chapter  10
16 Pages

“This is Intelligent Television”: Early Video Games and Television in the Emergence of the Personal Computer

WithSheila C. Murphy

My essay’s title is taken from an advertising campaign for Mattel’s Intellivision, a home video game system that was first launched in 1979-1980. When writing about gaming, television, and computers, I could not resist Mattel’s “This is intelligent television” slogan, which simultaneously encapsulates the bad object status of television and promotes the game system as an engaging and cultured alternative to watching reruns. Mattel’s print and television advertisements for the system, which starred erudite pundit George Plimpton, sought to brand the Intellivision as a thought-provoking, “smart” video game system, something that current advertisements for Nintendo’s BrainAge series (2005-2007) continue to do today. While the Intellivision was released later than most of the systems I am discussing here, the system and its promotional campaign perfectly demonstrate the rhetorical “muck” that early video game systems were caught in when making both figurative and literal connections between television, gaming, and computers. And it is these connections-between discreet media that share certain commonalities (most notably, a screen)—that I am concerned with here. For rather than theorize a particular genre, mode of interactivity, or process of identification, I suggest we look more closely at video game systems themselves-as media apparatuses, as sites of representation, and

as the starting points for what scholars today now refer to as “media convergence.”1