As the show was about who artists were/are influenced by those early brightly coloured computer games,what better place could there be to show off the boffinesque talents of Jason Torchinsky.
Jason had already made contributions to previous I am 8-bit shows, in particular he is known for his giant Atari joystick. It really is a fantastic experience to Control a game with this monster, it really does transport you back to your youth....back to when those joysticks were objects of mysterious powers who let you influence the video madness that was on the screen (just before that bubble was popped by your best friend who took his apart and showed you the disappointing and primitive mechanism that it actually was!).
Anyway this was one of two interactive experiences that Jason brought to the party. The second looked like something out of a Woody Allen film. In consisted of a series of 3 metal orbs that were held by 3 different people, left and right on one, up and down on the second, and fire on the third. These were used to control the on screen antics. Unfortunately I didn't get to play this one or even see it in action but I heard loads of people talking about how cool it was. I think there is footage of it in action on the World of Wonder site.
In my humble opinion the best thing that Jason brought to the show was an old beaten up arcade game from Kyrgyzstan.......DEAD GOAT POLO!!!! I shit you not! Jason went to the trouble of typing out the back story to his discovering this machine so I'll let him tell it in his own words:
Kyrgyzstani Video Game, 1983
This amazing piece of Soviet Bloc-era technology is here because of a small car.
I was given a Polski Fiat 126 by a friend in Poland who knew my interest in small, weird cars. The catch was, I had to somehow get it to Los Angeles on my own. Via a chain of friends of friends of brothers of cousins of friends, I was put in contact with a Mr.Godzwa of Polamer Cargo, who offered to fit the car on a container he had going out that had some empty space.
However, the space proved to be far too small, even for the diminutive Polski Fiat. As a way of apologizing for the shipment not working out, Mr.Godzwa was able to fit something much smaller in the available extra space of the container: this old, abandoned arcade machine. Mr.Godzwa knew of my interest in old video games, as in the course of our discussions the Giant Atari Joystick came up, and with that the whole 'i am 8 bit' show, and my obsessive interest in such things.
When I got the message to go to Long Beach to pick up an item, I was puzzled, as Mr.Godzwa told me the Fiat wouldn't fit. What I found was even better. Based on what Mr.Godzwa told me, the Ulak-Tartysh machine was made in Kyrgyzstan in the 1980s and was used in a youth center there for years. After the Soviet Union fell, Kyrgyzstan was on hard times, and almost anything that could be sold was; the machine was sold in a bulk lot to a Polish amusements distributor, and spent much of the intervening time languishing in warehouses. Polamer Shipping ended up with the machine when it was found abandoned in a warehouse they bought.
Ulak-Tartysh, I learned, is a popular sport in much of the old Eastern Bloc, and can best be described as polo played with a dead goat instead of a ball, and with a decidedly much less snooty fan base. It's a dirty, brutal game, but exciting, and excellent for a simple early video game. The machine seems to have been built (as well as I can tell) by a military electronics factory in the industrial town of Mailuu-Suu. It's based on what appears to be a KR1858VM1 chip, which was a copy of the Z80. Most of the other chips are TTL logic ones, with very little large-scale integration. The video seems to be about 148x116 (?) with what I think are 8 colors.
To restore it, I cleaned up the case, and replaced the power supply system with a cobbled-together 110V unit, from the 220V it originally had. I've made repairs, and had to replace the screen, but beyond that it's as I got it. I left the case in its battered state, but the marquee cleaned up surprisingly well. I'm not sure of what all the words mean, but via an online Kyrgz dictionary, it seems the TAPT button means "grab" or something similar, and I think it says "GOOD!" when you get a goal.
I hope everyone appreciates and enjoys this strange visitor from a land and time long gone.
-- Jason Torchinsky, August 2008
Have a look at the gallery.
Oh yeah, one last thing: thanks Jason for giving me that wide-eyed wonder that I thought I'd lost!