William Si Redd's Gaming Legacy
Is the increasing interest in all things retro a sign that we have become bored with the new gadgets and swag that our world is giving us? Or are we simply bored with modern life full stop? Retro fashion, retro music, retro games and consoles are drawing us away from our technologically advanced surroundings and back to a world that was perhaps more fun. Well, something had to give and the wave of nostalgia for all things past must be our response to all the new shiny stuff being thrown in our direction on a daily basis.
Retro video poker games that have resurfaced from the past have the genius of William “SI” Redd founder of Sircoma to thank. While Si was running Bally Distribution Company in the 1960’s the Dale Pokermatic was developed (1967) giving the world the first machine to deal from a card deck of 52 cards and to pay out winnings automatically. Redd seeing the future that could lie in gaming machines combined buying gaming companies with his day job. Dale however wasn’t open to Redd’s offers of a business arrangement so Redd did the next best thing, and took on Dale’s engineers as his employees instead. The foundations were laid for the production of machines that could simulate the machines of Las Vegas casinos and the establishment Sircoma was to follow. Calling the business after the capitals in the name SI Redd Coin op cOMpAny, Redd was on his way to the development of Sircoma Video Poker Machines and Bally Computer Poker in the early 1970’s. His vision of the future for video gaming and his sharp business skills saw Sircoma later go on to become IGT, International Games Technology. The Draw Poker Arcade game was created in 1979 and the stage was set for further gaming developments that would bring us to the point we are now at where we actively seek out all that this era has to give us.
Coin operated machines are a far cry from today’s hand held casino coming to us thanks to the developments of Apps, such as the Pokerstars App. that give us a contemporary way of enjoying our games. Thanks to the vision and hard nosed business tactics of Si Redd video poker games were to become the new form of entertainment. But other developments had to take place before walking around with your casino in your pocket could become a reality.
Fast forward to 2005 when game producers were again looking back for inspiration to satisfy the new wave of retro gamers. Telltale Texas Hold ‘Em, produced naturally enough by Telltale Games, gives the player the setting of an imaginary poker tournament held in Las Vegas using the original characters. Texas Hold ‘Em is of course known as the Cadillac of games with more followers than any other game. Other games would follow based on the concept at play here. Sam and Max Save the World, a game based on the Sam and Max comic book series by Steve Purcell and another Telltale production, is considered the first successful use of delivering games in episodic fashion where each story/game about these vigilante investigators is a complete episode yet a fine thread links the episodes together. And on a side note, how retro could this approach to releases be? Earliest novels were produced likewise in an episodic fashion with a chapter per week being published in a newspaper.
Indications are that our modern obsession with things of the past is going nowhere soon. After all Hollywood has taken this interest on board with their film “Pixels” featuring teenagers who enjoy classic arcade video games having to turn their skills to defeating aliens and the film closing with “Game Over” instead of “The End”. An epic combination of old world games and the more modern fascination with an alien life force out there. In like fashion, gaming companies are staging retro themed events. Where enthusiasts can indulge their fascination with retro games in a real life setting.
So what happened in the years between Redd’s business acumen leading him to produce video poker games and the emulation of classic games? 1978 saw Atari produce their game, Casino, and the growing interest in video games was added to by the televising of real life games. Considering that the game of poker itself is thought to have evolved over ten centuries and to have moved from being played with dominoes to being played with cards and the introduction of bluffing, it is hardly surprising that video gaming should have evolved quickly.
But what of the future of retro gaming? One of the reasons that retro gaming fans may be so enthusiastic about this product is its longevity and its enduring power. They will say that the game has endured longer than many of its contemporary relatives and for proof they only need to show that the games they are playing at the moment have their roots in work begun in the 1960’s. Many commentators feel that players are driven by a nostalgia for the past. But this trend of nostalgia driven interest is becoming more commonplace in all aspects of our lives It is there in our love for vintage clothing, antique furniture not to mention the crowds who flock to vintage car rallies.
The trend is to seek out the original vintage article especially in the world of video games. But then that is part of the fun. Newer models may be shinier and glossier but classic gamers are not taken in by gloss. They search for the authentic article with the scrapes and scratches seen as proof of age and lasting quality. And who could blame them when living in a world of disposables? High tech qualities are no replacement for the real deal in this world. That of course is, if the original article cannot be found. Then technology can produce an emulation adhering as closely as possible to the original. Museums too offer the gamer, desperate for the original article, an opportunity to see their game and of course the online world provides plenty of access to fan groups. And this search doesn’t extend just to the games themselves but to the machines on which to play them also. An original arcade slot machine is difficult to tote around but retro consoles are easier to come by.
But interest in games like the Draw Poker Arcade Game, with us since the late 1970’s or PAC Man 1980 and Ms. PAC Man 1981 (note the nod to modernity in the Ms.!) is our guarantee that this is a trend that is going to last and last. And with the long history of video games there are multiple sources for enthusiasts to satisfy their love for the craze!