Before the Bubble Burst: Jamie Fenton, Game Designer, 1982

When a group of independent video makers set out to document current tech trends for an ill-fated television show called Wired In, they hardly suspected they were capturing an industry poised on the edge of cataclysmic change. Like many young tech industries, video games were hot, and everyone wanted to get in on the action, but as more and more companies jumped in, often with subpar products, the bubble just grew and grew. In 1982, when this footage was shot, the North American video game industry was at its peak. One year later, the bubble burst in what is now known as the video game crash of 1983.

It was a major blow to a fledgling industry, and the landscape was forever changed. North America, which had been a major player, took the hardest hit, and Japan took over as the single leading producer of gaming consoles and software for next 30+ years.

Nonetheless, signs off the impending crash were starting to appear back in 1982, and perhaps the most poignant story captured in our archive is that of Jamie (FKA Jay) Fenton, a game designer at Bally-Midway whose game, The Adventures of Robby Roto, would in some ways mimic the industry’s own fate.

In the video above, Fenton also shows off Ms. Gorf, a game she was working on at the time that would, ultimately, become a victim of the crash. The game has never been released, even unofficially, and footage of it in action is incredibly rare. She also talks a little bit about the future of video games, and proves to be surprisingly prescient.

Watch the full interview with Jamie Fenton (1, 2, 3) or explore our Wired In collection in depth at Media Burn.

 

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