Welcome to the future.
The year is 2016. Birds have been extinct since the Reagan administration. Auto-avian robots war with humanity amidst the rubble of once-great cities.
In Battle Bird-Bot Blowout, Peri Glick, a senior majoring in film and media studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, deploys vintage 128-color NTSC graphics and a nearly 50-year-old programming language to craft a new game for the iconic Atari 2600 console.
Unlike contemporary games, “in the Atari, you don’t get to program a lot of plot,” Glick says with a wry grin. “Typically, games would come with a pamphlet. So in my pamphlet, I describe a dystopian future. Robo-fowls are now spies. If you spot one, you need to shoot it out of the sky.”
Glick created Battle Bird-Bot Blowout last fall as her final project in the course “Retro Game Design.” Taught by Ian Bogost, the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor and director of film and media studies, the class explores the history, aesthetics and idiosyncratic technology of the Atari, which dominated — and in many ways invented — home videogaming in the early 1980s.
“Atari was eponymous,” Bogost says. “‘Do you have an Atari?’ ‘You want to play Atari on that Atari?’ For a while, video games were just Atari. Now you look back, all these kids in their wood-paneled basements, it seems almost fictional.
“But it happened.”
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