THE ELECTRONIC GAMEMAKER

Games Magazine – May 1999

In December 1994, I published my book Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Home Videogames, the first-ever comprehensive book about the history of videogames. Because it was self-published, it didn’t make it into stores. Somehow, Ralph Baer, the inventor of the home videogame console, learned about the book and he sent me the following letter asking me how he could get a copy.

I sent him a copy of the book and then never heard from him again. After the second edition came out in September, 1997, I sent him a copy of that edition and never heard from him. I started to wonder. What was wrong with this guy? Then in the spring of 1998 I did hear from him. He had been at his winter condo in Florida and hadn’t seen the second edition until he returned back to New Hampshire that spring. He then invited me to his house and I visited him for the first time in July, 1998. That began a close friendship we would maintain until his death in 2014.

In the summer of 1997 and 1998 I attended E3 in Atlanta, GA. I probably met the editors of Electronic Gaming Monthly, the number one videogame magazine in the world, during my first trip. Then during my second visit I probably went to the magazine’s table to say hello to them. I probably mentioned that I was going to visit Ralph Baer, and one of the editors, Crispin Boyer, asked me to do a feature about him. I began writing it on the plane to Las Vegas for The World of Atari 1998, the precursor to Classic Gaming Expo. I sent it off when it was finished. And then I waited. EGM was in no rush to publish it. After all, Ralph Baer was no longer a common name. Most people, even those in the videogame industry, never heard of Ralph Baer.

The article I wrote about Ralph focused on his videogames. But he invented many electronic games as well, including Simon, the most popular electronic game. So I decided to write an article that focused on them and sent them to Games magazine which quickly bought it. As it turned out, it was published months before the EGM piece.

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