while…
22 - Wololo
Dec 24, 2019 • 23 min
The sound designers from Age of Empires I and II, brothers Chris and Stephen Rippy, tell the story behind the iconic “wololo” priest chant — for converting enemy units to your side — that’s since become a popular meme, as I delve into its strange legacy.…
[Bonus] The Rise & Fall of Ambrosia Software, ’90s Mac Legends - PAX Aus 2019 talk
Dec 5, 2019 • 61 min
While I’m away on my honeymoon, here’s my complete talk from PAX Australia 2019, on the rise and fall of legendary shareware publisher Ambrosia Software — the most underrated of the ’90s indie publishing giants. You can find accompanying slides at…
21 - Pitfall Harry, the Jungle Runner
Nov 22, 2019 • 33 min
It’s strange to think of a time before jumping was a standard video game action, to be expected whenever and wherever you have control over an individual character. A time before you could hop onto enemies’ heads and not die, or swing on ropes, or move…
20 - RealSound™ and Voice Characterisations
Nov 7, 2019 • 35 min
How a quest to put sound in a couple of games in the mid-1980s led to a revolution in computer game audio design and production. *** These are, in a sense, the sounds of a revolution in video game history, the sounds of a change so profound that it opened…
Interview: Tom Lenting (Games History of the Netherlands)
Oct 4, 2019 • 46 min
I interview Gamegeschiedenis van Nederland 1978-2018 (Games History of the Netherlands) author Tom Lenting about his book and the history of the Dutch games industry. This is the first in a new series of interviews I’m running alongside the main show —…
19 - Premier Manager
Sep 3, 2019 • 30 min
On the rise and fall of the Premier Manager series of soccer management games — a former PC gaming juggernaut that lost its way amidst a shuffle of developers and publishers — and the part it played in the broader consolidation/homogenisation of sports…
Soundbite: Former Sega CEO Tom Kalinske on telling the US Senate games aren’t “just for kids”
Aug 15, 2019 • 5 min
When the United States Senate held congressional hearings on video game violence in 1993 and ‘94, Sega CEO Tom Kalinske went to bat in defence of the industry — and the medium. But he faced major obstacles just getting the senators to understand that the…
18 - Hogs of War
Jul 24, 2019 • 28 min
Far from a mere “Worms in 3D”, Hogs of War was its own breed of madness. Hear the story of how it evolved from a concept of “Command and Conquer with pigs”, what made it such a well-designed satire, and how this underrated PlayStation game saw the funny…
17 - Super Mario Kart
Jul 1, 2019 • 27 min
How Nintendo and its mascot created a genre, and a combat-racing franchise heavyweight, and in the process gave us a masterclass in game balance, with the best-selling 1992 Super Nintendo game Super Mario Kart. All music and sound effects in this episode…
16 - Sega Rally Championship
Jun 8, 2019 • 23 min
Sega Rally Championship changed everything for the racing genre, and the 1995 off-road arcade hit was an incredible game too. This is the story of its development, critical reception, and long-term legacy. If you’re keen to grab one of the Sega Rally…
Soundbite: Henk Rogers on randomness and dilemmas in Tetris
Jun 6, 2019 • 6 min
For the 35th anniversary of Tetris’ original Russian version, I pulled out this clip from my interview with Henk Rogers — co-founder of The Tetris Company and the dude who got Tetris handheld and console publishing rights back in the 1980s (and also…
15 - The Boss Button
May 16, 2019 • 24 min
Before computers had proper multitasking support and quick shortcuts for changing apps, playing games when you’re not supposed to be could be super risky. But if there’s one thing that’s been a constant in technology, it’s that wherever there are…
14 - Lode Runner
Apr 30, 2019 • 26 min
The story of how a terrible description of the Donkey Kong arcade game led to the creation of Lode Runner, one of the greatest games of all time and one of the earliest games with a built-in level editor. Lode Runner Legacy is available for Windows and…
Soundbite: Scott Kim shares a few secrets of puzzle design
Feb 11, 2019 • 5 min
Legendary puzzle designer Scott Kim discusses the process and principles of puzzle-making for games. This is excerpted from an interview I conducted while researching my book The Secret History of Mac Gaming.Support The Life & Times of Video Games
Bonus: Game devs on the impact of the original Mac
Feb 2, 2019 • 66 min
For any of you who aren’t aware, last week was the 35th anniversary of the release of the original Mac. I published a Medium article to celebrate the milestone, and here now you can listen to an audio version of that. It’s 14 current and former game…
Episode 13 - Girl Games, Inc.
