Starcade DVD Edition #1
Episodes: 19, 59, 60, 62, and 63 Invitational. Includes behind the scenes footage from Starcade. JM Productions.
Some pictures courtesy of Jeff Kinder and The
Dragon's Lair Project
Review by James McGovern
Players, are you ready? Ok, let’s go play Starcade!
That’s right folks, Starcade! The world’s first video arcade game show! Straight from the heyday of the classic 80’s video games, a game show devoted to arcade trivia, fierce gamer competition, and a wealth of awesome Reagan years prizes. No, not cowboy hats or “Just Say No” bumper stickers, we’re talking full sized coin-operated arcade games, record packs from K-Tel, and the very latest in home computing systems like the Texas Instruments home computer.
Starcade, which was produced for TBS affiliates between 1981 and 1982 is the product of Jim and Mavis Caruso of JM Productions. First hosted by Mark Richards then Geoff Edwards, the series is a glorious tribute to the golden age of video games and the awkward kids (us) so entranced by their pixilated playfields.
The Starcade First Edition #1 DVD contains five episodes of the classic show as well as outtakes and some behind the scenes antics of the cast and crew. Inside you will find one episode hosted by Mark Richards, the other four by Geoff Edwards. One of the episodes with Geoff Edwards is a special in which previous winners are invited back to play for additional prizes.
There are many arcade classics represented in the Starcade DVD including Cong Bongo, Gyrus, Pole Position, Star Trek, Star Wars, Zookeeper, and many more. Starcade Central was loaded with games and the panoramic images of such a mint collection (they were brand new of course) is sure to illicit a pavlovian response from collectors and enthusiasts alike. Had I been a contestant they would have had to peel me away from the game room after the show.
Starcade contestants were presented with an array of challenges they must meet in order to compete for various prizes, culminating of course in the grand prize, which was generally a full-sized arcade game. These challenges included trivia questions about the popular games of the day, identifying games by screenshot, and of course timed gameplay on selected arcade games. There was even a “secret game” designated for each show, to utter its name gained the lucky contestant additional treasure.
In the gameplay challenges, depending on the show format, contestants had between 30 and 60 seconds on a game to accumulate as many points as possible in order to make it to the final round and play for the grand prize. I was amazed that it actually is entertaining to watch someone play video games and I even found myself rooting for one or more contestants. Jim and Mavis really stumbled on something that I am certain we will see more of in the future, that being electronic gaming as a spectator sport.
While watching Starcade contestant’s race for points against classic arcade machines may be a spectator competition reserved only for fans who grew up in Starcade’ s heyday, video game competition is quickly becoming a viable career route for some fast-fingered gamers on today’s console games. Bounties of tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars are being offered to today’s video game athletes around the world. With the photo-realism of today’s games, I am certain these competitions will breakout into the mainstream as spectator sports as well as new videogame game shows not a little bit reminiscent of the Starcade format.
Being on the forefront of gaming competitions really is the legacy of Starcade. I submit that Starcade is not a blip on the pop-culture radar but rather represents the origin of an approaching phenomenon that will be mainstream video game inspired competition.
Jim and Mavis Caruso set out to create a financially viable game show based on the mega popular video games of the day. In that they succeeded for a couple of years. One has to believe that they also set out to have fun, and from the looks of the show as well as the outtakes on the DVD, they achieved that goal as well.
What Jim and Mavis may not have realized at the time, that time is sure to prove, is that they and Starcade will be remembered as the show that made video game competition a reality. One can only hope that the spirit of sportsmanship exhibited on Starcade and the made for fun origins of video games in general will not be lost.
Watching Starcade again was a real joy for this reviewer as it provided a window back to my own awkward but joyful youth. A moment in time when the sometimes seemingly overwhelming challenges of being a teenager would be forgotten in the radiant glow of the cathode ray tube and the endless horde of video mutants within. Starcade represents and documents this wonderful escape and lives up to host Geoff Edwards salute as he signed off on each show;
“I hope all of your troubles get zapped!”
Note: Be sure to check out the companion article to this review generously provided by Jim and Mavis Caruso on the history of Starcade. I can assure you that the cast of characters involved in this show reads like a who’s who of network and cable television! Thanks again to Jim and Mavis for providing this wonderful information and insight to the RetroBlast readers!