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Studio Updates —

Studio updates.

Robotron 2084

Robototron the video game. Not to be confused with Robotron, the famed East German computer! Who was King of Cool at the Arcade???

With a determined obsessive perfectionism I strongly relate too (and admire!), Jeff Spega collected every Atari game and spent his youth and adulthood playing video games. His memoir, Tron to Robotron will echo in the life-experience of many who were teenagers in the 1980s – that wondrous time when TV met computer consoles. According to Spega, there are two types of video games that span from the “tron” type to the “robotron” type. On the one hand, “there are immersive video games, in which the player is taking on another identity and/or participating in a story. On the other, there are pure video games, which are about nothing else but the way the gamer feels when he or she plays them. The purpose of immersive video games is to simulate the experience of another being. The purpose of pure video games is to have fun manipulating tiny little lights called pixels.”[1] Over thirty years after the first explosion of enthusiasm around computer games and consoles, devoted gamers still scour garage sales for old Atari games and a few software developers even continue to produce new games for the 7800 Atari. According to the fanzine, Digital Press the Atari 7800 MARIE chip allowed more sprites onscreen without any flicker and it was that chip and system that brought Robotron 2084 to prominence and fame.[2] To teenagers in the 1980s and afterwards, Jeff Spega correctly notes that “video game ownership and master are prerequisites for pre-teen coolness.”[3]

Designed by Eugene Jarvis of Defender fame, Robotron used twin joysticks in a first for arcade games. The task of the game was to “save the last human family,” mommy, daddy, and mikey. Stopping you were the robotrons, machines determined to come and kill you and the last family. The twin joysticks allowed the player to move in one direction and fire in another, immensely complicating the playing environment of arcade games. “Robotron-induced panic was the absolute worst – and the best,” said John Sellers.[4]  “Robotron is the ultimate pure game. You will be too busy gluing your eyes to the screen and frantically moving your arms to imagine being anything.” Inspiring Beastie Boy lyrics, as well as the underlying ideas for the famed Terminator and Matrix sci-fi series, Robotron was an insanely hard game that spawned devoted fans, sucked young pockets dry of quarters, and became the stuff of legend.


[1] Jeff Spega, Tron to Robotron: Thirty Years of Electronic Gaming (and Counting) (Self-Published, 2011), 97. Available at

[2] ‘Atari 7800 Checklist,’ Digital Press 68 (2009), 2.

[3] Jeff Spega, Tron to Robotron: Thirty Years of Electronic Gaming (and Counting) (Self-Published, 2011), 28. Available at

[4] John Sellers, Arcade Fever: The Fan’s Guide to the Golden Age of Video Games (Running Press, 2001), 110-111.


david munns