Nov 23, 2018 • 41 min
On the 90s girl games movement, and its assault on the status quo of the video game market, featuring Girl Games Inc founder and former filmmaker Laura Groppe. Support comes from my Patreon and PayPal backers, with special credit going to Wade Tregaskis,…
Episode 12 - Microsoft Games
Oct 31, 2018 • 37 min
Before something like the Xbox could ever hope to exist, Microsoft first needed to learn how to be a successful games publisher on the PC. This is the story — or part of it — of how Microsoft got games, featuring input from four key Microsoft Game Studios…
Soundbite: Spotting “the magic” (Jon Kimmich, ex-Microsoft Games)
Aug 31, 2018 • 6 min
I’ve been having some trouble finishing the script for episode 12, on Microsoft’s pre-Xbox games efforts, so while you wait I thought I’d release some bonus material. First up, here’s a new soundbite. This is from my interview with Jon Kimmich, who worked…
Episode 11 - Bomberman
Jul 19, 2018 • 22 min
On June 11th, 2018, character designer and artist Shoji Mizuno passed away. He was a key figure back in the 1990s at the now-defunct Hudson Soft, a renowned Japanese games publisher — having directed art or design, or sometimes both, on more than a dozen…
Episode 10 - Dogz
Jun 14, 2018 • 34 min
Frustrated by the unjustified furore that surrounded his tame interactive movie game, designer Rob Fulop turned to Santa for help. And with a clever business model he and his team at PF Magic invented a new kind of game, one in which you adopt and care…
Episode 9 - Midwinter
Mar 27, 2018 • 31 min
On the late Mike Singleton and the importance of Midwinter and The Lords of Midnight, his two great works. After switching from high school English teaching to professional game development in the 1980s, Mike quickly rose to the top of the industry. His…
Episode 8 - The Tomb Raider grid (part 2)
Feb 18, 2018 • 39 min
Continuing the story from Part 1, this is how the original Tomb Raider’s grid-based engine/level editor impacted on the series, on Lara Croft’s rise to fame, and on the shifting sands of blockbuster game development. This episode also discusses the place…
Episode 7 - The Tomb Raider Grid (part 1)
Dec 23, 2017 • 33 min
Every aspect of the original Core Design Tomb Raider series (and by extension the franchise’s success post-Core) comes back to the grid that lies beneath it — the majority of the puzzles; the platforming; the cavernous chambers and ruins and outdoor areas…
Episode 6 - ROM Hack
Nov 11, 2017 • 38 min
At the dawn of emulation and the World Wide Web, a group of fans discovered the Nintendo and Super Nintendo games that never made it over from Japan. One of them decided to hack into a few of these and translate them, unofficially, with help from some…
[Soundbite] Mark Ferrari on gatekeepers and a cancelled X-Men game
Nov 3, 2017 • 12 min
The story of a cancelled X-Men TV controller game, as told by former LucasArts illustrator Mark Ferrari, who is a world-renowned and innovative pixel artist responsible for popularising multiple graphical techniques — including dithering, colour cycling,…
Episode 5 - FIFA 3DO
Oct 23, 2017 • 33 min
A story from the dawn of 3D sports games, and the forgotten link between the 16-bit isometric and 32-bit 3D EA Sports games — this is how FIFA 3DO transformed the way sport was represented in video games. Music Credits: Lee Rosevere - And So Then, Theme…
Episode 4 - Bug Salad
Oct 15, 2017 • 34 min
How a marketing guy at shareware game publisher Ambrosia Software ended up eating bugs in front of hundreds of people at Macworld New York 2000. If you have an old PowerPC Mac or the Sheepshaver emulator, you can get Escape from Jason Whong via…
Episode 3 - Colour Cycling
Oct 1, 2017 • 32 min
This is the story of illustrator Mark Ferrari, whose artwork was so good it forced Lucasfilm Games to figure out how to make a graphics technique called dithering compress to fit on floppy disks — in the process winning awards and triggering the use of…
[Soundbite] Steve Capps on online social gaming and Bill Gates playing Bridge
Sep 21, 2017 • 4 min
Steve Capps, one of the creators of the Macintosh and a Microsoft executive in the 1990s, tells a story from his days of working alongside Bill Gates. Unused material from an interview conducted while researching my upcoming book, The Secret History of…
Episode 2 - Airfight
Sep 15, 2017 • 25 min
The story of the one of the earliest flight simulator games, Airfight, a favourite among the PLATO community back in 1973, based on an interview with its creator. Airfight was a multiplayer flight combat sim with wireframe graphics and real-time chat, and…
[Extended Interview] Jon Jordan on the evolution of iOS gaming and the App Store
Sep 10, 2017 • 56 min
[re-uploaded as mono] An extended interview with Pocket Gamer co-founder Jon Jordan, who these days writes mostly about the business of mobile games at Pocket Gamer’s sister site PocketGamer.biz. These full interview postings will normally be for Patreon…
Episode 1 - Race to the bottom
Sep 5, 2017 • 32 min
In the early days of the iPhone App Store, game developers found themselves locked in a race to a $0.99 price point that none of them wanted to become standard. This is the story of how that happened, and how it affected mobile games going forward.…