Founded in 1984 in a Silicon Valley garage, Atari shocked the video game industry with its commercially available games, such as Pong and the innovative Pongboard. These games were so easy to play – and to just sit down and play – that people were willing to pay $50 dollars for them.
But it was on the Atari 2600 that developers and gadget enthusiasts created a cult classic: the first gameplay video game, Asteroids.
Until then, most players experienced the game by watching it slowly sink in the background. The obsession for this game was so great that it would inspire creative artists and film-makers. The game even inspired the Beatles to record their song “Asteroids.”
Doomscrolling Capital of the Internet (DCI) is a new musical installation that plays new songs about the game and imagines how it might be played in living rooms and in board rooms, in coffee shops and at bars.
The audiovisual installation was recently held in New York City. While the exhibit couldn’t actually play the Atari classic, it did recreate a simulated version of the kind of best-in-class arcade games people could play in 1982 and 1983. The multimedia artwork interprets games such as Frogger, Asteroids, Simon, Battlezone and Missile Command to demonstrate how each genre requires audiences to interact and interact with the world around them.
The exhibition unites two artists: hip-hop rapper Andra Day and digital artist Rae. Together, they have re-imagined the game Asteroids for an audience. The video game and the viewers in the room are also a vessel for creating a duality within the audience – one who is an unpretentious gamer, and one who thinks about games as a form of art.
The video game was originally created to show off the hardware of the Atari 2600. The way people would play it was soon to change.
“Asteroids sent the game industry into a tailspin and helped usher in the era of easy-to-play computer games,” says Rae. “This movement defined a real shift in the way the audience interacted with its own computers.”
You think twice before trying to run over a cartoon character in an Asteroids game.
Later in the 1980s, Atari’s founders were pushed out the door by Microsoft, leaving the company out of sync with the changing technology and evolving gaming community.
“Asteroids has become synonymous with early ’80s culture, despite having been gone for 20 years,” says Andra Day. “And for most of us, it’s an experience we still play.”
This event is part of a wider series of exhibitions that have had live audio production. These “audio stories” have included Sonar: The Sillymongers at the Creativity Museum, Howard Jones’s tales in Sound: This Means War, and BOFFO’s response to our questions in THE LIGHT OF BLACKNESS – what we called a conversation about monsters.