Retro Game Design


Before they became "retro," games played on platforms of the 1970s and 1980s were just games. But early game-console hardware was designed with very particular ideas of what made a game a game, and under extreme constraints of cost and technical viability. Creators designed for these constraints, and their work then influenced the design of later hardware and software. This is a course about the history, design, and technology of one retro game console, the 1977 Atari Video Computer System (also known as the Atari VCS or the Atari 2600). The first popular home console, the Atari VCS is a truly weird computer: It "boasts" 128 bytes of RAM, no video buffer, and a custom graphics and sound chip designed to interface with then-universal cathode ray tube televisions. Against all odds, creators made fun and successful games within these extreme constraints. Just as an artist benefits from learning the fundamentals of their craft, so a game designer or developer can benefit from returning to these early and crude hardware platforms. In this course, students will learn the technical and creative history of the Atari, and they will also learn the fundamentals of programming its unfamiliar hardware. Students will carry out programming exercises, mostly in the assembly language instructions required to operate this unusual computer. They will then make their own games for the Atari, which will be able to run on the actual, 45-year-old hardware.
Course Attributes: BU Hum; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM; FA VC; EN H

Section 01

Retro Game Design
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