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Starcade marathon on Twitch delivers prehistoric esports

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We’ve been watching people play for 35 years

Starcade ca. 1982 JM Production Company/Turner

Whenever someone my age or older starts mouthing off about kids wasting time watching other kids play video games on the Twitch, I remember that we did the same effing thing 35 years ago. And it was twice as awesome.

I’m talking about Starcade (that’s with one R; not the NWA’s forerunner to Wrestlemania). Shout! Factory TV’s Twitch stream is running a marathon of the old TBS video game competition, which aired from 1982 to 1984, and I’ll never question anyone’s viewing habits again. I promise.

Younger generations may be familiar with Starcade thanks to some reruns on G4 about 15 years ago. For those who aren’t, competitors went head to head for the highest score on three different games in three timed rounds. Two of these were known going in; the third was the “Mystery Game” chucked in as a test of the competitors’ overall gaming aptitude.

The games were usually well-chosen — either very new, or semi-exotic cabinets like Mr. Do!, Pengo, Zoo Keeper or Crazy Climber. Pizza joints and ice cream parlors were renting the biggest and most popular moneymakers. They showed up on Starcade, too, but you also saw cabinets more likely to be found in long rows at a Putt-Putt or water park.

The marathon was in the middle of its special Dragon’s Lair episode as I was writing this up, and I remember that. It was a stop-the-presses affair because Dragon’s Lair cost 50 cents and was only at the shopping malls out of town, and none of my friends could make it two boards without dying. Hell yes, we would watch people play that. All day.

We watched video games then for the same reason everybody does today — to see the cool stuff we didn’t have, or the cool stuff we couldn’t do. Sometimes that was an advanced level in a game in our town. Sometimes it was a game that couldn’t be found in town at all.

So, esports fans, I feel like we understand each other now. It’s good we had this talk. But you still have to get off my lawn.