The Founding Fathers of Video Games

2 minute read

A youth wasted on video games unexpectedly paid off for me in an assignment to profile the old dogs behind the newest gaming company: Innovative Leisure. Operating under the theory that the 99-cent download is the new quarter drop, a team of programmers from the original video game company, Atari, have reunited to make a new generation of games for the iPad. TIME gathered these self-described “grizzled old farts” together in the Supercade, a private museum in Pasadena, Calif., to photograph them alongside some of their greatest hits from the Golden Age of video games, including Asteroids, Battlezone, and Missile Command. Gone are their rockstar days of Friday beer bashes and weekend-long “gamestorming” retreats on the California coast, complete with naked hot-tub parties, fat doobies, food fights and broken furniture. Yet they retain every ounce of their countercultural creativity, as well as a youthful enthusiasm for inventing new games, new mechanisms of gameplay—possibly even new genres. Seamus Blackley, the owner of Supercade and the impresario behind the new company, calls them “the Jedi Council of video-game design.”

Gregg Segal is a photographer based in Los Angeles and shoots regularly for TIME. Most recently, LightBox featured Segal’s work on Civil War Re-enactors. You can see more of his work here.

Adam Fisher is freelance writer for TIME, Wired, the New York Times magazine, and Men’s Journal.

Dennis Koble, Sprint 2 (1976) Koble is one of the few Atari engineers who went on to make money in the game business. Now he's working on a new game called Super Sitting Ducks.Gregg Segal for TIME
Rich Adam, Missile Command (1980) Adam is currently taking aim at Sonic the Hedgehog with a new game called Echidna.Gregg Segal for TIME
Ed Logg, Asteroids (1979) Atari’s master of design — he made Centipede (1980) too — battle-tests the group’s new games.Gregg Segal for TIME
Lyle Rains, Tank (1974) His multi-joystick game rolled out several sequels. His new target: Angry Birds.Gregg Segal for TIME
Bruce Merritt, Black Widow (1982) His multidirectional shooter scored a hit in the early '80s. His next game is a perspective twister.Gregg Segal for TIME
Tim Skelly, Rip-Off (1980) More of a philosopher than a programmer, Skelly’s black-and-white vector-graphics game for Atari rival Cinematronics has a cult following among the arcade cognoscenti. Now he has joined forces with his old competitors as Innovative Leisure's in-house game guru.Gregg Segal for TIME
Owen Rubin, Major Havoc (1983) The prolific Rubin is best known as the guy who made the volcano erupt in Battlezone. He also earned the nickname “The Black Thumb” at Atari because he had a knack for making games crash. His curse makes him invaluable as a game tester at the newly formed company.Gregg Segal for TIME
Ed Rotberg, Battlezone (1980) He brought virtual reality to gaming and is working on a new way to play.Gregg Segal for TIME
Bob Smith and Rob Zdybel, Atari 2600 (1977) They made games for Atari’s home console. Now they’re reinventing the trackball for the iPad era.Gregg Segal for TIME

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