Friday, May 31, 2013

Parker Brothers and the wall of displays

Between my recent sporadic postings here on this blog, at some point in the last week or so the cosmic odometer ticked over and this unlikely blog reached the great grand milestone of some TEN THOUSAND VIEWS, all said. Some of them were even from actual real people. If I had to pick one of my curious projects to be exposed to ten thousand people I don't know if this would have been at the top of my list (well, nor this, and not really this either.) But at least I've achieved a relatively wide audience for something or other.

In commemoration, I provide for you today not one but three ad scans, though the three are eerily similar...

We've seen that Parker Brothers (which, incidentally, I just learned was actually named after two brothers in the Parker family (duh), George S. Parker and Frederick Huntington Parker) had one kind of creative print ad layout. Well, hold your horses, because they had at least three (don't forget Montezuma's Revenge!), and here's the new one -- three times:
ATARI 5200, ATARI 600XL, INTELLIVISION, COMMODORE 64, TI99/4A, ATARI 400/800, ATARI 2600, COLECOVISION
EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN SYSTEM FOR PLAYING POPEYE.
Atari.  Intellivision.  ColecoVision.  T.I.  Commodore.  Now you can play POPEYE, one of the most fun and challenging arcade games yet, on any one of them.  Run through three screens of non-stop action, where you try to capture Olive Oyl's heart, while avoiding untold dangers, including Brutus and the Sea Hag.  Run down to your local store for Popeye today.  And while you're there, check out TUTANKHAM, FROGGER, Q*bert and SUPER COBRA, also from Parker Brothers' Arcade Action Series.
"Their own system". I saw what you did there. So here's Popeye from 1984. A head-scratcher today, but at the time don't forget it was just four years behind the blockbuster, well, flop on the silver screen. But everyone knew the character! The game was a hit for Nintendo in the arcade in '82, after licensing the characters from the King Features Syndicate, and then conversions for the bafflingly diverse array of home hardware offerings (a branching tree soon to be pruned) were published by Parker Brothers, who also sold a board game adaptation (!) of the video game.
The thing I like about this ad isn't just the arbitrary lumping and splitting of families of hardware (Atari 400/800 are together here but the 600XL is its own thing. And what's the system in the front bottom, in front of the player's head?  It looks unique, albeit totally blurry.  More to the point, which one of these is he actually playing?)  And now, for a change...


ATARI 5200, INTELLIVISION, COMMODORE 64, TI99/4A, COMMODORE VIC-20, ATARI 400/800/600XL, ATARI 2600, COLECOVISION
8 WAYS YOU CAN PLAY FROGGER AT YOUR PAD.
 FROGGER is one of the all-time great award-winning home video games.  And now Parker Brothers has programmed it into all the most popular video and computer formats so you can keep things hopping in your own home.
Catch Frogger along with POPEYE, Q bert, TUTANKHAM, and SUPER COBRA where you buy your video and computer games.  You'll find it absolutely ribbitting.
"At your pad."  I saw what you did there.  So, Frogger.  No surprises there. Frogger is a bit earlier here, 1983; at this point, just how long would the list be of "all-time great award-winning home video games"? (Actually, the top dozen is pretty obvious.) "Keep things hopping" -- really? It's curious how at this point they're stressing distinctions between machines with the repeated phrase "video and computer". The list of systems supported has a slightly different texture also -- the VIC-20 is still here but drops off by the time Popeye rolls around. Parker Brothers, you're not programming it into the formats, you're just licensing the rights to do so to other developers and then publishing the results!  (Hell, most home computer versions -- Apple 2, C64, Mac, PC, Atari 800 -- were programmed by soon-to-be adventure game king Sierra. Conspicuously for an ad in which the platform ubiquity is the main selling point, several of those machines aren't name-checked here.  Didn't want to break the ad layout by making a grid of 16 displays?)  Was Q*bert's asterisk not yet standard or was it just omitted in a typesetting error? "Absolutely ribbitting" all right, I'm out of here

... no wait, gotta duck in to mention that Frogger got its own Parker Bros. board game adaptation also.  Well, y'know, Conway's game of life was first played with dinner plates on a tiled dining room floor, but some games benefit so much more by machine automation of tedious board-setting.


ATARI 5200, INTELLIVISION, COMMODORE 64, TI99/4A, COMMODORE VIC-20, ATARI 400/800/600XL, ATARI 2600, COLECOVISION.
HOW TO GET Q*BERT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM.
 If you've been wanting to play Q*bert, but haven't been able to find it available for your home system, your time has come.  Because now you can keep things hopping with any of these popular home video and computer formats.
Get going to your nearest video store and get Q*bert today.  And while you're there, check out Parker Brothers' POPEYE, FROGGER, TUTANKHAM, and SUPER COBRA.  All the great Arcade Action games, now in all the great home formats.
First off, thanks to Benj Edwards' fabulous Vintage Computing site for this final member of my trifecta.  "Keep things hopping" -- I saw... waitasec, your thematic coherence loses big points for reusing the same phrase for both Frogger and Q*bert!  Frogs hop and Q*berts hop, but both in different ways.  By using the same phrase for both, it loses specific applicability to either!  Go back in time 30 years and dock this copywriter's salary!  Don't forget to adjust for inflation and cost of living!  Looks like the 1983 gang of viable platforms remains the same as above.  You see the phrase "Arcade / Action" on all these boxes (look closely) but this ad is the only one to make a thing out of their being a line of games, by awkwardly printing the phrase with Leading Initials.

And yes, Q*bert had its own board game also, and I own it.  Just like the video game, only slower and more labour-intensive -- but perhaps in the long run, thriftier on a quarter-by-quarter basis.

Ultimately, it seems as though the three fundamentally same-ish ads actually have the game player at least wearing three different garments.  Was it just too difficult to cut around his backlit mop top without a Photoshop magic wand tool?  (A: Quite probably.)

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!

Were you inspired to live the dream depicted in these ads, but could never afford the hardware or square footage needed to install a grid of nine displays? Fear no longer -- thanks to the UberNES screensaver, you can enjoy your own customized 3x3 game-grid of your choice of NES games! (Depicted are... well, let's see -- some football game, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong 3, Willow, some MegaMan game, Wild Gunman, Batman, RoboCop, and Blaster Master.)