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Slot Racers, Atari VCS 1978



Just let me babble for a moment . . .


First point: Back "then", we just called it "the Atari", right? We left off the "VCS", because it was shorter, and before 1982 the "2600" portion of the title wasn't ever mentioned because there was no other Ataris from which to distinguish it. I've been calling it the "Atari VCS" because that's what it literally was, and to contrast it with its eventual title change into the "Atari 2600". I did the same thing with the Channel F/VES. No consumer in 1976 called the Fairchild Channel F, the "Fairchild Channel F" -- the name didn't exist. I'm not quite sure when it became the "Channel F", but I think it was sometime around when the Atari came out (VES ~ VCS, too confusing). But, to be clear, we never called it "the Atari VCS", we just called it "the Atari" which, in my misguided effort to talk about it like I was in 1978, I've neglected to do.


My point is "gee, it's hard to talk about this stuff the way we might've talked about this stuff 25 to 30 years ago." Yeah, I know it might seem easy to those of you with the big brains out there, but my merely "above average" brain is still coming to terms with it. :)


Second Point: You know that I'm trying to write about each game as if I were writing from the perspective of the year in which the debut of each particular game takes place, pretending that the only games I'd ever played were the games that existed prior to the "current" year (and from the same forced perspective). Right? You do know this, don't you? We've covered this material already, you should all know this! *mumble mumble*


Oddly enough, I began to find this game of "make-believe" more difficult as I started to reach the games that I had actually played back when these games were the "fresh episodes" of the videogame universe.


I'm no psychologist, but this is probably because I'm dealing with two sets of memories. The memory of playing these games back when they were new to me, and the memory of playing them within the last week or so, with my son. I find my 37-year-old self arguing with the 12-year-old version of me (whom I still keep imprisoned in my head) about the merits of each game.


For instance, my last entry Space War. I had really liked Space War when I played it waaay back when. Yet, playing it more recently with my son, I didn't enjoy it so much. I know the game hasn't changed any, I guess I've just been exposed to the Cinematronics version more often and more recently so I find that I really enjoy that version far and away above the Atari home version. So, I've got the 12-year-old saying "hey, can't wait to play Space War!" and I'm, like, "meh". And then he's, like, "don't be a prick, you love this shit" and, again, I'm like, "meh". Then he calls me an asshole and goes off to watch Star Blazers.


OK, so, my second point would be "gee, it's hard to talk about this stuff the way we might've talked about this stuff 25 to 30 years ago." which is the same point as the first point, but it's such an important point that I thought I would say it twice.


Slot Racers is another game on which my memories conflict. I clearly remember being completely unimpressed by it back in the day. It was slow. It was dull. It was completely "charm-free". We didn't have the instructions for it (and no, we couldn't download them, this was before telephones, remember?) (heh) so we had to fudge our way through it and eventually throw up in disgust. Um, throw up our hands, that is.


I take it [slot Racers] out recently, find the handy-dandy instructions for it on AtariAge (Hail AtariAge! Let it never fade from the net!) and proceed to have a half-hour of joy and laughter with my son as we merrily play through this interesting little game.


Meanwhile, my inner 12-year-old is saying "you dork! we hates this game! we hates it!".


The game is two-player only. Meaning, one person can't play it. Neither, can three. Five is right out! (Ni!)


Each player controls a vehicle in a maze. The vehicle can move forward and you can choose to turn it to the right or the left in the maze, but you can't make it turn around or go backwards. When you press the red button, the front portion of this vehicle becomes a missile and, as you might guess, you fire it at your hated enemy to destroy them. In some variations the missile may impact a wall, or deflect or turn a corner, but the result desired is the same: destroy your enemy. The exciting part, if you're playing it right, is getting to watch your opponent, who is unable to turn or turn around and run, be driven towards their inexorable doom. They get a big kick out of doing the same to you, too, I might add.


The first versions of it are a little slow, but for every slow version, there are one or two faster versions. There are four different mazes. Get the right maze and the right speed, and this game is can be quite a tickle. My wife said she is surprised by how much she hears us laughing while we play this.


My inner adolescent really can't come to terms with it, but screw him. WTF does he know? He didn't even want children!


Okay, next entry: the last of the actual carts that I have from 1978, Home Run aka Baseball!


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Just remind your inner self that Slot Racers was written by THE GREAT ONE. Actually, though it's not too impressive by modern standards, it is well in keeping with the other Atari 2600 titles of its era.

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Just remind your inner self that Slot Racers was written by THE GREAT ONE.




I had found out that Robinette wrote Slot Racers via Atari Age a couple of years ago, before I had actually tried it again and enjoyed it. I was shocked! I had such good memories of Adventure and such lousy memories of Slot Racers. I'm very glad that playing it again has allowed me to append my memories of it with some positive notes. :) I've yet to play Rocky's Boots but I'm a big fan of Robot Odyssey. What else has Warrne Robinette done that has a similar flavor to Adventure and Robot Odyssey? (I assume Rocky's Boots is kinda in between those two.)


I'm hesitant to mention who's written each of these games when I write the main entry since most consumers (in 1978) didn't know what individuals wrote which games until the Adventure easter egg and the advent of Activision. I'm just being anal, I know.

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I loved Slot Racers - back in the day! I'd love to play again with someone willing. I only hope a future release of z26 or Stella will implement netplay so that I can play someone who can appreciate the classics. You are a lucky man to have a kid who is open-minded enough to look past the blocky graphics and enjoy the game for what it is. On that same note, I think that many of us "old-timers" are extremely lucky to have known gameplay before we knew great graphics!


Anyways, I'm rambling... and so I'll shut up now. Game on!

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You are a lucky man to have a kid who is open-minded enough to look past the blocky graphics and enjoy the game for what it is.  On that same note, I think that many of us "old-timers" are extremely lucky to have known gameplay before we knew great graphics! 


Yeah, my son is quite a tolerant soul and a good sport, too. Winning or losing doesn't necessarily affect how he feels about playing a game again. Atari VCS Basketball, for instance. I win most of the time, now, but he still likes it enough to ask to play it.


I agree, a lot of us old timers are very lucky to have been born right around the birth of this hobby. My only fear is that when we're really old, something amazing may happen in the industry of interactive entertainment (I dunno, holodecks? or direct visual cortex input stuff) that we're going to be too old to enjoy. :)

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LOL, what a great entry! I love your sense of humor! :D


I wish I had someone to try this game with. I was never able to make Javatari work. It's probably something with my provider's router, but I'm too lazy to replace it with another one. Anyway, I'm picturing the game in multiplayer in my head, and it looks fun!

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