2010-10-21 / Front Page

Video-game nirvana

Sayreville man’s passion for gaming systems yields two books, film-in-making
BY SAM SLAUGHTER
BY SAM Staff Writer

Bill Loguidice Bill Loguidice SAYREVILLE — Two white bars and a white ball. A pure black background. The distinct “plink” sound of deflecting that ball back at an opponent.

That was Pong. And that was how Bill Loguidice began making video games a lifelong passion, and a career.

“My earliest memory was playing my parents’ Sears-brand version of home Pong in the late ’70s. They didn’t hook it up to the TV often, but when they did, it was always a special treat,” he said.

Loguidice, a graduate of SayrevilleWarMemorialHigh School, has since spent his life collecting and playing video games. In the last decade, he has parlayed that passion into a career, starting the website Armchair Arcade in 2003 and co-authoring two books, “Vintage Games” in 2009 with Matt Barton, and “Wii Fitness for Dummies” in 2010 with wife, Christina Loguidice.

Currently, Loguidice is at work on a documentary with Barton, titled “Gameplay: The Story of a Videogame Revolution.”

While he had only about three months to write each book, he had been conducting research most of his life for “Vintage Games,” if only subconsciously.

The simple game of two lines battling for points with a ball was the precursor to his obsession. Soon enough, video games went from a special treat to an ever-present activity.

“It wasn’t until I was around age 7 that I used my Communion money to purchase my own Atari 2600. My mom thought I would soon grow bored with it like my other toys, but that obviously never happened. I was forever hooked,” Loguidice recalled.

So far, he has collected over 380 different video game, computer and handheld systems. Mixing his collecting habits with another passion, writing, the decision to write a book on the video games he grew up with was a logical one.

“Vintage Games” looks at the history of video games from an insider’s point of view — what many people of all ages could easily recall, but with a depth that sheds new light on one of today’s most prevalent forms of entertainment.

Vintage video games, Loguidice said, are as important to society as any game released today.

“Many of today’s games are inspired by or copy features from the classics that came before, so if a gamer has any interest in their hobby, it would serve them well to check out some of the oldies.”

Games like Doom, John Madden Football and Street Fighter all paved the way for the video games one can buy today. The graphics may be different, but the entertainment factor remains the same.

Given the extreme advances in technology since video-gaming’s humble beginnings over 50 years ago, are the older video games still relevant to more than just the people who grew up with them?

Loguidice thinks so.

“A good game is a good game regardless of age, and that means that they’ll be worth playing forever.”

Being able to return to something that evokes such strong memories is important.

“Certainly particular video games, like a particular song, can elicit strong positivememories of the good old days, even if they really weren’t as great as we might remember them,” he said. “As such, vintage games are an important part of our culture and history, as they help frame the events that were going on at the height of their popularity.”

Just because Loguidice is a vintage gamer at heart does not mean he does not embrace the current trends in gaming.

One of the most interesting facets of current video games that has drawn Loguidice in is the emphasis on expanding beyond typically hardcore gaming platforms that use complicated controls.

“Lately, I’ve been enjoying the PS3’s Move controller and games like the EyePet with my daughters, who are 4 and 5. It’s a true pleasure watching them interact with and enjoy the technology so effortlessly, much like I did when I was little,” he said.

He also pointed to the Nintendo Wii and the iPhone, both of which lean toward easierto learn games that do not require lengthy gaming sessions.

“In many ways, this goes back to the industry’s roots in the arcades of the ’70s and early ’80s, where game makers had to hook players within seconds and then keep them coming back for more,” he said.

Wii, too, inspired Loguidice’s second book. “Wii Fitness for Dummies,” co-written with his wife, both American Fitness Training certified personal trainers, brings together the fitness and videogaming aspects of the incredibly interactive Nintendo system.

“It seemed like a natural fit to leverage the full scope of my background,” Loguidice said. These new forms of interactivity with video games help to dash the idea that video games may rot the brain.

“Unlike passive forms of entertainment, like movies or books, video games are interactive, requiring active mental and physical involvement from the player to advance the ‘story,’ ” Loguidice said.

Aside from the interactivity required by users now, the Internet has also played a large role in the expansion of video-gaming. One now can play a game against someone across the world. To add to the international connections of video games, the Internet has made more video games — vintage and new — available to more people than ever before.

“How could you not love having access to tens of thousands of video games and tons of different ways to play them?” Loguidice asked.

The ubiquity of video games has created a new feeling about them and how they fit into society, he said.

“Video games have taken their rightful place as a normal part of life throughout the world and will continue to become more and more integrated into our daily existences,” Loguidice said.

Those who play video games benefit from video-game developers constantly pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation, he said. Combining the latest graphics with the latest processors and the latest gaming concepts has brought a whole new era of gaming.

“The reality is we live in a video-game nirvana unlike at any other time, even if there’s more fluff to wade through to get to the good stuff,” Loguidice said.

“With the right video game, there really is no barrier to entry for anyone, young or old, and it can really be a wonderful group experience,” he added.

This is bolstered especially by the Nintendo Wii, whose commercials feature people of all ages — from very young children to the elderly — engaging in a variety of the interactive games that have made the Wii one of the most popular consoles.

Loguidice’s current project and the first film he’s worked on, “Gameplay,” came about after the publishing of “Vintage Games.”

“We were first approached by the production company based off what they said was the highly entertaining and visual manner in which we wrote the book [“Vintage Games”]. They felt that bringing that same style to a film would work well.”

The film, set to be finished in 2011, will be intended for all audiences, not just hardcore gamers. Loguidice said it will equally entertain history, business and technology buffs.

“Even without any of the flourishes we’re adding, I think the history of the video game industry itself has enough ups and downs and twists and turns to surprise and delight just about anyone,” he said.

With so many options available to any style of gamer, Loguidice advised that everyone should at least try a game every once in a while.

“They might be surprised at the ways it could change their outlook on life,” he said.

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